COTTONWOOD -- Everyone goes to the Arizona Flywheelers engine show at the Verde Valley Fairgrounds this time of year.
Even tiny kids can make sense of these big steel engines and tractors; they are not the mysterious electronics like most other things wrapped in plastic these days.
Make plans to take the family and kids to the Flywheelers' show in Cottonwood, March 14 and 15.
Jim Mager is from the Midwest like many members of the Flywheelers. It's easy to find Jim's house because he has a John Deere mailbox at the curb.
"I worked on farms back in the Midwest. I wasn't a farmer, but I worked on dairy farms in Wisconsin and Indiana when I was younger."
"During World War II, I walked behind three horses and also a team. Then I drove tractors for a number of years. But those tractors are so small they don't use them anymore."
Crown Point, Ind., about 30 miles from Chicago and Lake Michigan, was home for Mager. He eventually became foreman in Inland Steel Mill on the lake.
"But I always liked John Deere tractors, I liked the sound of them. "I came out here and found out about the Flywheelers' Club and went to a meeting, and I have been a member for more than 10 years now."
At 83, Jim owns three John Deere tractors: a '45, a '46 and a '52. Two are parked in his yard in Sedona.
"I have friends that have a dairy farm back there, and I keep one tractor there. Every year I take a train ride and go to a big antique tractor show in Illinois, with 250 to 300 tractors. I like the train. Railroads are kinda my second big thing." Portraits of locomotives hang on the walls of his home.
"I tore those tractors completely down. On one the engine was good, but all the parts were messed up. I put it back like it originally was. It takes quite a bit of time and money. The tires alone were $600, but if you have a bigger tractor, they cost a whole lot more than that.
I ask about parts for the old beasts.
"You can always find parts. All you need is money," Mager says.
Jim Mager is president of the Association and is also one of the men to talk to about tractors. His early tractors include a "B model" as well as a smaller "LA," which he says was used a mowing tractor along the roadside. A bigger John Deere, Aa "G" model, is back on a farm in the Midwest.
Mager always drives the People Mover to shuttle people around at the show. But he also gets involved in the tractor pull.
The word "tractor" was taken from Latin, meaning "to pull." The first recorded use of the word meaning "an engine or vehicle for pulling wagons or ploughs" occurred in 1901.
The first powered farm implements in the early 19th century were portable engines, steam engines on wheels that could be used to drive mechanical farm machinery by way of a flexible belt. In parallel with the early portable engine development, many engineers attempted to make them self-propelled - the fore-runners of the traction engine or tractor.
The Arizona Flywheelers Association this year is pulling out the stops for its 30th Engine and Tractor Show.
Always one of the popular entertainments is the regular tractor parade and the tractor pulls. They come in all forms for the large tractors and garden tractors and even kiddie tractor pulls.
"We built our own sled for tractor pulls. I would say we built our sled 12-15 years ago, but down in the Valley, they were having tractor pulls long before that."
The Arizona Flywheelers are one of a gradually decreasing number of engine and tractor clubs in Arizona. Mager says there are two clubs in the Phoenix valley with large shows. There is a club in Page, but the Flagstaff club folded. And the club in Pine is part of the Flywheelers.
By comparison, Indiana has about 30 shows each year.
"There used to be a lot of tractors out there, lying in the fields after farmers were finished with them. But people have bought them up." Some people in Cottonwood have three or four tractors, he explains.
"We don't have any of the tractors much past 1960 that pull; they have too much horsepower."
Mager explains that the average tractor in the 1930s and '40s had about 40- to 50-horsepower, but today's tractors can have a 600-horsepower engine.
"When I was a kid in the '30s, my grandfather had a Delco plant, an engine that charged a whole rack of batteries. When your batteries charged, you could run the lights at night. Some people still have Delco engines. Some also have Maytag engines that would run a washing machine. Engines were also used to pump water," he says.
Don Roberts of Gold King Mine was one of the founding members of the Flywheelers. He still uses a flywheel engine to cut wood.
The Flywheelers have about 200 members and about 75 engines at the show and lots of tractors. The show brings them all together at the fairgrounds in Cottonwood.
In addition to the tractors, there are a myriad of engines types from huge to miniature, mostly antique, sometimes hand-built. The Flywheelers Show also has a book sale, a swap meet and more. Each year, members restore an engine that is the grand prize of a raffle. This year the raffle prize is a 1 ½ hp International engine.
Where: Verde Valley Fairgrounds, 12th and Cherry, Cottonwood
When: March 14-15, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
How Much: $5, Children under 12, free