This last weekend I had the good fortune to head up to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa for the annual Mt. Pleasant Old Threshers’ Reunion. It was, without a doubt, one of the coolest festivals I’ve ever been to – with more old iron than you could shake a stick at.
The drive there was a little rainy, due to the tattered remnants of Hurricane Isaac blowing up through the Midwest, and though it rained a bit on Saturday, Sunday and Monday were beautiful.These wonderful folks all came out of the woodwork on Labor Day weekend, bringing with them treasures, carefully restored and maintained pieces of our heritage, to relax with one another and share their stories and their engines with one another, and with anyone who comes to experience the charm of a simpler era.
There were tractors lined up literally as far as the eye could see – Allis Chalmers were this year’s featured tractor, but there were hundreds of examples of Deere, IHC and Case as well, not to mention the myriad of rare and awesome old machines from smaller companies.
This 1919 Allis Chalmers caught my eye - The seat arrangement is really interesting, and I think it's an interesting link between horsepower and modern tractor design. Along with the tractors were other fixtures of agricultural history, including a wide variety of threshers, balers, and other implements I couldn’t identify.
In another area of the grounds there was an enormous showing of stationary gas engines, and in yet another there were all shapes, sizes, makes and models of steam tractors and stationary engines, representing a few hundred years of American history. This beautiful Cushman water-cooled engine was run by a friendly but shy fellow who was very patient with my beginner's questions. Everyone at the show was very kind, and happy to teach raw novices about the engines and their history.
The Old Thresher’s Reunion prints many of its own signs and flyers at the show by hand – in one of the two huge museum buildings, is collection of old printing presses, painstakingly maintained and used with love each year to provide signs for the show grounds, handbills, collectible flyers, and even a broadsheet newspaper cataloguing the events of the show. I've a video of one of the presses in action which I will try and upload later this week.
The museum buildings also hold some functioning giant stationary steam engines, which I might cover in more detail in a later post, windmills, both for water and electricity, cutaway constructed barns, so that you can see how they were framed and shingled, and displays of tools and implements concerning every aspect of early American life. I think the wide variety of tongs used by early American smiths is fascinating. Part of the magic of blacksmithing (at least for me) is that if you needed a tool for something, you just made one, right then and there.
The showgrounds were expansive enough that a small railroad was constructed to ferry showgoers around the circumference, sporting an actual steam engine bearing the markings of the Georgetown Loop, and cars painted from the Denver and Rio Grande line, and the Midwest Central Railroad. I've a video that I'll try and upload later. There were also small trams being pulled by more modern John Deere tractors, for shorter hops.
I hope to write more about this later, but if you don't have plans for next year's Labor Day weekend, the Old Threshers' Reunion might be an experience well worth your time.