Monroe Center, Illinois
DAVIS JUNCTION, ILL.: George W. Hedtke claims that his Hickory-Oaks Farm is a place where old can relive the past and the young can learn. For most people who visit the annual Steam and Horsepower Show on one of the four days the first full weekend in August, this pivotal point is a curious cameo.
It is a few hours of fancy, but for George Hedtke, Emil Svanda, and Thomas Draus, the officers, and the handful of people at Hickory-Oaks it is a full life. It is not held in by bookends of time. For four days, about 16,000 people watch as the 22 ton Case steam engine plows and 12 horse powered thresher of 1889 clanks. Mules bray, horses strain, and the machinery cranks. They watch as men and women handcraft objects of love.
Thirty acres for parking fill with cars and campers, coming from 33 states, 12 papers from towns like Woodstock, Elgin, DeKalb, Yorkville, Dixon, Beloit and even Chicago focus with intensity. They stand on the sidelines as numerous steam engines of monstrous size and gas powered agricultural giants of olden days, gulp 12 tons of coal, hundreds of gallons of fuel, and run through a budget of $8,000 to flex their muscles of steel.
The people who come to the show are joined by a legion of enthusiastic purists who read 'Iron-Men Album,' 'Engineers and Engines,' and other journals of a similar nature. These curious people are the same type who attend many of the 35 shows throughout the states during the month of August. They are the people who have attended shows from Oklahoma to Ontario, from Washington to New York. Many have been to the Grand Daddy of all the shows at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. These people know and understand and appreciate, the beauty of the operation from its standpoint, and its most technical aspects. They come because they care.
As surely as the show has come for the past 21 years it goes. People return home with a threshermen's meal under their belt, carrying something with them. The ballyhoo stops, the engines cool, and the equipment is polished and stored for another year. Now!, George Hedtke, Emil Svanda, Tom Draus, Harm Hayenga, Floyd King and many others can take that trip to Stebbinsville to see the restored turn of the century water power plant on the banks of the Yahara River. Also the group can tour foundries of interest and tramp back into Wisconsin woods to seek out abandoned farm machinery and to discover a huge deserted saw mill in the thickets.
They can look forward to the annual Christmas party and the June picnic for the 100 associated members and their families. During the winter months they can paint, tinker, and dinker for the ancient piece of machinery they've found. It's a time to study old manuals, make new parts and to overhaul the old.
George Hedtke, the little farm boy who spent most of his youth days drawing, making or watching agricultural machinery, can get back to his life long work. His 300 pieces of ancient machinery, worth a quarter of a million need the attention that this farm boy in bib overalls can give them. They're not all finished and not all found. There's more to be gotten. The Frontier Village which has been planned at Hickory-Oaks Farm, is slowly taking shape with four buildings already moved in.
Approach Hedtke or the members of the Association during the show in August, or just pop the clutch any day. They have a full head of steam. Their knowledge of the past, respect of the land, and gentle dignity colored with a bit of showmanship holds most people fascinated.