Farm Collector Blogs > First Things

Collecting Stories

Leslie C. McManus

I sometimes think that what every collector really specializes in is stories. As a general rule, a good story or two lurk quietly behind every interesting collection. It only makes sense: If you have passion enough to collect something, you probably enjoy sharing that passion.

It goes beyond that, though. The collector’s passion must be bolstered by patience. Years may pass before you find your prize. Discovery is only half the battle. Hunting, snooping, researching, negotiating, acquiring, transporting — it all takes time, but more often than not, it adds up to a great story.

Great stories were in abundant supply at the annual meeting of the Stockyard Collectors Club in June. Members of this group still remember the glory days of the Union Stock Yard in Chicago, and relish the opportunity to share their memories. Many also shared tales of how they found the stockyard relics they’ve gathered.

I am, I confess, highly susceptible to a good story. When John Kalsem shared memories forged more than seven decades ago, I was all ears. As he told of his father and grandfather driving cattle to the nearest rail station for transport to Chicago, then catching a ride themselves in the caboose, he painted a scene from another world.

And just like that, I wanted to collect stockyard memorabilia! Who wouldn’t want to? Terrific badges, richly detailed ephemera, match safes, fabulous photographs of cattle, branding irons – all from a fascinating chapter of this nation’s history, and showcased in this issue.

This fever is an occupational hazard. I must constantly steel myself against it. I cannot view a collection without succumbing to its charms. But there is only so much time and money and space. Instead, I collect stories. Those in this issue are a particularly good bunch. Four generations wrapped up in old iron … a great show in New Zealand … rebirth of a 103-year-old steam engine … crawlers abandoned to time … stockyard collectibles. You’re sure to find at least one in the bunch to add to your “favorites” file! FC