Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Steamy weekend

This past weekend I went home for the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club's annual Steam Show and Threshing Bee.  It's an event that I have attended every year since I was born.  I always had a hard time explaining it to my friends growing up that I spent my summers operating a steam traction engine that was used by farmers in 1919.  I learned to drive 2 tons of heavy metal before I learned how to drive a car.

My family's 1919 Port Huron traction engine and water wagon

My dad has always been interested in old machinery and has been working with steam power engines since high school.  And ever since we were born, my sister and I have been working with them too.  Which is not only unusual for the area that we came from, but also because we were girls in a male predominate pastime.  

Maddy doesn't have her driver's permit yet, but she can drive a steam engine

My sister and I make a good engineering team.  I control the speed and make the engine work and Maddy steers.  We start the fire, clean the flues and the firebox, and fill it with coal and water.  Everyday of the show there is a parade around the grounds to show the visitors what all the engines look like when they are moving around.  I think people like to see two young women driving something so powerful.  I like to wave at all the little girls that are visiting with their parents and I feel proud to set an example that girls can do anything, including running antique steam power engines.

My dad and sister on the saw mill

The steam show also includes showing how the engines worked at the turn of the last century.  The engines run an old saw mill that mills huge logs into boards with a saw that is turned by the engine.  The engines are also hooked up to threshing machines.  

It's a great weekend, something my family looks forward to every year.  We catch up with our "steam friends," eat lots of steamed sweet corn and peruse the flea market and the ladies tent.  We also get covered from head to toe in soot and coal dust, but that's half the fun of it.  I think that growing up with steam shows and steam engines were my original farming roots, the reason I have wanted to live in the country since childhood. 

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