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By Staff | Sep 6, 2013

It’s an event that only 43 years and a dream could produce. But what an event it is.

My husband and I attended the Albert City Threshermen and Collectors Show on Aug. 11. This community – population of just more than 700 – sits quietly in eastern Buena Vista County, hardly qualifying by today’s standards of what makes a “happenin’ town.”

But in early August every year it becomes a boom town, with more than 14,000 people seeking it out like Mecca, choosing:

  • To spend time there with their families, often in the blazing sun;
  • To learn, or remember, the way farming used to be when horses were the actual horsepower and mechanized farming was finding its way into agriculture; or
  • To understand and participate in the tremendous changes that have taken farmers and farm families from horse-driven plows to the mighty four-wheel drive beasts with which they farm today.

Farming has evolved from four legs to four-wheel-drive, and nowhere is the change more evident than at this tremendous show, which puts Albert City on the map.

Karl Lind and Keith Sundblad shared a common dream all those years ago. They wished their grandchildren could understand the way farming was when they were growing up.

So they decided to act on their dream. They put together a few machines and invited a handful of neighbors, all in an effort to help people understand how much more physically difficult farming used to be.

Now, 43 years later, it’s grown into 70 acres of farming machines and memorabilia, requiring between 300 and 400 volunteers, and beckoning people – locals and those who drive from across the nation – to see and experience a day in the life of a farmer before advanced technology changed the way it was all done.

Walking around the grounds I am always struck by so many aspects of the show.

It’s an event of the senses seeing the old machinery and horses; smelling the gas engines, hot blacksmith shop and trees being sawn into lumber; tasting the homemade ice cream; feeling the hand-made craft items and old tractors, imagining how they were once used.

I heard the whistle from the giant steam engine just before it turned the long belt that powered the threshing machine, and I saw the thick, black smoke billow from its stack as it powered up.

I thought about all the men it took to keep those machines going and finish the oat harvest back in the day.

It was a time when neighbors were as important as family, when that job took the help of entire family to do the threshing, feed all of those sweaty, hungry men and boys; and without the luxury of microwave ovens, frozen pies or even air conditioning.

I saw people of literally every age offer undivided attention to the threshing process. They stood quietly, eyes fixed on the machines. It’s beyond words to generations who never experienced it, and it showed on their faces.

The old timers were sweating just watching the process and remembering the choking heat and chaff that combined to make that necessary job so miserable.

When the threshing was finished, a modern tractor and baler baled the straw. Even that looked funny after spending the day around the threshing machine and all those horse-driven implements. We don’t even realize how modern we are today.

I saw many a retired woman taking in the threshing and corn-shelling events, pointing and remembering how all of this affected their days as well, in a time when feeding and caring for families was also much more complicated.

Children delighted in the potato-digging event, getting to keep the potatoes they gathered. How ironic that it could make today’s child happy, but how wonderful that they could also experience such a simple joy that came from a time of much simpler pleasures.

There is so much to see and experience at this annual event and I commend all of those dedicated people who make it happen every year.

I wonder if Karl Lind and Keith Sundblad ever dreamed it would turn into all of this.

Forty-three years and a dream has educated, and created memories for, so many.

And we are grateful.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at kschwaller@evertek.net.

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