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Editorial Anarchy

In production of each issue of Farm Collector, the editor’s column invariably brings up the rear. In a deadline-driven panic, the writer scrambles to herd ideas that have had run of the place for weeks. Sometimes they pull together in lock-step formation and march neatly onto the page. Other times, it’s anarchy. This is one of the latter times.

A letter to the editor arrived via email. The sender recounted a farming experience from the 1950s, recalling extreme toil and equipment primitive by today’s standards. As I considered life in a different world, I also enjoyed the irony of a letter to the editor from an old gent, sent not only by email but via cell phone no less.

At a recent antique tractor show, I watched a man and his young son intently studying a new tractor and combine in a dealer display. The timeless scene has been replayed literally countless times since the dawn of manufactured farm equipment. But in a sudden instant of time travel, I imagined a man from a century ago eyeing that new tractor, and wondered what he’d make of it. How much we take for granted!

Then there was a set of old photos. Photos taken 90 years ago were serious business, not the disposable fodder of today. Two focused quite deliberately on condition of a field after a roller and disc harrow had done their work. Another showed a man behind a horse-drawn cultivator working his way through a field of corn at a pace so achingly slow that he could probably name each plant as he advanced. My mind snagged on the intersection of primitive, comparatively fragile equipment and the force of sheer determination.

Simple, heartfelt, poignant memories shared in response to a recent article on threshing rings. “I prided myself on being able to load a load of bundles that looked good and square,” wrote a 91-year-old man, recalling his early experiences on a threshing crew. Another recalled the threshing ring his family formed, working with eight close neighbors. “Back then,” he added, as if explanation were needed, “neighbors helped each other.”

At its best, old iron is a vehicle that carries us back. Enjoy the journey! FC

Leslie McManus is the editor of Farm Collector magazine. Contact her at or find her on Google+.

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