FIRST THINGS

FC_V6_I3_Oct_2003_01-1.jpg

Jason B. HarmonJason B. Harmon

Content Tools

There's no doubt that the people -not just the machines - make the old-iron community so special. Just take Dale Walker for instance.

Dale is a stationary gas engine collector who has attended the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion each year for more than two decades. I met Dale at the 53rd annual reunion held in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, during Labor Day weekend and walked away with a new understanding about why some people collect vintage farm equipment.

The 73-year-old collector doesn't have the biggest assortment of gas engines, or the most rare, but he definitely has some nice iron to share with others.

More than that, Dale has a family who shares his love of farm collecting and has made many good friends at shows through the years with others who also collect engines and farm machines.

'The people make it worthwhile,' Dale explains about why he attends the reunion and other shows since he bought his first gas engine in 1954.

For example, he says, if a stranger walks up and asks to borrow a tool or some gear oil on the show grounds, Dale complies without hesitation. That's because he knows the folks who display their tractors, engines and implements at shows are good people who can be trusted - and he's right.

After traveling from Arizona to North Carolina, Ohio to Iowa, I now know there are plenty of friendly people like Dale proudly showing their prized collectibles at farm shows across America.

Sure, I've seen plenty of beautifully restored - and some rust-ridden - tractors, combines, gas engines and other equipment, but nothing's left a mark on me like the friendly people I've met in the process. Yet, after shaking hands and sharing laughs with dozens of fine folks, I've often wondered where the hobby will be in another 20 years. Will the children and grandchildren of collectors keep their favorite farm contraption running and continue to show it each summer to curious crowds?

The answer lies in the people behind the machines. They've created a unique community filled with great folks, and with such a good example to guide, the love of old iron isn't likely to fade. Just ask Dale Walker.

Editor, Jason B. Harmon, jharmon@ogdenpubs.com