APRIL 6,  2018

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APRIL 6, 2018

Fenders and Feedbags

Rural Routes and Rural Roots, they pretty much go together. As my pursuits tend to become less athletic, and less energetic, one of my favorite leisure activities is backroad touring. About all you need is a sunny day, a fuel-stingy car, and a fair sense of direction. Your starting plan might be to note what direction the adjacent population centers are, and then drive the opposite way. An older State Highway is often a good choice to get you started, get that first 40 miles behind you, so you’re out of your “familiar” area. Sure, it’s 20 mph slower than the freeway, but the extra scenery is worth it. Nostalgia abounds along the shoulders of the old, two lane highways, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The choice of eateries is far less franchised, and much more home-brew, than the typical freeway exit can offer. The people you may chance-encounter, are much more likely to make that an enjoyable experience as well. You may find your way to some places or people that you have long since been away from, or maybe the road less travelled is entirely new to you…either way, the change of scenery is good for the soul.

Just such a recent outing took me and some associates back to an area that is more than 50 years in my past. Believe me, even if you don’t think you see it in the mirror, 50 years is quite visible on the side of the road. The trees you knew are either gone or re-grown, the same is true of many of the homesteads. The same old dirt, maybe, but pretty much everything from there up has felt the touch of time. The old barn on the farm, where the palms of your hand had worn smooth the ladder steps and handrails, didn’t quite survive to its 100th anniversary. The house remains, and still contains the friends who came after us. The very human treasure of all those memories remains (thankfully) intact.

Returning home always prompts a few of those old memories to resurface, and since I have been an MMOGTA member for more than twice as long as I lived at my birthplace, there exists a certain continuity of that lifestyle. I couldn’t help but compare what exists today, with the methods and machines that were in use in the 1950’s. Since our 2018 Featured Brand has been assigned to Foreign Tractors and Farm Trucks, and I knew nothing of the former back then, I began to remember how commodities were moved back in my day. We had nothing on our farm that was moved by hydraulics…nothing! Manure, feed, silage, hay, straw, all got HANDled. Tractors and wagons provided the mass transit, of course, but at both ends of the voyage, it was a fork, a bag, or a shovel. Though some families did, we never owned a pickup or a truck. I know how primitive it would look to all of us now, but weekly trips were made to town (where the feed mill was) with the trunk of the 1947 Chevrolet Deluxe filled with bagged grain, to be returned as ground feed. But the trunk was never quite big enough, so on each of the ample front fenders of the Chevy, there rested a 2 bu. white feedbag. I rather doubt the GM Engineers figured that into their design, but they were perfectly fitted to the task. When I try to imagine my Ford Focus or Fusion being abused in such a manner, all I can picture is a company notice of a voided warranty. For the small farmer of that era, the dictates of scale and economy were the stern masters of our methods. “Damn few money, and a hell of a lot of beans”, was how the old man used to describe our lifestyle. In spite of my disinclination to learn life lessons from experience, I’m sure a few remnants of his philosophy remain.

If any of this nostalgia trip resonates with you, be sure to mark your calendar for August 17-18-19, 2018…the 44th Annual Mid-Michigan Old Gas Tractor Show, in Oakley MI. As mentioned, this year we have a split feature: Foreign Tractors, and Old Farm Trucks (pre-1960). We hope to see you there.

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