In a letter accompanying an article and
photographs that appear elsewhere in this issue (pages 40-41),
Hubert Porter notes that “I am 81 threshing seasons old.
I like that unit of measurement. While it does not describe all
that is important to this man, it surely tells us more than if he
had written “I am 81 years old.” Read that description,
and you instantly understand that the threshing season made a huge
and lasting impression on Hubert as a young boy. Through all his
life, as he aged and his elders passed on, as equipment and
technology grew increasingly sophisticated, as the world changed in
innumerable ways, the threshing seasons of Hubert’s boyhood
remained a personal benchmark. Those early experiences are, simply,
an integral part of who he is; they are his history.
It is the same with many of us. In another article in this issue
(pages 26-27), Duane Craig writes of the summers he worked filling
bunker silos. At the time, he was just another teenager building a
stake to leave home on. Many summers later, he writes wistfully of
those days and his experiences on the farm … his history.
Steve Kenkel, too, understands the power of the past. His
collection of Shelby County seed corn sacks and related memorabilia
(pages 34-38) reflects not so much affection for seed sacks
(although Steve is a self-described sack addict) as it does respect
for the accomplishments of an earlier generation. Steve’s efforts
honor an unusual concentration of pioneers in corn hybridization. A
singularly focused collection, this set of sacks resulted from
countless hours of research, interviews and documentation. “From
October 2003 until May 1, 2004,” Steve recalls, “every day except
Christmas I made a call or visited somebody about this project.”
And that from a man with a family, community obligations, a farm
and a job in town!
Such is the almost gravitational pull of history. It does not
touch all equally, but once bitten, you may as well surrender.
Whether you’re passionate about old iron or hay carriers or
porcelain signs, those relics from the past tell an important
story, that of American agriculture. This winter, find a bit of
time to spread the word. It’s a story worth telling … and
Leslie McManus, Editor