Toots and Whistles...
Antique iron is a family affair for Mabel couple
Thursday, January 17, 2013 5:44 AM
When Teri Rosaaen of Spring Grove met Luke Vatland of Mabel, she realized that he was already in love - with old iron. She accepted that.
Luke Vatland and Teri Rosaaen recently married. The couple shares a love of "old iron."
"We were married the weekend after Steam Engine Days (Sept. 15)," the recently wed Mrs. Vatland recalled.
Luke had just purchased his first (a 1905 Advance) steam engine at the Don Gjere auction in August.
"He wanted to be able to drive it in the (Steam Engine Days) parade," Teri said. "Luke and his brothers, Josh and Travis, took the wheels off and worked on it for many nights. They had to wrap the steel wheels in rubber so that you could drive it on the street without damaging the asphalt.
"We didn't get as much help for the wedding because the steam engine had to go through the parade. That was first priority."
Luke said he was lucky to find a partner willing to tolerate and then join in on his hobby.
"I always loved being around steam engines," he said. "My dad took me to Steam Engine Days. Junior Dahl (of the Toot and Whistle Club) got me started in steam engines.
"I just showed up and helped out where I was needed, pitching bundles into a thresher or cutting wood. When I turned 18, I got my boiler license.
"When Teri came along she didn't have much choice. I said, 'It's all part of this.'
"When we took classes with our pastor prior to the wedding, he asked about our interests," Luke remembered. "Of course, that's all part of trying to make a good sermon for the wedding. Part of the sermon was about involving each other in your interests so you don't grow apart.
"He said, 'You need to remember that without Teri you wouldn't have a driver for your steam engine. While you're busy checking the water and making sure the engine's running well, without her driving you wouldn't have a team. You wouldn't be able to be successful.'
"We met right out of high school, and we'd been going together ever since. I had really gotten into the hobby since about ninth grade.
"Luckily, she kind of took an interest in it right away. Now every time I do something with them (the T & W Club), usually she's right there beside me, either driving or lighting the fire... whatever the task might be."
"We used to drive Don Gjere's Minneapolis in parades," Teri said. "Luke was sad to see that engine leave the area after the auction. We couldn't afford it. I told him that we were going to fix the Advance up and make it really nice so we could take it through the parade one day... not thinking that it was going to be so soon."
With Teri at the wheel, and Luke running the boiler, the Advance paraded twice during Hesper/Mabel Steam Engine Days, pulling an antique threshing machine.
Luke grew up in Mabel, where the couple now resides. Teri was raised in Black Hammer Township.
"I grew up on a farm outside of Spring Grove," she said. "All I ever drove was a Skid Loader, so me and big machinery didn't have a close relationship. My mom was from Mabel so I always came over to Steam Engine Days and saw the parade. I never thought I'd be driving one.
"We dated for seven years. He asked me to start riding with him in parades, but we'd been dating a couple years before I finally agreed to drive one through a parade with him.
"I always rode on the old Peterson engine, which was lost in a fire. That's the first one I drove. Then we always drove Don Gjere's Minneapolis. I've got to say that this Advance is the easiest to drive and maneuver. I guess it fit us... It was actually a lot of fun to drive.
"But as far as getting into this hobby, for me, it was all Luke's fault.
"He keeps telling me that there will be another one. A steam engine for each of us. I don't know about that. We're a good team. It takes two of us to run it."
During the wedding reception, steam engine owner Greg Wennes auctioned off Teri's garter - to help pay for the Advance. A photo of the newlyweds was prominently displayed with the engine in the background.
"There were definitely a lot of things that involved steam at the wedding," Luke said. "Even some of the gifts were related to steam.
"I can remember talking to a guy in Winona who is into old iron, before we were married. He asked what I was up to, and I said 'I just got engaged.'
"Right away you could see uncertainty in his eyes. He said, 'Your old iron days are all over with.' I said, 'Well, I think I've got one who at least doesn't mind me having it.'
"We're in it because we enjoy it and we like meeting people... In the end I guess we're preserving history, but we're also having a lot of fun doing it. Otherwise, we just wouldn't be doing this."
Luke said the engine has over 100 years "under its belt."
He concluded, "If we take care of it and maintain it, maybe it'll be there for our kids and grandkids."