Wallowa County farmer Erl McLaughlin loves collecting “old iron” as much as he loves collecting stories about his hunt for old iron.
And has he got the stories.
Like the one about the cranky old fellow in Idaho who would advertise antique equipment every year just so folks would show up and he could refuse to sell anything.
Erl’s into his third decade of collecting antique agricultural equipment, and if his “hunting old iron” stories were compiled, he’d have a thick book to go with that collection.
Visitors to the Annual Sunrise Iron Antique Tractor Open House Saturday, Aug. 4, may get to hear some of those stories if they tag along after Erl.
And, of course they will learn amazing details of the history of more than 100 pieces of lovingly restored agricultural equipment in his massive 220x 40-foot barn.
That rich horde began as a way for Erl to keep busy in the winter. Most farmers fix equipment. After McLaughlin brings in the harvest off 500 acres, he picks up his wrenches and does the farmer thing.
But his energy level never slumped, his fascination with antique agricultural equipment continued to grow and he discovered he enjoyed the adventure.
A few years back he thought about quitting his search for antiques; they were getting more difficult to find, and he’d taken on some really difficult restorations that could take years to complete.
“It’s real dirty, real hard work, sometimes,” he said. “But people sell me these things knowing they’re going to a good home, so I owe it to them to get out there and get busy.”
So, he got up, grabbed those wrenches and went out in his cold barn. And what happened to that thought about retirement?
“If it was easy, I’d get bored,” McLaughlin said. “There are new pieces in the back of the barn.”
Sunrise Iron is located at 65708 Sunrise Road on Alder Slope outside of Enterprise.
Admission to the show is free, donations are welcomed. No one will be turned away.