How Come Such A Hobby, You Ask?

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This article is reprinted from the County Star Weekly News Written and sent to us by Herb E. Beckemeyer 1123 County Road 900 E, Champaign, Illinois 61821-9623.

I don't think it would be proper for me to talk with you about my hobby without going back into the past for the reason I have such a hobby. So, let me first talk about the words 'hobby' and 'nostalgia.' I think these two words go together in my circumstances.

The word 'nostalgia' means (as one writer puts it) yearning for former things or places, or a 'homesickness.' In short, it is a memory of the past and, the older we become, the more noticeable it becomes. However, I was born and spent my boyhood in the early part of this century, and I do have many memories, and I hope many of you have a fine list of memories.

It is said: the young live for the future, the middle-aged live for the present, but most older folks live for the past. Their memories become their greatest possessions, and what a wonderful thing it is that the good Lord has blessed us with this ability to retain these memories, and even more so in our lifetime than any other equal time in history. We have seen more changes in our lifetime than any other people's in past history.

There seems to be one common denominator in all this, though the person having overcome the greatest obstacles and hardships seems to have the richest memories. Persons having been, as the saying goes, 'born with a silver spoon in their mouth 'having few hardships I feel, have few memories worthwhile, for they have not had to join in the fight for survival, using some hidden talents, improvising to meet the challenge of the more primitive times and conditions. To some extent, I pity that person who has always had plenty, for to me, he was denied the chance to fully develop his talents and create a fine list of memories.

Many of these memories are relatively simple, especially to an 'ole' farm boy, such as feeding chickens, calves, slopping pigs, walking a few miles to a one-room school house, shucking corn, shocking oats, walking bare-foot behind a plow or down a hot dusty road.

But, as with most folks, one of the greatest memories is of the old steam threshing outfit. All the neighbors gathered to make up threshing crews to get the harvesting done, and of course, there were those large, fantastic tasty meals. What a wonderful time that was for the youngsters yes but the hours were long and the work was hard.

Of course there was the prankster to keep things alive and everyone alert. There always seemed to be a run-away team of horses, or someone getting dunked in the water trough. Most of us, having a farm background, have vivid memories of that part in time. My dad was considered a large farmer and thresherman, and I, being the oldest of seven children, was pushed out into the world to handle a man's job rather early, doing custom work in the immediate area. I fired an engine for a full season at age 14. As that particular style of harvesting gave way to the more modern way the combine those old machines fell into the hands of the scrap dealer or were pushed off in a fence corner and forgotten, except to fellows such as myself who had a real love for them and thereby took up a hobby.

Now! Let's talk about the word 'hobby.' A hobby is something a person especially likes to work or study, apart from his main business a favorite pastime, topic of conversation, etc.

I feel everyone should have a hobby, especially in this day and age with all the pressures and problems we face day to day in our jobs and occupations. We need something APART something we can lose oneself in a get-away sort of thing a hobby.

A hobby can be one of many things jewelry making, fancy needlework, collecting and restoring old furniture, old automobiles and machinery many, many things. And too, I feel I should warn you of a few things when considering something for a hobby, and that is, mainly, cost and time. What will it cost in dollars? Can you comfortably afford it? Will the hobby take up too much time, to the extent your main occupation and family will suffer because of it? I surely don't want Mom to become a widow to a hobby!

The steam traction engine was an important stable, and useful phase of American agricultural life from about 1880 to 1935. The colorful traction engine's growth was rapid in the U.S. until the advent of the gasoline tractors. These engines have many refinements, though outwardly their appearance was basically the same as when they were introduced. It is interesting to note, the first gasoline tractors closely resembled their steam forebears, the frame and running gear being almost identical, only the power plant being different. The old engines served their purpose well until something better came along. Unfortunately, sentiment can not hold back the wheels of progress.

I started restoring in 1952. The 1923 A.D. Baker steam engine that I have was my first. I restored three other engines which I sold later. I tried to restore a piece of equipment every year since. My oldest tractor is a 1918 Aultman Taylor and the newest is a 1957 Oliver 550. My preference is the old threshing tractor built in the 1920s and 30sthe Hubers, Keck-Gonnermans, Bakers, Hart Parr, I.H.C.s, Olivers, AC and so on.

I belong to the Illinois-Indiana Antique Tractor Association Show Grounds at Penfield; Blue Mound Show; American Thresherman of Pickneyville; and Central States Threshermen of Pontiac.

My hobby has made many, many good friends and acquaintances all over the country. The sad part of it is, there are not many of the old steam boys left for me to argue with as to which make of steam engine, tractor or thresher was the best!

If the shed doors are open, I'm home, stop by, as you are welcome to see my junk. Good hobbying to all!