Pawnee, Okla., a town of about 2,100 folks located 55-miles northwest of Tulsa is home to the Pawnee Bill Ranch and Museum.
Pawnee Bill, whose legal name was Gordon W. Lille, was an American showman and Wild West show performer in the late 1800s and early 1900s. According to the museum website, the home, which was completed in 1910, is filled with Lillie family memorabilia of Gordan and his wife, May, photographs, original artwork, and more. The ranch property also houses a museum with exhibits related to Pawnee Bill, Wild West Shows, and the Pawnee tribe. The 500-acre grounds include the original ranch blacksmith shop, a 1903 log cabin, a large barn built in 1926, and an Indian Flower Shrine—all available to the public.
Pawnee is also the modern day home of the Oklahoma Steam Threshers & Gas Engine Association. The association hosts a steam and tractor show the first weekend in May.
It was the mid-1980s when I heard about the show and asked my dad if he would like to go. He was delighted. In fact, my mom and brother tagged along that first year.
I’ve always been interested in old tractors and steams engines and that show was a good one. My dad attended the Pawnee show for many years until his health failed him.
My dad was always looking for a good deal. I remember a story he told me about the time he found a cultivator seat at the Pawnee show. He asked the fellow how much and it was more than he wanted to pay.
“I just walked the grounds and came back,” my dad said. “I asked a different person how much for the cultivator seat?”
“That was still too much,” he said.
He did that several times and finally was able to get the cultivator seat for around $12, more in his price range.
In addition to the Pawnee show, Dad and his buddy, Roger, went to tractor and steam engine shows in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri through the years.
And in 2003, he and Roger made the trek from Oklahoma to Mount Pleasant to attend the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion.
It rained quite a bit that year, but Dad loved every minute he was on the grounds when it quit raining. Debbie and I bought him the video of the show that year for a Christmas present. He and Roger were watching it one night and the two discovered my dad walking through the log cabin at the 1856 Log Village. He always treasured that.
This past weekend, my Iowa family enjoyed our annual trek to the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion. We have attended reunion as family every year since 2007.
We had a great time camping, cooking on the grill, walking the grounds, visiting the vendors booths, enjoying the music, riding the steam train and electric trolley and checking out the sights, sounds and demonstrations of life back in the day. I love antiquing and Old Threshers features two buildings of antiques. Add in antiques on the square in Mount Pleasant and I’m doing good.
And the food! It’s old-fashioned and it’s good. My favorite is the chicken dinner at the Methodist tent. When I first attended the reunion in 1999, the food vendors were in tents with sawdust floors on the north edge of the grounds. Nowadays, they have modern kitchens under a large metal building with seating for hundreds.
I also collect Old Thresher Buttons and attend the button collector’s forum on Sunday morning in the Colfax School on the north edge of the campgrounds. There is always something to learn and when funds permit, I pick up one of the older buttons from the 1950s. I still need a few more to make my collection complete.
I love my family and I’m glad they enjoy the Midwest Old Threshers as much as I do.
I hope you had a good time with your family on Labor Day. And if you get chance, make the trek to Mount Pleasant and attend the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion some year. You’ll love it and want to go back again.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.