Through a series of random events, my brother-in-law Barry has become a collector of hay carriers. He has half a dozen rusty carriers and a couple sections of track. Recently we visited a nearby collector who has, I believe, every hay carrier ever made. All are immaculately, intricately restored and handsomely displayed. Later, I asked Barry if he had gotten ideas on restoration and display of his relics. “Oh hell,” he muttered. “I’m just going to go home and throw mine away.”
I know him better than that. Life and other projects will inevitably get in the way, but sooner or later, he’ll get around to sandblasting and painting. One of these days those carriers will be displayed in his shop. Rescued from local barns that were being torn down, they’ll remind him of neighbors he knew as a boy in rural Illinois.
It’s a scenario that plays itself out in sheds, shops and garages across the country, and I love it as much as I love the collections so vast and so handsome that they should be the subjects of coffee table books. The out-of-context piece — lovingly restored, proudly displayed — fairly shouts, “I have a story to tell!”
Take Mark Meyer’s Red River Special threshing machine. Look at the thresher today and it’s impossible not to make it the centerpiece of your imagination as you picture it surrounded by a crew in full production. One of three vintage thresher enthusiasts featured in this issue of Farm Collector, Mark bought the 1942 thresher at auction for $350. Once he got it home, he set to work restoring it. For two years, working nights and weekends, he wire-brushed and hand-painted the machine’s angle iron.
Hay carriers, threshing machines, tractors, steam engines, windmills, hog oilers, gas engines — you name it, there’s room under the old iron tent for all of it. Your collection may be limited to one special piece – or it may fill sheds. Your treasures may be rough and ready — or they may have sheens that shout “better than new.” The beauty of this hobby is the way all the categories and all the collectibles are interwoven to form a rich tapestry. If you’ve played even a small part in the process, take a bow. You’re helping preserve one of the finest of American traditions! FC