Typewriters into tractors

ON DISPLAY — Gary Little also paints dried decorative corn ears in a patriotic pattern when he runs out of typewriters and sewing machines to make into models. The orange tractor in the background has a woman driver dressed in farming wear. He and his sister, Janis, work together to find material for tractors, and she makes clothing to dress the dolls. -- Esther McCoy

SMITHFIELD — There are many manual typewriters and pedal-powered sewing machines out there that writers and seamstresses used in the days before power was needed to make the machines operate.

And Gary Little of Hermitage, Pa., found a great use for typewriters and sewing machines. He makes them into tractors, bull dozers, corn pickers, Army vehicles, a “Gunsmoke” tractor and a combine. Friends have given him machines and he also searches for them in yard sales and auctions.

His presentations are on display in the 7th and 8th department building at the Jefferson County Fair this week and the next showing will be at the Canfield Fair in Mahoning County before Labor Day.

Little said he looks at a Remington typewriter and pictures a bulldozer, with all the necessary bells and whistles to make it look real, and then goes to work. A Singer sewing machine can become a tractor — the sky is the limit. And he has the aid of his sister, Janis, who finds dolls in yard sales and designs clothing for each farm equipment and Army vehicle driver.

There are three exceptions to the farmer-type clothing. For the Butterfly brand sewing machine from the Republic of China, there is an angelic doll that resembles a butterfly. Another is an Army vehicle with a driver in a khaki uniform, and the third is James Arness dressed as in his “Gunsmoke” show.

A small drawer out of a cabinet becomes the bed for a hay wagon, a plastic salad dressing or ketchup container is a gas tank for a tractor, and a typewriter is used to make the corn picker.

Anything taking up space in the Hermitage home is fodder for one of the models, he noted.

“My imagination wanders all the time. When I see a small pizza pan, I think of a fender for a tractor or a spool of thread is a tractor exhaust. I always think of how can I use them.”

His sister said they go to many yard sales looking for articles that can be used on a vehicle or as a costume for the dolls.

Gary designed a tractor pull, where in reality, a chain is attached to the back of two tractors going in opposite directions. The drivers give it the gas to see who can drag the other farm vehicle over the line. He took this idea from an older Dave Barnhouse work of art called “Bragging Rights.”

He talked about being a truck driver for 21 years, and said in 2001, colon cancer was discovered.

“The extensive chemo ruptured an artery and I almost bled to death. It was then that I started on a hobby of making vehicles out of things around the house. I will not sell any of my sewing machine or typewriter works. I have given a few to special friends but that is my limit,” he related.