Betty Stuhrenberg knows she has no one to blame but herself.
“I forced him to buy all these,” she says, eyeing a trailer loaded down with antique engines of the early 20th century.
Her husband of 31 years, Keith, nods knowingly, a sly grin escaping his face. “Yep, she forced me to buy them all.”
Actually, a good friend may have to take a little of the “blame” as well.
“I started hanging out with a guy, Ben Rogers, and he’s been collecting these ever since he was a kid,” says Keith. “I always felt like they were a waste of money — they serve no purpose. And then the more I went with him to different auctions, I thought they were kind of cool.”
The rest is history.
It wasn’t long before Keith put away a little fun money and bought himself his first antique engine, a McCormick Deering that he still has today.
“I probably have about 20 to 25 engines all together,” he estimates.
They all work, just not necessarily at the same time, as any old engine buff can understand.
“They never work at the same time. If you have 15 of them on a trailer, you’re lucky if you get half of them running at the same time,” he says.
The collection includes a variety of International and John Deere engines, all of which were common on farms in the early to mid-20th century. These days he enjoys adding some harder-to-find models, such as rare Rock Island engine.
In their day, the engines were used to power anything that ran with a belt and anything that could make labor-intensive farm life a little easier.
“A lot of farmers used these for pumping water instead of hand pumping,” he explains.
Even Betty finds the collection useful. She puts an old Maytag washing machine, which is part of the collection, to work washing the coveralls Keith wears to engine shows.
“That old washer does a better job than a new one cleaning coveralls,” she says with a laugh.
The couple, members of the Des Moines River Valley Antique Tractor and Engine Club, travel to engine shows much of July and August.
Betty takes the “blame,” but they both share the fun of a hobby that took them both by surprise.
Contact Darren at 515-953-4822 ext. 304 or firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”