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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Mar 12, 2010

I was looking at a foggy, soggy landscape when my mind jumped back about 55 years because this was the kind of weather that meant it was time for John Deere Day.

For a farm kid at age 7 or 8, John Deere Day was the next closest thing to a visit to the county fair or Disneyland. As I recalled those events, I realized how much the rural countryside has changed.

For maximum enjoyment, recalling what John Deere Day was all about requires a person to be at least 60 years old. This was a time when John Deere dealers were spaced about 20 miles apart.

That shows how much farming has changed because those dealers, as close as they were, had to operate at a profit and there were enough farms to support each dealer back then.

My dad’s favorite dealer was in a town a few miles away that had a population of around 200 people. It was owned by Alfred and he had one employee, Mike. This was a much simpler time. Their small dealership closed around 1958.

Alfred would hold his John Deere Day at the town’s school. An evening meal was served in the lunch room and after the meal everyone gathered in the gymnasium. To my small eyes, the place looked crowded.

The evening started off with a few old movies. These were old black and white movies that starred W.C. Fields and Laurel and Hardy.

People still laughed at them as the film projector rattled away. Remember the countdown at the film’s beginning?

Like any planned event, this was leading up to something. We had been fed and we were now settled down. It was time to hear about the newest improvements in farming courtesy of John Deere which was another film, probably in color, showing what modern farmers had available to them.

I remember sitting there watching the presentation in complete awe, seeing how effortlessly the newest in tractors and implements would make farmwork. I was hoping my dad would buy those wonderful machines so we could look as good as the farmers on the screen.

I was disappointed once the sales pitch ended. This was an escape to a dream world where everyday was a sunny one. People looked at each other admiringly as they went about their work using these large, powerful, shiny, new tractors, plows, discs, balers, and cornpickers to be the obviously successful farmers these farmers on the screen were.

I wanted to tell my dad to buy all those pieces of farm equipment so we can look like that. It was so simple, I could not figure why he did not just do it.

The evening would wind down with the drawing for door prizes. It seemed that for all the names they drew, my dad was never chosen.

That was it. John Deere Day was over for another year or until the neighboring dealer had his day. Everyone got on their feet, doing that last visiting as they worked their way toward the door.

Some things have not changed in all the years. Even today with color presentations using a projector connected to a computer, you can always get a group of farmers to show up by offering a free meal and W.C Fields and Laurel and Hardy are still funny. I can hear the laughter.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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