The Final Roberts Farm Show
Grand Junction, Colo.
Photos courtesy of Ray Guziak
After hosting a free admission, Roberts Farm Show with his co-host, the Western Slope Antique Power Association at his place in Mack, Colo., every April since 1997, Chuck Roberts and his sister-in-law, Debbie Roberts, announced in the newspaper and on the posters around town that this was the “Final Roberts Farm Show.”
This show has been a long-standing tradition for people living in this part of western Colorado to gather up their family every spring and drive out to his Mack farm which sits on his 512 acres of land at 714 S Road. When they heard they were going to have it again this year but it would be the final farm show, folks turned out in droves on April 28-29 to see the draft horses, the steam engines, the vintage display of classic old cars, tractors and trucks, the gas engines and the antique farm and ranch equipment.
Everyone has their favorite thing to do on his farm. Some like walking up and down the multitude of rows of classic tractors, of every make, year, color and size, just as they do at a sports car show. For some it brings back memories of their childhood when they got to drive a tractor on a relative’s farm. My husband is one of those children who grew up with his brothers and sisters in the city, but always loved his grandparents’ farm in Michigan where, as a young boy, he got to drive their tractor and later, in his teen years, helped out every summer milking the cows and general farm work.
Catching up with Chuck and his married daughter, Julie, proudly standing beside him late Sunday morning at the engine-powered sawmill, we asked about the show and yesterday’s crowd. “It was a real good crowd. We pulled 80 tractors yesterday,” he beamed, “and will probably do the same or maybe more later today. They’ll have the Tractor Pull again today at 1:00 p.m..”
Because we had another commitment that afternoon, we weren’t able to stay to see the tractor pull this year. But I recalled the first year we’d attended the Roberts Farm Show and climbed up on the back of a flatbed truck that held folded chairs for the audience. As a city girl, it was my first time to see a farm show or even hear the words, “Tractor Pull,” and I didn’t know what to expect. I sat on a metal folding chair, while husband, Ray, stood on the grass, leaning against the truck bed next to me. Looking around at the crowd near me, I guessed I was the only one there that had never seen this, so I decided to simply wait, keep quiet and not ask questions, except for whispered ones to my husband, the Midwestern farm boy, who had been to tractor pulls many years ago.
As I remember it, they had three judges who announced the names of the drivers and the make of their tractor, as they drove up in front of them. A chain with a weight was added to the rear of each stopped tractor when they got to the front of the line. The tractor’s driver started up, pulling the weight while judges and the crowd watched to score the distance pulled. After they’d announced the weight and distance, a team of men detached the weight and the tractor moved on. They repeated this routine with each lined-up tractor.
I do recall a competing lady driver, who had a parasol matching her flowery, billowing, cotton dress, determinedly steering her weighted-down tractor past the judges’ station to the end. I figured she must have practiced all winter for this day … and, like most women, would have planned all winter on what to where at Roberts’ event.
Turning back to Chuck, who was picking up one of the pieces of fresh-cut wood emblazoned with RFS 12 and handing it to the outstretched hand of a waiting youngster, we could see the pride and joy in his face.
“That’s my grandson over there,” he pointed, and my son, Kurt. Debbie and her son, Trent, are around here also. In fact she was just here,” he said, looking over his shoulder for her.
“Are you SURE this will be your final year?” I asked, noticing the pleased look in his eyes as he chatted with old and new friends in the crowd throughout the morning.
“Yes,” he answered, hesitantly. “It’s time for me to step down and get some new blood in here to run this thing. Anybody under 60, that is,” he grinned. “But farming does get in your blood. I’ve always loved what I do … being a farmer on my own place.”
Saying our good-byes, we carried the RSF 12 piece of wood he had given us and headed back to our car parked under a tall, shade tree lined up with other trees along the dirt driveway. We had eaten breakfast an hour earlier, so this year we enjoyed the smells, but quickly walked past the open-sided, steel building housing folding tables and chairs for the many diners feasting on freshly grilled, tasty barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers inside.
“Final show?” I questioned, silently in the car. “Nah. I don’t think so. I saw the pleasure and that twinkle in Chuck’s eyes when he talked about this place. Besides, he said it’s in his blood. He’s a REAL farmer,” I decided, closing my notebook.
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