Tractor Women Calendar is useful fundraiser

By Janet Kubat Willette

MABEL, Minn. — What do you get when you mix the talents of the local barber, the tractor guy and the gunsmith?

Give up?

A Tractor Women Calendar.


For two years now, the folks in the Hesper-Mabel area have put together a calendar featuring area tractors and area women as a benefit for the Hesper-Mabel Area Historical Society. In 2007, young women in their 20s were featured sitting and standing astride vintage tractors. In 2008, women who could be their mothers were featured. In 2009, grandmothers and their grandchildren will be featured.

Laura St. Mary, a Mabel barber, begs the women. Junior Dahl, the tractor guy, selects the tractors, and Calvin Anderson, the local gunsmith, takes the photographs.

"He’s a wonderful amateur photographer," said St. Mary, the calendar coordinator, but even better, he has a flexible schedule that allows him to take the photographs when the women are available and the weather cooperates.

"You just don’t go and snap a picture," St. Mary said.

Shelby Bigalk, 23, can attest to that. The Mabel resident, who has been going to Steam Engine Days since she was a little girl, was leery of being in the 2007 calendar, but her parents encouraged her to do it. It would be a nice keepsake, they told her.

They also convinced her sister, Chelsey, 25, to pose for the calendar, telling her it would be a good way to support the community. It took quite a bit of talking, Chelsey admits.

"I don’t like my picture taken," she said.

Shelby went shopping for a skirt to wear — she doesn’t generally wear skirts — and posed next to a 1953 OC3 Oliver Crawler with Chelsey sitting at the controls for March 2007.


"They snapped a bunch of pictures," Shelby said. "It really didn’t take too long."

Shelby’s friends were surprised when they saw her in the calendar, but other friends were also in the photographs. Afterall, Hesper-Mabel is a small community, she said.

So when it came time for the Tractor Women Calendar for 2008, their mother didn’t have an excuse not to be photographed.

"I can’t say no … I made my girls," Laurie Bigalk said she remembered thinking. "I have no choice here."

She is photographed on a 1960 IHC 240 Utility at the Steam Engine grounds.

It took four photo shoots to get the image captured. The first time, an impending storm made it too dark for pictures. The second time worked fine, but Laurie and her friend, Tracy, decided they wanted to have a retake. They wanted to wear Fourth of July attire since they were going to be featured for July. The third time, the wind was terrible, Laurie said. Everything came together for the fourth shoot, including the flowers in the background that bloomed just in time.

Looking back, Laurie said her first — and probably only — modeling experience was fun.

"It’s so nice to be able to promote our town," she said.


LeAnn Wickett, who is in charge of selling 1,500 raffle tickets each year for a chance to win a new vehicle given away at Steam Engine Days, is featured in September 2008.

St. Mary had to do a lot of arm twisting to get her to agree to be photographed, Wickett said. She said no at first, but relented when two other ladies she knows real well agreed to be photographed with her.

The trio worked until 5:30 p.m., changed and went down to the Steam Engine grounds after work on a Friday night.

"All we had to do was take our shoes off, slap on our hats and we were ready to go," Wickett said. "The three of us, we really weren’t too fussy."

They posed for one set of photographs and thought they were done, St. Mary said. She convinced them to stand for another and it was over.

"Laura said we were probably the easiest group to work with," Wickett said.

Her daughter, Amy, 22, is featured in December 2007.

She likewise protested being in the calendar, but her mother told her she should do it because it would benefit the community.

"I knew that all the proceeds were going to help benefit Steam Engine days and the Toot and Whistle Boys," Amy said.

She asked a close friend to pose with her. They dressed in shorts, donned Santa hats and stood beside a 1953 Massey-Harris. The photo shoot was over in about half an hour, Amy said.

St. Mary said she’s already working on the 2009 calendar, which will complete the three-year series. All the labor that goes into making the calendars is volunteer, she said.

In a small town, everyone has to pitch in to make projects work, she said.

"You have to make things happen yourselves."

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