Brett Rouch, left, has been involved in the engine show since childhood with his dad, Jack. (The Commercial Review/Jack Ronald)
Brett Rouch, left, has been involved in the engine show since childhood with his dad, Jack. (The Commercial Review/Jack Ronald)
Brett Rouch looked around the Tri-State grounds near his parents' camper last week, thinking back over the years and all those shows.

"We've experienced the whole thing together," he said.

Brett started coming to the Tri-State show when he was still in junior high. That's when his parents, Jack and Helen Rouch of Portland, first decided to camp on the grounds.

They weren't exhibitors back then in the early years of the 1970s, but tractors were in Jack's blood.

"I was raised on a farm until '52 or '53 when we moved to town," said Jack. "I was raised on an Oliver 70. ... I was six years old and we were discing and Dad said, 'Do you think you can follow that line?'"

He thought he could and took over the wheel.

The move to town wasn't permanent, and Jack's father Russell later had a farm near Salamonia, an area with a number of gas engine collectors at the time.

"Luther Breymaier got Grandpa started," said Brett, recalling one of the Tri-State show's founding directors.

It wasn't long before participation in the annual event became a family tradition.

The Rouch family first exhibited an old Bolens lawn tractor, a 1952 model that Russell Rouch had purchased from Justin Schafer, one of Portland's most prominent implement dealers during that era.

But that was soon followed by a John Deere A, which a new generation of the family continues to show to this day. Jack and Helen passed ownership on to Brett and Brett's 18-year-old son Caleb.

As a boy, Brett routinely rode his bicycle out to the fairgrounds, doing whatever he could to help get ready for the show. In those early yars that was mostly a case of helping Paul Klingel get the tractors lined up for display.

But Jack went on to be tractor director for a couple of terms, and Brett held the same job for six years.

"If you complain or suggest, you'll end up on the board," joked Jack.

These days Dave Pyle is in charge of the tractors. Brett's helping with the area around the swap barn and assisting Pyle as needed.

As for Jack, "My job is to make sure they all have radios."

For both of them, the camaraderie and spirit of the members and exhibitors is what keeps them coming back. With each camper or trailer pulling in, jokes are exchanged and the kidding never stops.

"They pick on one another," said Jack. "That's what's fun."

"There's a lot of stories out here," said Brett.

Like the one about the tractor that got away.

Jack bought a honey of a 1936 John Deere, and it captured Helen's heart.

"It was a beautiful little tractor," she said.

But another collector with more money in his pocket wanted it more and convinced Jack to sell.

He's regretted it ever since.

That's why the John Deere A is jointly owned by Brett and Caleb. That way one of them can talk the other out of ever selling.