Why Michigan?

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Members cleaning the flues on one of the large steam engines on display at the 19th annual LaGrange Engine Club Show.

17837 Lindenwood Rd. Lindenwood, Illinois 61049

Could someone please explain to me why the state of Michigan
holds such an appeal to steam enthusiasts in the North Central
United States? The barometer effect it exhibits indicating the
changes in steam land are baffling. We’ve made many
acquaintances and gained many friends from our travels to steam
shows. We count ourselves lucky to come from Illinois where many
steam shows are close by and easy to attend. But why is it in
Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio and Indiana, we hear
so many references to what’s happening in Michigan? One just
can’t believe the only reason God created Michigan was to have
a place to put all the known history and information about steam
engines. (There are those who want us to think that.) But why, we
ask, when a question pertaining to steam comes up, someone always
says, ‘So-and-so from Michigan says…’?

Michigan aside for a moment, what do these people from the other
states have in common? They are all decent, hard-working,
down-to-earth folk. They enjoy good company, good food and
don’t ask much of each other except companionship, honesty and
a helping hand when needed. They all enjoy steam engines and steam
shows and will defend the reputation of ‘their’ engine.
Most will accept good-natured ribbing done in fun. Why then is
Michigan any different?

We can only make a few simple observations. For one thing
Michigan is the home of one of the few men left who worked in the
factories which produced steam traction engines. I think we who
know him can safely say we’ve gained at least one piece of
information from Harry Woodmansee’s years of experience.
Another thing in Michigan’s favor is the large number of
individuals closely associated who still use their engines
frequently and have developed a reputation for their expertise. The
most obvious fact about Michigan though is a steam show held there
the last weekend in July. This show is unlike any other we’ve
attended. The steam engines are working around the clock. Big and
small, all of them are busy. Not just busy driving the parade route
but actually expending some power. The sawmill never stops. The
Baker fans and power eater seem to have someone belted up to them
continually. They thresh, they bale, they plow, they pull the sled.
There are at least two to three activities going on at once so you
never have to wait for something to happen. These Michigan boys
know how to put on a show and still have fun doing it at Mason.

They have slow races, block races, and baseball games with their
steam engines. When there’s a slow spot, they’ve been known
to make up new games to see how ‘talented’ the engineers
are. Their parade is even fun. You never know who’s going to
pull some good natured clown-act on an unsuspecting victim. People
who still know how to have fun, I guess that’s what keeps
drawing out-of-staters back to Michigan. Maybe that’s why
we’ve seen a few more shows having fun again. May we learn our
lessons well from the Michigan gang.

Granted the Michigan boys can be serious when the situation
calls for it. No clowning around is ever done without all
consideration being given to the safety of everyone involved. But
the boys also know when a show becomes so wound up in committees,
rules and factions that the fun goes, the show folds. The Michigan
guys and their families maintain this philosophy year round. A
visit to Michigan any season finds us greeted by such warm
hospitality that we don’t want to leave. Being accepted for
what we are, being considered as friends and made to feel a part of
your ‘extended’ family is an honor. So, why Michigan? I
think because Michigan reminds us that friendship is the most
important reason we got together and because of that we don’t
let little things get in the road. So, to our friends and
acquaintances in Michigan, keep up the good work and thanks for
setting the example. We just hope we can make you feel as much at
home at our place as we do at yours.

Farm Collector Magazine
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