The Planted Row: Real iron horses wear black

Farm Forum

When I was a kid, we had several tractors from John Deere’s Iron Horse series on our farm. Though tractors have grown in size, comfort, and technological capabilities since then, those old Iron Horse tractors will always hold a special place in my heart.

Last weekend, however, I learned that the real iron horses wear black paint.

After a Saturday morning and early afternoon filled with soccer games and soccer pictures, I decided the kids and I had had enough of city life for the day. So I packed them in the car and drove to Andover to see the James Valley Threshing Show. We had never been to the show before, and I didn’t know what to expect. The kids doubted a tractor show would offer much entertainment for them, but they were good sports and didn’t complain too much when I told them where we were going.

When we pulled into the overflowing parking lot, they began to perk up. By the time we walked through the front gate, they were excited. My daughter yelled, “It’s like the fair but with more tractors!” She was right. There were numerous food vendors, vehicles of all kinds ferrying folks around, and plenty of exhibits.

The first thing the kids wanted to see was the farm toy exhibit, and they really enjoyed that. After that we saw the saw mill in operation. I think I enjoyed that more than the kids. I explained to them that my grandfather used to tell me stories about working on the farm until sundown and then working at a local saw mill long after dark. It was my first time seeing the kind of work my grandfather was talking about, and it helped me understand some of his stories a little better.

The kids enjoyed the playground and the other exhibits, of course, but the main event was the steam plowing demonstration. We managed to find berths on a wagon full of people at exactly the right moment. Shortly after we climbed aboard, a huge, black Case steam tractor pulled up behind us. It was about the size of a John Deere 4440 (if I’m exaggerating, it’s not by much), and it was pulling a large lever lift plow with a platform operated by seven men. I had no idea the old steam tractors were so large, and I thought to myself, “Now that’s an iron horse.”

As the plow began to turn over the grassy soil, five more steam tractors of various sizes pulled in behind it, and they began to work the field in tandem. Our wagon followed the tractors, and my kids were just as amazed as I was. My son said, “This so cool!” I could only agree. For me, it was like looking back in time and seeing how my farming ancestors worked the land. Having an image of what their daily work looked like makes me feel closer to them. If my kids and I know what their lives looked like, their memory will stay alive for one more generation.

If you haven’t seen a steam plow demonstration, I highly recommend that you visit the James Valley Threshing Show next year.

Fair results

The Farm Forum is hosting local county fair and achievement days results on its website. Visit, scroll about halfway down the page and look for the box marked “Fair Results” on the right hand side of the page.

Contest winner

This week’s Farm Forum 50th anniversary cash giveaway contest winner is Verda Seeklander of Hazelton, N.D. Verda will receive a replica windmill and is eligible to win the $5,000 cash grand prize. Prizes are mailed at the end of each month.