Ice cream made by tractor motor keeps Boone County Fair cool

Thursday, July 29, 2010 | 6:27 p.m. CDT; updated 4:11 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 30, 2010
Raymond Jeffries sits back and waits as his homemade ice cream churns at the Boone County Fairgrounds on Monday. The ice cream churner is made out of a 1930s John Deer Motor that he has to crank to start. Jeffries said he borrowed the idea from the Amish.

COLUMBIA — Directly across the street from the Ferris wheel, a short line of fairgoers waits in front of Max’s Old Time Ice Cream stand, eager to get their hands on a cold and creamy delight.

Pat Caskey, 54, created Max’s Old Time Ice Cream in April, and he's new in the carnival business. Caskey got the idea from some Amish and decided to take a 1930 John Deere Model E, 1 1/2-horsepower hit-and-miss motor and turn it into a machine that makes ice cream.

“Clara Sue is her name,” Caskey said, as he patted the top of its green facade with his hand, “the machine that does all of this dandy work.” 

He said the type of motor that he uses to run his ice cream maker was used in the old days to power water pumps for windmills.

Caskey, from Kansas City, and his long-time friend, Raymond Jeffiers, 56, have been going to local events, car shows and antique tractor shows all summer selling ice cream. The Boone County Fair is the second county fair they have vended at.

Their menu is basic: Three dollars buys a foam cup chock-full of homemade vanilla ice cream.

“We like to keep it simple,” Jeffiers said.  “I mean that is probably how Ben and Jerry’s started out.”

Caskey named his business after his 2-year-old grandson, Max.

To make the dessert machine, Caskey hooked up a series of rotating belts and pulleys that connected the hit-and-miss motor to a 20-quart White Mountain wooden bucket.  The bucket holds a metal canister, which works as a freezer for the ice cream.

He starts his contraption by turning a hand crank, and the motor can run for 10 hours on three gallons of gasoline.  He packs the canister with dairy products, sugar, ice and salt. The salt keeps the sweet treat at a soft-serve consistency. The canister’s gears churn the soon-to-be ice cream.

“It only takes about 45 minutes of the tractor’s counter-rotating gears in motion, and we get 20 quarts out of it.  That lasts for about a week here at the Boone County Fair,” Jeffiers said.

Both Caskey and Jeffiers agree that the ice cream business is not about money, but about the conversation.  

“Pat and I are really sociable critters and we love meeting and talking to new people, and the fair is the perfect place for that,” Jeffiers said. “If we are in it for the money, we’re doing it for the wrong reason.”

Caskey’s ice cream has received a lot of compliments about the taste, so he has decided not to add any other flavors to the menu.

“We worked awhile to get the desired vanilla taste and were constantly switching and adding ingredients, but we are not changing the recipe anymore.  It tastes perfect,” Caskey said.

Caskey is currently working on a washing machine ice cream maker that runs on a gas motor.  An old wooden tub would replace the inside of the washer and would turn on after the lid is closed.

He said that it will take some time to finish his newest invention because it is hard to find the wooden tubs.

But for now, Caskey is content with Clara Sue.

“Our ice cream ain’t bad for a couple old guys on the street,” Caskey said.


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