Show – and Tell!
by Leslie McManus
Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know. – Daniel J. Boorstin
The old iron hobby is broad and diverse. But collectors share a few common characteristics. For the vast majority, the hunt’s the thing. Once the long-sought piece is found and added to the collection, it doesn’t take long before the next item on the wish list takes center stage in the collector’s mind.
Another common feature among collectors of old iron is the desire to educate. Those old enough to remember early farming methods are keenly aware that those days are irretrievably lost. While few wish them back, no one wants to see that history and heritage dissolve into the mists of time.
And so it is that this hobby boasts a wealth of educators. Like elders passing on family history, most collectors are eager to share stories of old days on the farm. Some of those tales impart background color; others deliver very precise instruction in equipment maintenance and operation. All of it is invaluable, for it keeps the hobby going, it preserves a tradition and, perhaps most importantly, it offers an incredible opportunity to help non-farm folks learn a bit about agriculture – and get interested in the old iron hobby.
I once visited with a fellow who staged constant demonstrations of his corn sheller collection at every show he could get to. He made a point of interacting with as many people as possible. He was motivated, he explained, by overhearing a conversation between a mother and a child as they observed a similar corn shelling demonstration. “What is the man doing?” the boy asked. “He’s making sawdust,” the woman answered.
Keep that in mind when you set up your show display. We can preach to the choir until the cows come home, but why not take advantage of a show crowd to do a little educating? Rope those visitors in and fire away. Ask them if they know what they’re looking at, ask them if they know how it works or when it was used or why it’s important. Just roll out the welcome mat and be your natural charming selves. Think of it as educating and recruiting: Plant the seed ... and grow the hobby! FC