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Back in the 'ol days...

Pioneer Club Member Dean Klebs, left, shared information about his 1944 Farmall "M" tractor with Dave Bartylla of Motley. Bartylla was visiting the grounds Friday with his wife, Linda, and their basset hound, Jake. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal1 / 5
Club Member Zona Ferguson chatted with a customer in her general store Friday on the England Prairie grounds. Ferguson had items of all kinds for sale in her store which is still being remodeled after having its roof torn off by a straight line wind that his the grounds three years ago. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal2 / 5
Pioneer Club Member Roger Wittmer loaded benches into the bucket of a Kubota tractor for transport Friay afternoon on the England Prairie grounds. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal3 / 5
Carl Trager, left, and Phile Skolte of the England Prairie Pioneer Club shared memories, jokes and information as they took a load off their feet Friday afternoon along the club's parade route. Parades were scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday. Trager is a past president and now a senior advisor of the club. Skolte was honored as the club's king in 2015 and has been a member more years than he can remember. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal4 / 5
The Christmas House is one of the many buildings on the England Prairie grounds that show off noveties of years gone by. The beautiful Christmas displays are changed each year according to lifetime member Shirley Rokes. The building itself was once used as a chicken coop. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal 5 / 5

Carl Trager and Phil Skolte have many good years behind them as members of the England Prairie Pioneer Club. Trager is a past president, Skolte is a past king.

For the two old friends and the rest of the EPPC, the past is what it is all about.

As they sat on orange chairs Friday afternoon along the parade avenue, other club members were setting up for the 38th annual England Prairie Day show. The two men were in a beehive of activity. Club members passed to and fro, occasionally asking questions and sometimes just visiting.

"They are good people," Skolte said.

England Prairie Days celebrates the rural life in many ways - food, tractor pulls, lawn mower pulls, antique tractors, gas engines and machinery and a petting zoo.

When guests step onto the England Prairie grounds they walk into a past that includes a museum, barber shop, blacksmith shop, print shop, general store, grist mill, a telephone and telegraph depot, a saw mill and the old Deep Rock gasoline station which was moved up from Hewitt.

One of the prize exhibits is the Christmas House, a former chicken coop that now has wall-to-wall carpeting and each year is filled with dishes, cups and other holiday mementos of years long past.

Jokes and laughter were Friday's offerings from Trager and Skolte. Having seen so much of life they shared a realization that a man has to have fun when he is young.

Trager told an Ole and Lena joke and Skolte tried to steal a dessert from a fellow club member who was trying to sit next to him. They both recalled the advantages of farm living along with some of the pitfalls. Trager could remember having afternoon lunch before having to go out to do evening chores. Skolte, who was born on a farm south of Rose Creek, a little town on the Minnesota-Iowa border, mentioned the times when he walked to and from school and often returned home in the winter months with frozen hands and frozen feet.

"What you really enjoyed was when company came and you got to see something besides the back end of a cow," Trager laughed.

While Trager only lived on a farm near Staples for five years, Skolte got ahold of his own farm and did not retire until 1978.

He recalled that in 1959 after a poor crop year he had to find work in a factory in the Twin Cities to get back on his feet. The Minnesota farmer found himself making potato chips for a company called Old Dutch while running his farm at the same time.

"I must not have got back on my feet because I was there for 30 years," he laughed.

Trager found a place for himself in the Twin Cities working in the printing ink business. He kicked around with four different companies before returning to the Staples area. Joining the club was right down his alley.

"I like to tinker on things," he smiled.

Trager has put 76 summers behind him and Skolte has logged 87. They know that most of their 100 members are older folks like themselves. They take heart in the fact that new several new members come along each year.

"We are much better off than some of the clubs, we don't have any debt," Trager said. "I don't know how much more we're going to grow. I think we've pretty much leveled off."

The three-day show, which is held each year three miles west of Verndale on County Road 1, has been drawing 200-300 guests each year.

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