It's easy enough to get nostalgic about "the good old days" of farming, when steam engines and threshing machines were commonplace. But Levi Green's interest in that era is more than casual: as a young man, he had firsthand experience with vintage iron. Today, he relives those days at the Paublo Agricultural Museum near Stonington, Ill.
Levi grew up on a farm near Kenny, Ill. In his youth, he was a regular on area threshing crews.
"I started out as a water boy," he said. "Then, when I got older, I ran a box wagon, and then I ran a rack wagon, running bundles. Prior to that, I was a pitcher. I've seen about all the jobs. One year, they contracted with trucks, and I had to haul the grain away."
It was grindingly hard work, but not without its rewards.
"My brother always said threshing time was the only time he got enough to eat," Levi said.
After leaving the farm as a young man, Levi tried to join the service, but was rejected because of a medical condition. In the early 1940's, he worked at a Caterpillar plant until the war's end. He then joined the Mueller Company, Decatur, Ill., as a machinist on the night shift. During the days, he had a sideline business of garden plowing and landscaping.
"I got off at midnight," he recalled, "and then was back on the tractor at 7 in the morning."
In 1978, land and buildings were donated for creation of the Paublo Agricultural Museum near Stonington. With a focus on preservation of the history of agriculture, the new enterprise urgently needed volunteers, particularly to man demonstrations.
When he retired, Levi signed up as a volunteer in the museum's threshing demonstrations. Three-quarters of an acre of wheat was planted. Levi directed harvest of the grain, storage of the shocks, and a three-day threshing operation.
Soon, a full-fledged festival was born. The event brought visitors from all over the midwest to view antique tractors, tractor pulls, old time church services, a general store, and historical demonstrations like threshing, capped off by an old fashioned threshing dinner.
As volunteer efforts go, it's hard work. But Levi has no doubts about the value of the operation.
"That is the purpose of this organization, this museum," he said. "To preserve."
Elbert Bonn, another volunteer (and mayor of Stonington), agreed.
"Most of us have lived this kind of life in our childhood," he said, "and that is why we are involved now." FC
Cindy Ladage is a freelance writer based in Virden, III. For more information on the Paublo Agricultural Museum, call Sue Hall, (217) 692-2733.