Does he still plant corn with horses and a John Deere 999H horse-drawn planter, built in 1923, on his farm? Of course not, but all the same, Mauri Williamson thinks it's important to preserve such a planter to help remind us of where we've been, and to let those who come after us know how much farming has changed.
You rarely get more than an hour with a man as busy as Mauri, former director of the Purdue Ag Alumni Association, even if he is 85 years old. To get over an hour following him through his Pioneer Village exhibit at the Indiana State Fair just a few days before the fair began was a special treat.
For the most part, the man who has traveled to every county in Indiana and can cite family names from every county, talked, and I listened. He set out to show me the relatively new Opry House converted from the Tractor Barn at the village, but it took 45 minutes to get there due to interesting detours.
"There's a real story behind that old M with the no-till or ridge-till International cultivators on it," he told me. The tractor isn't original, but the planter is. International didn't make many of them, and sold few of what they made. Everyone wasn't in place for no-till in the 1950's. We've got that one today because Walter Carter of southern Indiana, ended up with it and donated it to Howard Doster at Purdue to fix up."
His pride and joy was sitting nearby, however. "That's my old F-20. It's not totally restored, but it still looks sharp, bearing lots of red paint," he noted. "Some guy cane through and wanted to sell me an F-20. We get a lot of old timers coming through here, thinking what they have is a treasure. So I brushed it off. But I friend who lived near the guy went to take a look, called me and said, "Mauri, you better come buy this F-20.: I did, and it's one I like to d rive now.
"I also like to drive the Oliver 70, although it cost me a mint to restore that one. And she's like a fine woman. Some days she runs fine, then other days she won't even start. I usually drive that one myself and don't let guests try it, since we never know it if will start or not."
Finally, we made it to the Opry House. "Look at that stage , the painting and all the decorations. We started it last year. Our goal is to emulate the National Barn Dance, sponsored by WLS radio and Prairie Farmer magazine in the '40's. WLS in Chicago was owned by the magazine back then.
"The boys will have a good time here doing a couple shows one night. But then we'll have a good time all fair. You better come by and see me some more."