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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Joe Winter has 37 antique butter churns on display

  • Butter wasn’t born in a supermarket. It originates in cream skimmed from cow’s milk that has been agitated for a while. In the old days, many people, especially those on farms, made their own in butter churns.

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  • Butter wasn’t born in a supermarket. It originates in cream skimmed from cow’s milk that has been agitated for a while. In the old days, many people, especially those on farms, made their own in butter churns.
    “You don’t actually have to have a churn,” said Joe Winter, director of the Antique Gas Engine and Tractor Show, which opened Friday and will continue today on the grounds of the Crawford County Historical Society. “On our farm in Richards, Mo., you’d just put a half-gallon jar on your knee and roll it back and forth for 15 or 20 minutes, and you’d have butter.”
    Now Winter has 37 butter churns, all different from each other, which are on display at the show which opened Friday and continues today on the grounds of the Crawford County Historical Museum.
    “I’ve had some of them for a long time, but got serious about it 20 years ago,” he said. “A lot of folks have never seen the variety I have. The wooden ones are probably the oldest and the glass ones are probably the youngest. I don’t know, but I’m thinking the metal ones may be in between.”
    Most are powered by hand cranks and have paddles that whip the cream into butter, but a couple of the wood ones have no paddles but just tumble the cream container over and over.
    One of those, which has the square wood container on a pedestal, is probably his most unusual churn.
    “I bought it at a yard sale in Iowa, and when I first saw it I thought it was a bird house,” Winter said. “I bought it because I’d never seen anything like it before, and I haven’t seen anything else like it since.”
    The most recent churns have electric motors on them.
    “It was 1950 when rural electricity got to our farm, and when you have lights in the house and you can plug something into  the wall and it saves you having to turn a crank, it’s a pretty big deal,” Winter said.
    Some of the churns are so tiny they could hold only a few tablespoons of cream. Winter believes these were made as novelties rather than for actual use. On the other hand, his biggest churn holds five gallons.
    “That’s probably too much for family use, so I’m thinking it was for commercial use,” he said.
    Winter collects other items as well, including old gas engines and hog oilers, which he has displayed at the show before.
    “People ask what a hog oiler was used for, and I asked them if they’ve ever had bacon stick in the pan when they were cooking it,” he said. “If they say yes, I say it’s because the farmer didn’t oil the hog enough.”
    Page 2 of 2 - But that’s just Winter making a little joke. He explained that hogs can accumulate itchy external parasites such as lice, and used motor oil was put into the hog oilers to help control the pests.
    “After World War II they invented DDT and didn’t need hog oilers any more,” Winter said.
    He hasn’t displayed the churns at the annual show before, but he hopes that people will enjoy seeing them.
    “Almost anybody can relate to a butter churn,” Winter said.
    Other show attractions will include the “Parade of Power” at noon and numerous working displays of old gas engines, as well as vendors, children’s activities and concessions. Admission is $4 per person, with children 12 and younger admitted free.
    Winter is a former president of the Southeast Kansas Old  Time Gas Engine and Tractor Club, which sponsors the show, but resigned that position.
    “Then somebody jumped up and said, ‘I nominate Joe to be show director,’ and the whole membership voted aye,” he said.
    This will be the club’s 25th annual Antique Gas Engine and Tractor Show, and Winter said it draws people from throughout the region.
    “I’ve got a friend coming from Bolivar, Mo., who will be 100 in September,” he said.
    Winter, a quarter of a century younger than that, said he probably doesn’t need any more butter churns, but that hasn’t stopped him from planning another trip to Greenfield, Iowa.
    “The friend I bought the square churn from has more churns in his shed,” Winter said.

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