When Claire Schilz was younger, her grandfather, Harley Pellmann, used to give her rides in his 1952 Farmall H that was topped with a homemade cab made of rough sawn lumber and tin.
After he died in 2012, Claire got the idea that someday she would like to fix up the tractor in her grandfather’s honor. The tractor had stopped working.
“Claire was sad watching the tractor getting hauled in and out of our shed with chains and skid-steers,” her mother, Janice Schilz, said. “She thought it needed to be fixed.”
With the help of her dad, Ray Schilz, Claire embarked on a yearlong project to bring the tractor back to its original condition. They began the project last September and are putting the finishing touches on it in anticipation of the Walworth County Fair, scheduled for Aug. 30 to Sept. 4 at the Walworth County Fairground in Elkhorn.
The tractor will be on display and entered in the mechanical science competition at the fair.
“We didn’t realize how important this tractor was to her,” Janice said. “She had a lot of good memories riding around with her Papa (grandfather).”
“I was really close to him — after he passed away, I thought that someday I’m going to fix up his old tractor,” Claire said.
Claire said she picked up the majority of her mechanical skills from her dad.
“Sometimes when I was little, I would grab tools or get him parts when he was fixing something up,” Claire said.
The tractor is back in its original condition after the father and daughter team spent many hours getting the motor to run and putting on a fresh coat of paint. Ray’s dad, Wayne Schilz, purchased the new battery for the tractor and also lent support and encouragement to the project.
“We were at the state fair last year and we saw a tractor restoration project that a young boy had done, and we thought it was kind of a nice idea,” Ray said. “That’s when Claire got the bug.”
The Schilzes live on a 5-acre plot adjacent to the 120-acre family farm where Claire’s mom, Janice, grew up. They raise Royal Palm turkeys, chickens and ducks, with most of the animals being kept on the farm, which is owned by Claire’s grandmother, Phyllis Pellmann.
Claire has been showing turkeys for seven years and recently started showing chickens and ducks. She is a 4-H junior leader for poultry.
“Mainly I help out members when they come into the project if they have any question, and even if they don’t have animals I raise, I can always help them out with something,” she said. “I train kids how to prepare for showmanship, how to hold a bird.”
Ray is the key leader on the Walworth County Poultry Committee, while Janice is vice chairwoman.
Claire is president of the Springfield 4-H Club, where besides poultry and mechanical science, other current projects include art and shooting sports. In the past, she has had projects in crocheting, food preservation, woodworking and both a dog and a cat. She was an art counselor for 4-H camp at Upham Woods this summer.
“A couple of years ago her general club leaders, Rita VanSchyndel and Rachel Haacker, encouraged their club members to try different projects,” Janice said. “Since that time she has added a new project each year. 4-H is a great way to try different things.”
Debbie Burkman, Walworth County 4-H youth development educator, described Claire as a “quiet leader” in 4-H.
Claire is a sophomore at Catholic Central High School in Burlington, which she participates in the drama club, art club and is on the tennis team.
She is also a turkey and deer hunter.
“A lot of people say it’s strange that I hunt turkeys because I raise them,” Claire said. “But I don’t know the wild turkeys I shoot, so it doesn’t affect me.”
Ray is general manager of Northern Precision Plastics in Belvidere, Ill., while Janice is a pharmacy technician specialist in the oncology department at Aurora Cancer Care in Burlington.
If you go
What: Walworth County Fair.
When: Aug. 30 to Sept. 4.
Where: Walworth County Fairground, 411 E. Court St., Elkhorn.
Information: 262-723-3228 or http://www.walworthcountyfair.com.