One thing I really enjoy about my job as an agricultural reporter is getting out and seeing many different rural areas in the Midwest. While some might ask, "Aren't they all the same?," I can personally attest that no two rural areas are alike.
Whenever I travel, I try different routes to see more of the area I'm traveling through.
I had to go to extreme southeastern Iowa last week, so on the way over I traveled to Des Moines and then down through Oskaloosa, Ottumwa and Mount Pleasant. On the way home, I took Highway 2, which straddles the Missouri/Iowa border through the bottom tier of counties in the Hawkeye State.
I had never gone that way before, so it was interesting to see the lay of the land. Lots of rolling hills and grazing animals are present in southern Iowa in stark contrast to northern Iowa's relative flatness and mostly row-crop fields.
As I worked my way west, I traveled from Lee County through Van Buren and Davis counties and I discovered Amish people lived and farmed in this region. Near the village of Milton, I saw a horse and cart driving along the highway.
I saw farms with small herds of dairy cows and work horses as well as various signs for Amish-owned businesses. One Amish farmer was even out walking a team of three horses.
In all of my travels, I don't know if I had ever driven through an area which was home to the Amish before then.
While I didn't stop, I did become a bit of a gawking tourist. It was raining, otherwise I would have stopped and taken photos of the farmer out with his horses.
And then, before I knew it, I must have driven out of their home area as I didn't see any more.
The rest of the way home I thought about seeing these sights and my own experiences with horse-drawn vintage equipment. As I have written before, the farm I grew up on was previously owned by an old bachelor farmer.
John was the type of person not to throw anything away, as evidenced by a washhouse full of tin cans. I think he still owned every piece of farm machinery he ever farmed with, from horse-drawn equipment through the mechanized era of farming.
I got to explore this open-air agricultural museum for many years as a kid.
We visited the Living History Farm in Des Moines two summers ago with the kids and we visited the 1900 farm. I told my kids this was the type of farm I grew up on, except we had electricity.
And then I wonder why they think I'm so old.
Old John never had a wife but he did have lots of horse-drawn, steel-wheeled plows, planters (including a wooden drill), cultivators and hay equipment. He even had a couple of those high-wheeled wooden wagons like the ones I saw in the old westerns my dad would watch on Sunday afternoons when I was kid.
Even before John passed away, his brother started to sell some of the more collectible items. Among the items sold was the wooden drill, a mid-1930s John Deere B tractor and his 1950 Ford pickup, which sat in the garage for many years unused.
Most of the smaller horse-drawn equipment was sold to collectors, but the larger equipment was cut up for scrap metal. He had a pull-type Allis-Chambers combine and a high-lift loose hay loader -- both were cut up.
My own family had a farm full of old equipment like this as well, but most of it was cut up for scrap metal when my grandparents sold their farm in the mid-1970s. Only two steel-wheeled items escaped the cutting torch and they are on display on our farm today: A four-wheeled Western Wheel Company road grader and a John Deere dump rake.
So, it was the highlight of my trip home to see Amish farmers using equipment I would classify as "really vintage" vintage farm machinery.
Russ Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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