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Antique combine a great project

Hobbies are like opinions, everyone has one. Some people paint, others write. Some people make music, others craft models. For some folks, it is all about restoring cars, and for others still, it might be antiques.
Riding his newest acquisition, area farmer and tractor restorer Ken Wilson crosses highway 9 north of Carlyle on his new (to him) 1962 Massey-Ferguson combine.

Hobbies are like opinions, everyone has one.

Some people paint, others write. Some people make music, others craft models. For some folks, it is all about restoring cars, and for others still, it might be antiques.

But one of the rarest of the hobbies I have yet seen in my life is restoring antique combines.

Combines, those oh-so-important machines for grain farmers, have been around for a long time.

It was the mechanization of the combine that helped along the huge agricultural booms in the early part of the last century.

For people from back east, the combine is part of the vision held when thinking about Saskatchewan.

So when the tractor-restoring family of Ken Wilson was offered the opportunity to pick up a 1962 Massey - Ferguson Super 92 combine, they jumped at the opportunity.

"We've never worked on a combine before," said Wilson. "We've worked on tractors quite a bit, but this will be the first time we're going to work on one of these machines."

Ken Wilson, who restores tractors along with his son Kevin Wilson and grandson Colton Wilson, has had a passion for old farm machinery stretching back quite a few years.

At one point the threesome's collection of antique and vintage tractors numbered 11 working tractors, but after a fire burned down one of their storage buildings, the number dropped.

The Wilson family called to give me the heads up that patriarch Ken was going to be driving the new acquisition past Carlyle on the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 19.

"He's just pulling out of Kisbey," Kevin Wilson said over the phone. "He should pass just north of town on the grid-road that runs past the [Prairie Dog] Drive-In."

Looking at my watch and considering my immediate schedule, I asked at what time I should expect to see the elder Wilson come rolling by.

"In about two-and-a-half hours," Kevin said. "Maybe two. We'll call when he gets close."

Kisbey to Carlyle in two-and-a-half hours? I could scarcely believe that a motorized vehicle could take that long to cover what I always think of as a short distance.

But sure enough, close to two-and-a-half hours later, I received a call that Ken Wilson would be driving past highway 9 north of Carlyle in about 15 to 20 minutes.

I jumped in the car and headed out to the intersection in question.

After a short wait, I noticed a small rooster tail of dust rising in the distance. A couple of minutes more, and I could hear the throbbing of a big diesel engine.

Then finally I could see it. Small by the standards of the modern combine, the vehicle was still large enough to be impressive.

Sitting high above the road in the driver's seat, beaming like a child at Christmas, was Ken Wilson.

Chugging along in the half-century-old machine, Wilson made his way carefully across highway 9 and onto the grid-road.

"It had been sitting in the barn for a number of years, but the further I drive her, the better she sounds," Wilson said about the combine's condition. "We had to loosen up some belts and whatnot, but the engine seems to be running fine."

Inviting me up onto the driver's 'bench,' I climbed to the cockpit and sat down next to Wilson.

With a shrudder and a surge, the combine began to move forward, settling into an even motion within a second or two.

"I sort of wish the weather was a little nicer," said Wilson, who was bundled up in warm clothes, a toque and mitts. "But at least it's not raining or snowing!"

The cockpit of the combine was open to the air. The driver is exposed to the wind, rain, snow, hot and cold weather as it comes.

"Well, if you look over here, you can see a bracket has been attached onto the frame," Wilson indicated when asked about the exposed position of the driver. "I'm pretty sure that this was put on so a deck umbrella could be put on to keep the worst of the weather off of the driver."

Chugging along the road, the view from eight or nine feet up was pretty spectacular. The open driver's position offered a great view in all directions.

"When you drive a truck, or a modern combine, you sit just as high up," Wilson said. "But it is kind of different because you are inside of the cab."

"A view like this, just out in the open, is pretty amazing."

Cranking up the gears, Wilson floored the peddle to demonstrate the top speed of the combine.

Accelerating to 10 mph, the speed seemed much faster thanks to both the height of the seat, and the exposed position.

"This is about as fast as it gets," Wilson chuckled. "But you wouldn't combine at this speed, it wouldn't work too well."

Wilson is a cattle producer who farms his family's century farm near Wawota. While beef is his bread and butter, the family does keep some acreage sown with fodder.

"We have about 90 acres we sow with oats and barley for feed," Wilson said. "We are planning on taking this combine out and trying it on the fields when we get a chance."

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