By Chuck Wiser, 9/23/21, I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels
I was inspired by two things for today’s writings. One was the beginning of what is arguably our most colorful time of the year, Autumn, and the other a celebration of life ceremony as the ashes of a departed former classmate and friend were sprinkled at his parents final resting place and on his beloved childhood farm. It is understood that the subject of story was little known unless you were a resident of Cuba or Friendship, or were interested in Tractor Pulling, Drag Racing or Auto Racing on the National scene.
Why I chose to write about Steve Cole, a few months after his passing, is to share a story of a “kid” who grew up on a farm, spent most of his time working the farm, and whose social life, and extracurricular activities were centered around agriculture, such as in the Future Farmers of America (FFA). This is a story about dreams, perhaps not yet then known, that come true on a grand scale. Steve developed a passion for Tractor Pulling, Drag Racing, Sports Car Racing and seemingly anything else, including Locomotives, that had an engine.
Steve graduated from Friendship Central School in 1963, and was a classmate of mine. At that time, my dream was to be a writer. I’m pretty sure that when Steve enrolled in the New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, at Cornell, he didn’t have plans of being a writer. Upon matriculating in 1967, he promptly entered into partnership on the 400 acre family farm on the Friendship-Cuba road.
As fate would have it, another Friendship Central School graduate a couple of years behind us named Rick Schwab, who did want to become a writer, came to the Olean Times Herald with a “Politics and Economics” degree from the University of Buffalo. I asked Rick about that degree and if he wanted to be a writer, why didn’t he pursue a Journalism degree. He explained that UB didn’t have a Journalism program and that scholarship financed education at a SUNY institution was prudent. Rick stated that he started fulfilling his writing dream at 10 years old when he was publishing his own neighborhood newspaper. Rick, early on in his newspaper career, was tapped by Gil Stinger, the Managing Editor of the Olean paper as his successor in covering Motor Sports for the Times Herald. Side note; with apologies to both Steve and Rick, Mr. Stinger was my all time favorite newspaper writer. He covered the national motor sports scene while my family was involved in local dirt track stock car racing. A natural fit.
So, here we have a guy that wanted to be a writer, becoming an Engineer, writing about a guy who fulfilled his writing dreams with years of writing and being a newspaper editor, feeding me information about a farmer who ended up being an internationally known writer and editor featuring Motor Sports, and the next chapter, Tractor Pulling.
Well, the career tracks of Steve and Rick, they did merge. While Rick was filling the shoes of Gil Stinger carrying on with his, and other racing news, Steve became his “wing man” providing background and boots on the ground assistance. They became close friends and working, if you call following the races working, colleagues. The pair collaborated on stories from Watkins Glen, many of which were of International fame and flavor. Their stories, some written, some not, from “The Glen” were many, one even including the mysterious burning of a tour bus in the infamous “Bog”. Rick went on to notoriety or fame as the editor or managing editor of such publications as the Ligonier Echo and The Mount Pleasant Journal.
Steve’s progression and career included working “The Glen” from 1968 to 1976, Covering such events including – The United States Grand Prix, SCAA Can-Am, Trans AM and Formula 5000, with Rick Schwab.
Steve’s “track” seemed to be “pulled” toward other aspects of motoring including drag racing and tractor pulling. His dream was developing into reality as he lived it. In 1977, Steve moved to Ohio to join The National Tractor Pullers Association(NTPA) as Editor of their magazine “The Puller.” While at The Puller from 1977 till 1983 he served as Editor, Director of Communications, and Director of Public and Industry Relations. In 1982, Steve became Marketing Communications Director for Cleveland Ohio based “Mr. Gasket” and that followed with stints at various Motor Sports related companies serving in the roles as Editor or Director of Marketing Communications for several companies, and from 1991 to 1999 operating his own Marketing Communications firm.
Following his time as Director of Communications at Barry Grant Inc., Steve was hired by NHRA (International Hot Rod Association) as Editor of the magazine Drag Review. In 2009 he again went on his own with a marketing and advertising company named “Write Words“, where he specialized again with articles and activities in many Motor Sports areas.
Steve’s diversified interests including pretty much anything with a motor, including railroads history and especially that of the steam locomotives.
Steve and Rick together provided me with a vision that you could write your way to happiness in your career. I didn’t formally join the “official” writing game until just recently, but their inspiration was a beacon to me. Let that be my suggestion to you. Follow your dream regardless of the length of the track that was laid for you.
I close with a poem I wrote for Steve Cole as he battled severe heart problems and numerous surgeries. He even continued his writing as he “text booked us” on the specific details of various heart related medical procedures, utilizing the Facebook venue.
Jon Dunlap of (NTPA) said of Steve: “Mr. Cole brought both solid reportage and thoughtful opinions to our pages in dozens of articles and columns that always kept one eye on tractor pulling and the other on safety and energy issues…He was prescient and professional and his work always served as a model for his many successors at The Puller.”
Information in this article was either provided, by or stolen from: The National Tractor Pullers Association, NHRI, or Rick Schwab. Thank you all!
There was a time, years many past
When forests grew their trees so vast
As dwellers grew throughout the land
To build their homes, they’d need a hand
The farmer’s harvested the trees
To build their homes and warm the freeze
Then came the work to toil and till
The farmers too, that job would fill
Crops were planted, livestock grazed
Families grew, the children raised
To be the next to grow the crops
To do the work that never stops
They rose to meet the crack of dawn
They slept but not till light withdrawn
The days were long the work was rough
They taught us what was “Farmer Tough”
RIP Steve, you taught us all!