Bringing history to life

HOMER – A bit of ag history was resurrected during the 14th annual Threshing Bee in Homer Saturday morning.

Organized by the West Central Region Cockshutt and CO-OP Club, the threshing bee continues today with ongoing demonstrations and displays of antique tractors, threshers, a saw mill and a variety of farm implements. Additionally, a 9 a.m. tractor ride to nearby Brushy Creek Recreation Area is planned.

Staging such an event as the two-day threshing bee is an important undertaking, said Dan Hodgeson, a member of the club, especially in this age of computerized tractors with global position satellite service. Young farmers can too easily lose the knowledge of the original machines and tools that shaped their profession.

“Take the threshing machine there,” Hodgeson, said. “Kids nowadays don’t even know what it is, but that there is the great-grandfather of your new, high-tech combines.”

Another machine that perplexed people was the 1902 Port Huron compound traction steam engine.

“It’s just not something you see every day,”Hodgeson said. “It’s kind of like a steam locomotive, and back in its day it provided the power. You could plow with it, you could thresh with it, you could even run a saw mill with it.”

Also unique among the items on display were the varying models of hog oilers collected by Jane Stevens, of Boone.

“I like old farm primitives,” she said. “The first one I bought was the skeleton wheel and I just thought it looked unique. The funniest one I bought was the upright with the chain. No one at the sale knew what it was, not even the auctioneer. I got it for $15.”

Hog oilers were most commonly used in the early 1900s, Stevens said. They helped fight against mange, flies and other pests. The farmers would put oils or insect repellent in the well of the contraptions then the hogs would rub against the device and the fluid would be applied to their bodies. The more effective oil delivery models were patented then sold by implement dealers.

The upright models are rarer than the round ball style that sits on the ground, Stevens said. She has two and has been actively collecting for 10 years now. If in the right condition and it is the right model, a hog oiler can go at auction for as much as $1,200, she said, although she only paid between $100 and $200 for most of the ones she owns.

“They can be affordable for collectors,” she said, “but they are heavy. I have to get my son to help me when I want to move mine.”

Regardless of how the pieces are moved or get fired up, the display of agricultural items spread out across the grassy field makes an impression.

“It’s just amazing to see all this old equipment running.” said Rocky Saxton, of Homer. “You really get a sense of how far today’s machines have come.”

Delbert Egli, of Manson, agreed.

“My dad had one like this John Deere Model D only it had steel wheels,” he said. “You could run it about three hours cause that was about all the longer you could stand it. With those steel wheels, it shook the heck out of you.”