First Things

Tales worth telling

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In a letter accompanying an article and photographs that appear elsewhere in this issue (pages 40-41), Hubert Porter notes that "I am 81 threshing seasons old. …"

I like that unit of measurement. While it does not describe all that is important to this man, it surely tells us more than if he had written "I am 81 years old." Read that description, and you instantly understand that the threshing season made a huge and lasting impression on Hubert as a young boy. Through all his life, as he aged and his elders passed on, as equipment and technology grew increasingly sophisticated, as the world changed in innumerable ways, the threshing seasons of Hubert's boyhood remained a personal benchmark. Those early experiences are, simply, an integral part of who he is; they are his history.

It is the same with many of us. In another article in this issue (pages 26-27), Duane Craig writes of the summers he worked filling bunker silos. At the time, he was just another teenager building a stake to leave home on. Many summers later, he writes wistfully of those days and his experiences on the farm … his history.

Steve Kenkel, too, understands the power of the past. His collection of Shelby County seed corn sacks and related memorabilia (pages 34-38) reflects not so much affection for seed sacks (although Steve is a self-described sack addict) as it does respect for the accomplishments of an earlier generation. Steve's efforts honor an unusual concentration of pioneers in corn hybridization. A singularly focused collection, this set of sacks resulted from countless hours of research, interviews and documentation. "From October 2003 until May 1, 2004," Steve recalls, "every day except Christmas I made a call or visited somebody about this project." And that from a man with a family, community obligations, a farm and a job in town!

Such is the almost gravitational pull of history. It does not touch all equally, but once bitten, you may as well surrender. Whether you're passionate about old iron or hay carriers or porcelain signs, those relics from the past tell an important story, that of American agriculture. This winter, find a bit of time to spread the word. It's a story worth telling … and sharing.

Leslie McManus, Editor
lmcmanus@ogdenpubs.com