Old Times, Old Friends


| 12/2/2009 4:32:48 PM


“Never a Christmas morning, never an old year ends, but someone thinks of someone: Old days, old times, old friends.”

Days grow short; the air is full of flurries. Planted firmly on the wrong side of Thanksgiving, I consider the final page of the wall calendar and wonder, as even prehistoric man must have as he eyed hatch marks on the cave wall, “Where did another year go?”

Nestled in between the holiday hubbub and the dreaded New Year’s resolutions is one of my favorite times of year: the sweet season of remembrance. I like to take stock of everything that’s transpired in the past year, remember the activities of each month and season. What worked? What didn’t? What could do with a bit of tweaking?

But mostly I like to remember the people who made the past year brighter. Because one happy memory tends to lead to another, the calendar is quickly abandoned and I find myself tumbling through a thicket of memories.

Suddenly I am in Pinckneyville, Ill., meeting a group of Australian adventurers who are crossing the U.S. on vintage tractors. Then I’m in southeastern Kansas at a windmill trade fair, running into friends first met in Colorado, recollection of which takes me to a high plains cattle round-up on branding day. From there, my mind leaps to a show in California where a barn full of blacksmiths clang hot iron into form and function; from there to an Allis-Chalmers show where I meet up with a hardcore John Deere enthusiast. “What are you going to do?” she wails, hands thrown up in mock surrender. “These people know how to have fun!” – which inevitably takes me to late afternoon gatherings at this show or that, relaxing with friends and a cold drink, admiring swap meet finds and comparing notes on the show.



I am reminded of hot summer days, unimaginable humidity, sudden showers. I hear steam whistles at noon; wooden separators clicking and snapping in a quiet, businesslike way. The air is filled with more commotion than it should be able to support: It is a cacophony of sound, dust, coal smoke and chaff.



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