Rochester, MN -- Imagine my surprise when I, the city kid, ended up at Olmstead County Historical Society's annual "Days of Yesteryear Show", and loved it. Of course, part of my fun was enjoying all the ingredients that make a summer festival sizzle. On this day, the summer sun was hot, but not too hot. The sky was a perfect blue accompanied by a light blowing breeze. Crowds? Yes. Yet, open enough to move about the fields of tractors and buildings with ease. Let's not forget the styro-foam sea of plates lining the picnic tables; and the apron clad concession stand volunteers who served up pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs and baked beans from a parade of crock pots.
Great knowledge was gained during my conversations with an alpaca breeder and separately with the owner of a 1911 Case steam engine. A distant guitar and tambourine duo belted out "Ring of Fire" from the mess hall as I took in the sights. Was it fun to witness things for which I would otherwise have remained ignorant? Definitely so.
Volunteers ran a multitude of demonstrations. I experienced a tractor pull, threshing, two different hay bailing machines in action (1911 bailer and a 1960 bailer - there's a big difference don't you know), a steam-powered engine operating an old-fashioned saw mill; and a steam driven tractor stoked with wood drove slowly around the farm. I had never before considered the labor required to run these rigs. That is, the number of people needed and the intensity of the toil. Now I know where the seeds of the term "hard working" must have sprouted.
On this day, I further developed what I'll call the city kid's farm equation. It's not simply about the crops, animals and land, it also involves intense labor and lots of bodies, the art of running highly mechanical equipment and is inextricably linked to the technology-of-the-times ... and hey, can we talk about the weather?
I mentioned to my husband that farming seemed like a male dominated profession, but he had another view. He reminded me that Grandma Emma actually worked on the Rochester farm as much as Grandpa Louis. According to Louis, Emma could drive a team of horses better than he! And Emma herself told the story of managing a drag plow across 40 acres. My modern-day husband finished his family story with, "Can you imagine coming home after a day like that and having to make dinner?"
I hope they loved most of it even though they were likely spent at day's end. I cannot shake my romanticized version of farm life even though I gained a new perspective at this event. Emma's old sewing machine waits silently under a dusty cover in the corner of our suburban garage. Surely she toiled on that machine too.