A creepy Caterpillar show, and the golfers’ beef debacle

July 13, 2000

Among all of last week’s flights back to the days of Eisenhower—the hot-rods, the sock-hops and the dinosaur-rock concerts that made up Rock ‘n’ Roll Daze—it was Saturday night’s parade of vintage cars that really put the blue suede on our shoes. Watching those olde-tyme roaders, tricked-out convertibles and bitchin’ Bel Airs made us wonder, as we stood downtown among the folding aluminum chairs and broken glass, what could possibly be cooler.

Well, we found out. Our meager classic car show would’ve been a poor match, it turns out, for an even more heavy-duty appreciation of internal combustion that took place recently: an auction of one of the world’s largest collections of Caterpillar machinery. On June 24, Spokane sod farmer Keith Clark put on sale a (we are told) world famous collection of heavy equipment, featuring almost every model of farm and construction implement that Caterpillar has ever made.

“We got about 175 tractors, plus about 300 graders, scrapers, rippers, and so forth,” says a low-key Clark from his Washington farm. “We’re among the biggest. There’s people who have more tractors than us, but they’re, you know, John Deere.”

Over the past dozen years, Clark has devoted his free time to buying and restoring everything with the Caterpillar nameplate, with a view to re-selling it on a young but hungry market for vintage heavy machinery. The fruits of his labor came two weeks ago, when his amazing amassment—said to be the most complete in the world—earned him in excess of $750,000 on the auction block, with some buyers coming from as far away as England and Belgium.

As for why, exactly, he got into the Caterpillar-collecting business, Clark isn’t sure, but he knows he’s not done yet. “It’s just kinda fun, you know?” he says. “I just bought another tractor last night.”
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Donde es la carne? Some folks in the South American beef industry would be well-advised to take a lesson from the poultry industry—i.e., don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched. Last month an Argentinean beef producer leaked to a Chicago Sun-Times reporter that his company was negotiating a deal with the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) to supply 20 metric tons of grass-fed beef per week to the 10,000 or so PGA clubs throughout the United States. Carlos Yanes, head of the Florida-based, Argentinean-owned Aberdeen Beef Company, was quoted as saying, “We will be one of the official sponsors of the PGA. … When they have a victory party, the menu is going to be our beef.”

The story had members of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), a Billings-based ranchers’ organization, snorting like steers, coming on the heels of a request by Argentinean President Fernando de la Rua to increase the limits on Argentinean beef that can be imported into the United States.

While this may be the year of the Tiger (Woods) for the PGA, a spokesperson for the PGA says it’s also the year of the bull for the Argentines. Says Jamie Roggero of the PGA, “There never was a deal, and now there never will be a deal.” Roggero says that while the PGA does have exclusive licensing deals with companies like Delta Air Lines, Gatorade and Rolex, the Argentines have sliced it way into the woods on this one. So put that in your empanada and smoke it!

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