If there’s a recurrent theme to Farm Collector, it’s the notion of treasures salvaged; of relics preserved. In this issue, we take a detour from that road to consider the devastation of fire.
Early this year we first heard the story of Mike Black’s family heirloom, a Farmall H, that was caught in a barn fire a few years ago. Originally purchased new by his grandfather, the Farmall was such a family treasure, such a vital part of the family’s farm operation, that a neighbor boy tried to rescue it from the blaze. The fire was too strong, and he was forced to give up when his jacket caught on fire.
I’ve thought a lot about that boy and that tractor. Clearly, he knew all about the Farmall and the unique position it occupied in the Blacks’ family farm. Was he old enough to truly understand the danger of a barn afire? Did he have any idea how insatiable a fire’s appetite could be? Was his a calculated risk? Those questions remain unanswered. We do know, however, that as he sized up the situation, he decided it was a risk worth taking. It’s a simple story, but one that speaks eloquently of both farm neighborliness, and the attachment a man can feel for a machine.
The story of Mike Black’s experience restoring a fire-damaged tractor, sifting through insurance issues – is an instructive one for any collector. Sadly, that lesson was repeated this spring, when fire consumed a barn full of vintage tractors, parts and manuals at the home of Farm Collector columnist Sam Moore.
In his column this month , Sam writes movingly of the helplessness, the resignation he experienced while watching years of work go up in smoke. But his collection was not totally lost: He has a second barn full of tractors and machinery. His shop, though, and tools are gone. No matter how much restoration work he does in the years ahead, he’ll be reaching for tools long since gone. The replacements will feel different in his hands; they won’t work in quite the same ways.
Anyone with any farming background knows that the farm teaches lessons of its own. Resourcefulness; determination, resilience … these are the qualities that help a man turn lemons into lemonade. My guess is that Sam will have a pitcher full in no time.