MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Many young boys save up to buy their first vehicle, but Ethan Harty’s purchase is likely one of a kind.
The 11-year-old from Strome, Alta., with income from 4-H steers and some help from his dad, bought a steam-powered tractor.
At $35,000, he figures he got a deal.
“That’s cheap,” he said after overseeing a similar steam engine during the threshing demonstration at the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village and Museum near Moose Jaw.
Harty can’t explain his fascination with the antique machines that belch and cover him in soot, but he said he also likes blacksmithing, threshing and plowing.
In Moose Jaw, he was up at 5 a.m. to light the fire in a 1900 Sawyer Massey owned by Dale Friesen of Piapot, Sask.
“It has to be steamed up for a long time,” he said. “You have to heat it up slowly or it expands too much.”
Friesen and Harty have been friends for several years, since the elder took the younger under his wing as an apprentice. Harty spends a few weeks of his summer holiday working with Friesen to learn all he can.
“There are not many kids anymore that are mechanically inclined,” Friesen said as Harty signaled for more wood on the fire.
“He studies a lot on his own. We have to teach these young people, otherwise it dies.”
Friesen owns about 10 steam engine machines. He bought the one in use at the Sukanen threshing demonstration in the 1970s at Maryfield, Sask., and spent years rebuilding it.
He regularly attends the Sukanen celebration of the way harvesting used to be done, and for the last four years Harty has, too.
Harty confidently stood atop the tractor watching as others tossed sheaves into the threshing machine at the end of a long belt.
He said he was watching the water pressure and fire levels and keeping an eye on the people working at the threshing machine to make sure he knew when to power down.
Harty’s grandfather, John Rawe, brought him to the event this year.
“I think this show is growing every year, from what I can see,” he said.
It helps that youngsters like his grandson are getting involved. Event organizers noted that the average age of their volunteers is high.