Seventy-four year old Wayne Smith and his 70 year old brother Lloyd are on a road trip.
Supported by their church, family and friends, the pair left South Boston, Virginia, Sunday evening, August 10, about 4:30 p.m. heading to Portland, Indiana.
By Wednesday morning, they had made it to the Buckeye Country Mart in Buckeye.
On Monday, August 18, they arrived in Portland, Indiana, and Mayor Randy Geesaman stopped by to visit with them.
Nine days to make a 694 mile trip might not sound impressive enough to attract the attention of the town’s mayor, until you consider the fact that the brothers’ destination was the 49th Annual Tri-State Ford Tractor Show, and they drove tractors to get there – just two of the 29 tractors in Wayne’s collection.
And, they traveled the back roads. Wayne, driving a 1955 Farmall International M, and his brother, driving a 1953 Ford 900.
Wayne has always had a hankering to take a cross-country tractor trip, and he decided that the time was right.
“I’ve said for years that I wanted to take a long tractor ride and this is it, Wayne said. “Lloyd lives in town. He doesn’t have a tractor, but he said, ‘what are you gonna do?’ and I told him. He said, ‘if you’re crazy enough to do it, I’m crazy enough to go with you.”’
Wayne’s son, Randy, the “cook, cleaner, go-getter, mainly WalMart locater,” drove a motorhome and kept an eye on the travelers and warned motorists by way of a sign on the back of his small trailer.
The sign read, “Slow Moving Tractors Next 650 miles.”
The tractor show in Portland runs from August 20 through 24.
The brothers’ plan was to be in Indiana by “show time” Wednesday so they could take part in the 45-mile tractor trip that has been organized as part of the event.
They made it, and after a journey of 694 miles, a 45-mile trip will be a walk in the park.
An organized trip may keep Wayne and Lloyd on task.
Randy said he couldn’t keep them on their tractors during the trip to Indiana because they kept talking to everyone.
Who wouldn’t want to talk to them?
They are funny, and energetic and obviously not afraid to do something out of the ordinary.
And they are very considerate and appreciative of the kindness shown to them.
“Be sure to put in that article how nice this guy has been to us,” they said, speaking about Roger Pritt, owner of Buckeye Country Mart.
In preparation for their trip, the Smiths mapped-out their route to where it looked good on paper, then traveled the back roads by car, lining out stops, checking out mountains and meeting some folks along the way.
“When we did our dry run a couple of months ago, checking stops, my car broke down and this man was really good to us,” Randy said.
That is why they added Buckeye Country Mart as one of the stops on the trip.
Wednesday morning was like an old friends’ meeting.
When asked about the previous three days of travel, Wayne laughed and said, “we’ve been warm, and we’ve been wet, and we’ve been wet, wet.”
The brothers said they had no trouble with the tractors overheating on the mountains, although they had to adjust the throttle on one of them to make it compatible with the elevation.
The men laugh a lot.
Wayne talked about his hometown of Virgilina, Virginia, so named because part of it lies in Virginia and part in North Carolina.
“It used to be a big [copper] mining town,” he said. “There were saloons, hotels. But it has died down now, and it is just a wide place in the road.”
Son Randy took exception to that statement.
‘We’re building back up now,” he said, “We have a Family Dollar Store.”
Wayne is a member of the Heritage and Antique Machinery group in Halifax County. That group holds its annual festival in South Boston, Virginia, the first weekend in May.
Wayne’s wife and Randy attended its most recent meeting where the group donated $1,000 to help with expenses for the Indiana trip.
“That was pretty dog-gone nice,” Wayne said.
Wayne and Lloyd are “pretty dog-gone nice” themselves, and they know the road.
Both are former truck drivers.
“I drove for Aquatic Bathware, hauling bathtubs for 28 years,” Wayne said. “As many tubs as I’ve hauled, everybody should have five by now.”
Lloyd drove for Crewe Transfer out of Winston Salem, North Carolina.
“When they went out of business, I said, ‘shoot, I’m going to hang it up,”’ he said. He didn’t hang it up. He had his own truck and he went to work for a company in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Although they are on a long trip, you may rest assured they will never run out of stories.
The local news out of South Boston covered their departure. The following night, Randy pulled up the interview on his phone so his dad and uncle could see it.
“They said, ‘man, how did you do that?’ Randy laughed. “You’da thought I’d invented a time machine. They can find their way anywhere, but they can’t remember a phone number.”
And speaking of phones, when the group hit Huntersville, they stopped to use the pay phone at the Huntersville Grocery, soon to be Liddy Belle’s Restaurant.
Wayne said, “we are so far out in the woods that there are pay phones, and people still use them.”
And again, they were amazed by the kindness of strangers.
As they approached the pay phone, property owner Joe McCall stepped out of the restaurant and offered his phone for their use.
“Everybody has been so nice,” the brothers said. “One woman took pictures of us when she was on her way to a church picnic. Thirty minutes later, she came back with three plates of food.”
Since the guys are going to be away from home for three weeks or more, Randy said the Sunday School ladies asked what his mom was going to do while they were gone.
“She’s gonna be happy,” Randy told them.
But the church family has closely followed and supported the Smiths by way of Randy’s Facebook page, where he has posted daily reports and photos of the events along the way.
At least for Wayne, this trip will take him into civilization. That was not the case when his club organized a tractor trip for the group.
“The club organized a trip back in the mountains in Virginia,” he said. “They told me to bring my own food because we’d be so far back in the woods there’d be no food unless you kill it and cook it. And they were right.”
There should be plenty to eat in Portland, and with 694 miles under their belts, the Smith brothers are thinking about the 2015 Tractor Show in Rantoul, Indiana.
What will Wayne and Lloyd do when this year’s show ends in Portland?
They will get on the tractors, and drive 694 miles back home.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at jsgraham@poc ahontastimes.com