Opening a Window onto the Past

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The next shiny thing: True collectors are always on the prowl for the next addition to their collections. But a good story could be your real coup.

Things tell us something of the past. In the evolution of mechanization, we see the incredible impact tractors have had on small farm operations. We know what the windmill has made possible. Hand corn-husking devices – something as simple as a glove-like thing with a metal hook – tell us much about the monumental labor demanded by a farm a century ago.

But you cannot beat a story from an old-timer: When it comes to understanding the past, that story is the gold standard. Whether he’s recalling a firsthand experience, or whether she’s sharing a story told to her in girlhood, our elders provide us our best window onto the past.

The fast-approaching show season presents a unique opportunity. Many of you hustle like crazy to get displays ready for shows, but often have little to do (other than trolling the swap meet and standing in line for ice cream!) once you get there. This year, why not make it a point to collect some stories?

Bring an extra lawn chair. Stash some bottled water in a cooler. When an elder pauses at your display, invite him or her to sit a spell. Almost everybody appreciates the chance to tell their story. If someone says your display reminds them of a childhood experience or something their dad told them, take that ball and run with it!

You may hear nothing of importance. It’s equally likely that you may be given a gift of a singular moment in time. If you’re able to share the story with another, so much the better. Perhaps you retell it at the next meeting of your antique tractor club. Maybe you even write it down and send it to us at Farm Collector. The important thing is to keep the flame burning.

The history of an early manufacturer is enlightening. Production records tell us a lot. But when we learn how people worked with early machinery, when we learn how that technology was incorporated into daily routines, and how it changed those routines, that is when we truly understand the importance of the old iron we all love! FC

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment