March of progress

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Nancy Smith

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Farmers know as well as anyone that the only constant is change, and wheat harvest, under way around here now (what little bit is left in eastern Kansas), offers a pretty good illustration.

Heavy, hand-swung sickles gave way to oxen- and horse-drawn threshing rigs around the mid-18005, and eventually to the efficient combines of today as the means of bringing ingrain steadily evolved.

With the machinery changes came changes in the harvest celebration too. It used to be a serious community affair, with everyone helping everyone through the hot and dusty work. Today, the modern machines crisscross a field almost silently in comparison to the rigs of old, and only one lone driver need show up to perform the task.

Happily, by 1950, the idea of thresher reunions was born to stir up the old excitement and pay tribute to the days when a threshing rig brought a crowd to the curb and a thresherman was a hero to every farm boy.

Precious few old rigs survive, and even fewer have been restored to operational status by modern-day threshermen keen on preserving yesterday's skills. If you're close to one of these reunions, you might want to stop in for a rare look at the old rigs in operation, and to experience that sense of old-time 'community' the machines inspire.

This issue marks the introduction of Delbert Trew's 'It's All Trew' column, another sort of change that will provide glimpses into another farming world.

Delbert has agreed to share recollections of his farm and ranch life - 68 years' worth -in the Texas Panhandle. He writes to me, 'I was born in the bottom of the Great Depression, in the heart of the Dust Bowl and have spent my life to date engaged in agriculture. Like most farmers and ranchers, I've had to 'fix' everything broke and 'run' everything 1 fixed, including surely, at least one model of nearly every piece of machinery made since 1933.' He promises to revisit the horsepower era from time to time - he owns 54 pieces of horse-drawn equipment - but more frequently, he'll take us back to the early gasoline days, still vivid to him. So, sit back, relax and listen for the roar.