Saturday, September 5, 2009

At Play in the Fields of the Farm Implements

There are some things in this world you can't explain. A surprising number of them reside in Wisconsin.

We took a ride over to the Thresheree today and spent a happy day there.

For those of you who have never had this experience, well. You kind of have to be there to understand it. Otherwise, phrases like "parade of tractors" probably won't mean a whole lot to you.

The Thresheree is more flea market than the rational mind can possibly accept. Miles and miles of flea market. If it's old and discarded, you can find it at the Thresheree. That is, if you can see it behind the booths selling the sort of food that one finds at county fairs across this nation's tender midsection - burgers, dogs, mild barbecue, Fried Things On A Stick, that sort of stuff. Plus ice cream, kettle corn, and so on down the food-typology line until you get to things that straddle the line between food and flea market. That's where the border is, and only the brave go there.

Now so far this seems fairly straightforward, if rather eccentric. But none of it is the main purpose of the Thresheree, which is simply the celebration, glorification, and hero-worship of all things both motorized and agricultural. You thought I was kidding you when I said "parade of tractors," didn't you? Well where you at 3pm today, huh? Not stuck behind several hundred tractors like we were, I'll bet.

Some of those tractors go back to the Roosevelt Administration. The Theodore Roosevelt Administration, not the newer one. They are gasoline powered, diesel powered, coal fired and steam driven. Some of them are about the size of a large Doberman. Others were clearly modeled on railroad locomotives and are roughly 1:1 in scale. Some have metal tires taller than anyone currently playing in the NBA, and are steered by pulling on chains. They all idle at decibel levels approaching ship collisions. And they come in a variety of colors in much the same way that regimental flags do. Do not, under any circumstances, engage a tractor partisan on the merits of his (almost always "his") preferred tractor provider versus the other ones. There are John Deere people, International Harvester people, Allis-Chalmers people, Massey-Ferguson people, and so on, and never shall they agree on anything other than that the rest are all just wasting your time.

Naturally, we had to ride one.

This was not as exciting for Kim as it is for the rest of us, since she had to do this for real on her grandfather's farm growing up, but for me - city boy that I am - and for the girls, it was a novelty. Bales of hay were abused, but we had a good time.

Other engine-driven, smoke-belching things of note included a four-story tall coal-fired and steam-driven pile driver, which spent a good portion of the day pounding telephone poles into the earth one-eighth inch at a time, an entire warehouse full of industrial flywheels, some of them over nine tons in gross weight, and a functioning calliope that Tabitha did not get to play this year like she did last time. Lauren wanted me to play "Linus and Lucy" on it. I'm not sure if it is even possible to play Vince Guaraldi music on a calliope or what would happen to the time-space continuum if you did, but fortunately this didn't come up either.

Remember when people worried that the new particle physics machine in Europe would cause black holes and destroy the Earth last spring? Really, there are things closer to home that are much more worrisome, folks.

We spent a good part of the day cruising the flea market. The girls are old enough now to appreciate such things, and you never know what you will find. Most of it is aimed at people a lot more handy than I am - there are entire booths with nothing but automobile parts or tractor parts laid out in bins, where the only things I can identify with absolute certainty are the bins - and some of it is so entirely awful that you cannot imagine anyone ever paying for it ever, no matter how many times the universe is replayed. But clearly somebody does, since we see the same stuff every year. Who needs a Confederate-flagged tea cozy, anyway? I always check out the used book stalls and the coin dealers, though I will admit to getting a kick out of seeing toys I recognize from my childhood and glassware I recognize from my grandparents. The girls go for Teh Shiny, though there is also Teh Fuzzy and Teh Silly. All that and what a bargain.

At one end of the park you could make your own brass nametag for a buck - you got a shiny disc of 1mm-thick brass, about an inch and a half across, and they set you down by a bench with some letter punches and hammers and told you to go to it. Amazingly, nobody was hurt.

Before we left, we made our traditional pilgrimage to the coal-fired steam locomotive that pulls its two passenger cars in a grand loop around the entire Thresheree.

If you haven't tried something like this, you should - if only as a reminder of how nice it is to travel these days. You learn, for example, never to wear white clothes while doing this, since everything - everything - gets covered in black cinders. Unless you take the enclosed passenger car, in which case everything gets coated in black smoke. You pays your money, you takes your choice.

And isn't that what this country is all about?

No, don't answer that.


Kathleen said...

I'm pretty sure we had that exact John Deere as a kid.

KimK said...

Two shampoos later, and finally cinder-free! :)