The interest goes back to his youth.
“When I was 10-11 we were still threshing,” he said, adding that meant he pitched in and helped out until he was 14 when they bought their first combine.
“I just sort of liked them,” he noted.
For Mack, the ‘like’ would become a hobby, a passion, and perhaps a near obsession in later life. The 70-year-old has restored more than a dozen threshing machines through the years, bringing the aged machines back to working order.
And then he got his Case threshing machine.
“It belonged to Lynn Johnson located east of Churchbridge,” said Mack.
Unfortunately, the old Case was in terrible condition.
“Everything was rusted inside ... The machine was so rotted that in looking down from the top I saw daylight and grass,” said Mack.
Mack did have a rather extensive collection of older machines to gather parts from, but they weren’t all Case machines.
That presented a challenge, but Mack noted he was ready to go off the beaten path with a restoration.
“I wanted to do something different,” he said.
And different the result is.
Mack began gathering parts from a rather wide assortment of old threshing machines, scavenging parts to restore the rusted out Case.
It was a four-year process of finding parts, getting them customized to fit the Case frame, and then looking for more.
“I had to stop and think a lot of the time, how to put these things together,” said Mack.
In the process the old Case became something of a community ‘Frankenstein’ of a threshing machine.
“The grain leg came from a Minneapolis thresher on the Clarence’s Hoffman farm at Ebenezer,” began Mack.
“The straw deck came from another thresher which was near Spy Hill SK., from the farm which was owned by Tony Petracek.
“The feeder came from a thresher, which was picked up ten miles north of Rossburn, MB.
“The grain pan is constructed from two grain pans from Massey Harris combines.
“The cleaning sieves came out of older Claus combine discovered north of MacNutt.”
And the list goes on.
The cleaning shoe was discovered near the Gerald area from Kevin Hurska, said Mack, adding it was “another newer style thresher which then had to be altered to fit.”
Initially the unit was fitted with rubber tires from a thresher that came from the Stockholm area, which made it easier to transport, but caused more bouncing, which threatened the reconstruction that had taken place.
While Mack was the instigator, ultimately many worked on the machine.
“Many worked and talked and laughed about calling this machine the Johnny Cash Special,” said Mack, adding the name is in reference to Cash’s song ‘One Piece At a Time’ about building a car after secreting parts out of the plant a piece at a time through the years.
The following worked on this creation with Mack;
* Herb Wagner from Winnipeg painted the machine,
* Linda Braun of Prince Albert designed and painted the name Johnny Cash Special,
* Tom Werle worked on the straw deck and helped design the grain pan and the installation of both, plus installing the slats on the delivery feeder chain.
Werle said the project did create challenges, including finding what was needed.
“It was a few pieces here and a few pieces there,” he said, adding in the end all the pieces “made a working threshing machine.”
Others assisted in making up the belts etc., said Mack.
Mack said the Johnny Cash Special is certainly his favourite creation, adding that is why he has kept it.
It has also proved popular with people, like those gathered at Mack’s place northeast of Langenburg for a demonstration.
“In the creation of rebuilding this machine I have met many in collecting,” he said, adding it has “created friendship and fellowship and so many memories that are absolutely priceless.”