First Things

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Terry L. WelchTerry L. Welch

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Why collect anything? I mean, does anyone really need more than just shelter, food and clothing? We don't really need TV's or computers or, in some cases, cars, much less large, rusty tractors or antique lightning rods. So why collect this stuff?

What would send Craig Seabrook and 100 other grown, presumably respectable men combing through an abandoned warehouse for scraps of paper with Gravely stamped on them? What drives collectors to haunt auctions, spending hundreds of dollars for colored glass lightning rod balls? Why do we care about the history of apple-processing plants or tractors built to move across the ground on steel rails?

In the case of lightning rod balls, I thought it might be the sheer beauty of an object that attracts their collectors. But Eileen Kelly says beauty is only half the story. What about the unlikely strength in these thin-walled pieces of glass that allowed them to withstand years of weathering upon rooftops?

Beauty probably isn't even considered by those Gravely collectors. Ask them why they collect, and many of them won't even know what you're talking about. Greg Mips asked me how his collecting Gravelys could be considered a simple hobby, when he still uses his 35-year-old tractor to mow his lawn. Dependability, Gravely collectors say, is the reason their old tractors need to be remembered.

However, in the case of the Yuba Ball Tread tractor that columnist Sam Moore writes about this month, dependability would be a dubious reason to collect. There's a reason that you don't see or hear much about Yubas anymore. There are still people who, I'm sure, spend many a happy hour wiping down their restored Yuba with an old t-shirt. It's the unique nature of the tractors that attracts them, they might say. The truth is, only a collector can explain his or her reasons for collecting and - like snowflakes, fingerprints and those things that grow inside containers left too long in the refrigerator -no two reasons are exactly alike. As the new editor of Farm Collector, I look forward to learning your reasons. I want to hear about your fascination for everything from Eimco Power Horse tractors to cast iron planter lids. I will be traveling this summer to farm shows all across the United States and I hope to get to know many of you there. Why collect old farm equipment? You tell me.