NORRIDGEWOCK — The field on Waterville Road might not look like much in mid-September, just a field of grass, a few unassuming buildings close to the road, and a barnlike structure without walls near the back tree line. Driving by, a person would hardly see a reason to stop.

“It used to be a golf course,” said Matt Hunter, standing in the field on a hot, sunny day.

One of the buildings, the smaller one, was for equipment. Now it’s a clubhouse. But the club that calls the house home, though some 500 members strong, isn’t a very well known one.

“This club never had publicity,” Hunter said. Most people probably don’t even know it exists.

That’s because the club that occupies this particular field focuses on things of the past, artifacts of an old way of life, things that just aren’t used anymore, that maybe most have forgotten. This club is the Maine Antique Tractor Club, and its members have not forgotten.

The nonprofit organization was founded in 1994 as the Northern and Central Maine Antique Tractor Club, but Hunter, the club’s vice president, said the Northern and the Central groups split because of the distance.

Bill Clark, a charter member, remembers he and a few others got together in another man’s living room with the goal of forming the club. He said they had to have one.

“We thought it was good to maintain the tractors for the future,” Clark said. “All the history is lost if you don’t preserve it.”

Hunter agreed, adding that as the “price of junk metal goes up, history goes to the dump.”

Clark himself has about 40 antique tractors, which the club defines as having been made in 1960 or earlier. Most of his are John Deere tractors.

When asked what made him want to collect antique tractors, he said with a chuckle, “I don’t know, to be honest with you.”

He did grow up farming, and he remembers getting a tractor with the intent to fix it and sell it. But he kept getting more. “I got a hold of one, I was impressed.”

These days, Clark is done farming, so he keeps most of his tractors at his property in Skowhegan. He said he’d like to sell some of them, but the market for antique tractors isn’t great on the East Coast. He said he’d be better off going out West to auction them.

“Not many look for them,” he said.

PRESERVING HISTORY

Owning 40 antique tractors isn’t a necessity to be in the club; you don’t even have to own one. Club member John Hilton said you don’t necessarily even have to like antique tractors. Sometimes the tractors at the club’s events don’t even belong to club members, but to others who just want the public to enjoy them. Of course, many in the club, if not all of them, do, in fact, like antique tractors.

“A lot of members grew up on a farm,” Hilton said. “They miss the tractors themselves and join to bring back the memories.”

The club goes to a number of fairs each year — such as the Common Ground Fair and Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair — and even host their own two-day fair in June. The club provides a number of activities, mainly tractor pulls, rides and parades.

Pam Vaillancourt, the club president, said these events are chances to educate people about the past and preserve their heritage.

“It gives people an opportunity to see how it used to be done,” she said.

The walls of the clubhouse on Waterville Road show that history. Pictures of past events and days gone by adorn the walls. Images of tractor brands hang over a table in the cabinlike clubhouse. John Deere and Allis Chalmers. Fordson and Cockshutt. Farmall and McCormick-Deering.

The aesthetics are simple, but the mission is obvious: Remember the past.

But plan for the future.

Vaillancourt said the club has always had goals of growing, ever since the start. It moved out to the current location about three or four years ago and began fundraising, she said.

“The first major project was that structure,” she said, indicating the long, barnlike building without any walls toward the back of the property.

It’s a tall structure, plain wood with some red siding near the top where the roof is. It’s a shelter for tractor pulling.

Like the clubhouse decor, it’s simple but effective, and as efficient as building it was. The structure went up about three weeks ago, and Hunter said it was built in just about six days.

Vaillancourt said club members worked on the design of the building for the past year and a half. Then they took those plans to Aroostook County, specifically to Hodgdon, and its Amish community, and the Truss Worthy Truss Co.

Ethan Kauffman, a partner at Truss Worthy Truss, said he wasn’t aware of having worked with the tractor club in the past. He didn’t fully remember the project, but said the speediness with wich it was carried out could be a result of how busy the company is. Depending on the company’s booking schedule, its workers might have been passing through the Norridgewock area and therefore were able to fill the order.

“We have a lot of orders coming through, and we can’t keep track of them,” Kauffman said.

Now in its fifth summer of business, the Truss Worthy Truss Co. largely builds housing and farming structures. A truss is a piece of framework, usually made up of rafters, posts, struts, onto which a roof is built. While the majority of the company’s work takes place in Maine, he said it has shipped to other New England states as well.

A FAMILY AFFAIR

There’s a family component to all this antique tractor business as well. Bill Clark grew up on a farm and remembers his father buying a John Deere tractor. He and his brother, Bob, got into tractors and began pulling, a competition in which the driver pulls a heavy sled with his tractor. The two brothers each think a different model of a John Deere is the superior.

“There’s a lot of good-natured competition among models,” Hunter said.

Bill Clark’s oldest grandson is also into tractor pulling, he said.

Bob Clark, the younger brother, is the father of Vaillancourt. He remembers when she first tried her hand at tractor pulling. At the time, the club used to rent land at the Farmington Fairgrounds for the festival they now put on at the land in Norridgewock.

“She saw it, took my tractor, and beat everybody the first time, ever,” he said.

“There are generations that pull,” Vaillancourt said.

Standing in his dirt-floored barn filled with automotive history, Bill Clark recalls how he wanted to turn his barn into a museum and preserve all that history: John Deere tractors painted green and yellow from a time and place long ago.

“It’s probably too late for that now,” he said, walking back across Middle Road in Skowhegan from one set of his antique tractors to another.

But if a person takes a look around Clark’s barn, with its tractors of all shapes and sizes, some dating back to the 1930s, it might as well be a museum.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

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Twitter: @colinoellis