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Tom Weaver and his legendary tractors

This is a banner day in Chester County. For it is at this time, every year, when Tom Weaver fires up his Big Reid, five antique tractors, two hit-and-miss wonders and a gasoline-fired washing machine. It is a day when "old-timey" machines do their jobs right there on S.C. 9 across from the Lewisville High School.

These examples of what once was are not for sale. They are only to look at and to wonder how one man, in one lifetime, has managed to return all of this machinery to its original glory.

The Big Reid was a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and Weaver has a gift for that kind of discovery. He rolls around old barns and long-forgotten dirt roads in the deep heart of the rural South. He talks "farmer talk," and old-time stories flow from his prolific mind.

Today, tractors will be placed strategically around the show ring, and in the center, the Big Reid will send a yellow ball flying into the sky, promptly landing in Lancaster or Fairfield county. A hay rake will stand and accept arms full of freshly cut hay and then turn it into a clever row that is easy to bale and then add to the others that at one time lined the fields of this place where we stand.

Ladies are invited to bring their laundry, and Weaver will start up that washing machine engine, and it will cough and bubble a few times and then take off in a mighty roar. The clothes will be washed to almost extinction with the terrible force of the gasoline that fuels its engine. Women will stand in amazement, all the time thanking the good Lord that all they have to do today is flip a switch. However, seeing how this thing once worked and how it helped women to ease the burden of the washboard makes all of us realize that, truly, times are better -- even though today, the gasoline would make it too costly to wash clothes.

The story of the Big Reid is one of an immense undertaking. Built in Pennsylvania by a member of the Reid family, it was installed in the mineral-rich mountains of West Virginia. It pumped oil day in and day out, without a driver or mechanic. It needed to be oiled only in a routine manner, and it performed year after year. Then, the owners stopped pumping oil from those mountains, and the Big Reid stood there alone and rusting. By a bit of luck, Tom Weaver happened by and started talking to an old fellow who sat calmly under a big oak tree remembering things of the past. Tom asked if he knew a man in the area who had an old tractor that he wanted to sell.

This venerable gentleman emptied his mouth of his "chaw" and said, "Sure, I know where a feller's got a tractor for sale, but you should give a look at that Reid "hit and miss" that has been sitting up there doing nothing for years. Now, that is a machine to be proud of.

"Can you tell us where it is?" Tom asked.

"Sure," the gentleman answered. "All you got to do is climb straight up; it's there right at the top."

A few minutes after this conversation was fully digested, Tom, Clyde McClain and Dennis Sutton, son of the man who had just given Tom the Big Reid, began the climb, driving a bulldozer, a backhoe, and carrying a cutting torch. They began their way to the top. According to Tom, they started right after dinner and finished and were loaded before it was suppertime. The great joy was to the others who were riding on Route 77 that day, seeing two men in a big truck smiling and having a grand time as they rolled over West Virginia mountains.

Today, as you drive to Richburg, get ready to see not only the Reid, but the other hit and miss that Weaver found somewhere in Chester -- although if the legend is correct, it came from out West.

Children will enjoy hearing the story of how it got here and the purpose of these remarkable machines. They will be shown the years that it has taken to move from animal-powered to fuel-driven machinery, and now we are searching for a new type of something that will run our tractors, cars and other big equipment that fill this land.

Bring your children and let them see and hear Tom Weaver tell the story of each one, and see the five tractors that are owned by his grandchildren. There will be hay rides for the children, a band and food. Admission is free, and the show will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Of course, there will be delicious things to eat. The Richburg Masonic Lodge will sell barbecue plates for $7. So, you can snack as you amble from one antique motor to another. It will be a day of fun surprises and a moment of old-timey friendship. It is a special day in Chester County.

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