First Things

Just Click Your Heels

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Take a tip from Dorothy: There's no place like home. That Kansas farm girl, of course, was talking about a safe haven. But home is where you find it, and if you're a fan of antique farm equipment, you can find it at a dizzying array of sites all over the country this summer.

Whether you're in your own backyard or travel a thousand miles to unfamiliar territory, pull off the highway and into a show ground, and like the gang at Cheers, it's as if everybody knows your name, and you know theirs. There are no strangers at shows: Just folks you haven't met yet.

Perhaps the best part of hitting shows all over creation is that while the scene is familiar, the specifics vary. Regional differences add flavor: Go to a show near Chesapeake Bay, and discover marine engines … go to a show in the south, and watch a cotton gin in operation … hit a show in Iowa, and check out the hog oilers … head way out west, and learn about tractors on tracks.

One thing's universal: People really respond to exhibits that add meaning. Hook up a gas engine to a pump or a sheller or a washing machine, and it has twice the appeal of a static engine. Belt a tractor to a saw, or a steamer to a shingle mill, or put a plow to work, and you have an instant audience … and a huge opportunity to educate. And that's what it's all about.

Preserving antique farm machinery and equipment means more than rebuilding engines and painting sheet metal. When exhibitors tell the story of how the machine worked, what it was used for, and when, and where, and why, they ensure that a fine chapter of American agricultural history endures.

And don't forget to spread the good word. If every person who went to a show this summer took along one first-timer as a guest, think of the explosion of interest in this hobby! From the tractor parades to the engine displays to the working demonstrations to crafts and flea markets, there is literally something for everyone at an antique farm show. Chances are, your guest will spend the day grinning from ear to ear. As Dorothy said, there really is no place like home.

Leslie McManus, Editor
lmcmanus@ogdenpubs.com