Outdoors

Vintage Equipment

Treasure hunting at the steam and tractor show

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

For most of the year, my lady’s father is content to abide at his rustic Lummi Island abode. At 82 years young, he prides himself on cultivating a low-key archipelagic lifestyle. 

Holding court over the Scrabble board, tending the multitudinous bird feeders on his deck and commiserating with his fellow “vintage eccentrics” over coffee in a one-room shack provides more than enough geographic diversity on a daily basis, thank you very much.

Strategically poised to avoid the hustle-bustle of early 21st century America, our outlying octogenarian travels to the mainland infrequently—only as often as the necessities of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness demand.

One local event that makes him exceedingly happy is Vintage Farming Days—aka the Antique Steam & Tractor Show. 

Come hell or high water, nothing can dissuade the old coot from making his annual pilgrimage to commune with all the vintage machinery that comes whirring and sputtering and backfiring to life at Lynden’s Berthusen Park every first week in August.

Heart surgery and cancer couldn’t stop him. And he’ll be damned if he lets a chronic case of plantar fasciitis and two pinned-together knees put the kibosh on his plans. For a solid decade—even as he battled one health crisis after another—he kept asking me to join him. 

But since I generally spent all my free time up in mountains searching for lost gold mines, my interest in flatland frolicking proved only tepid at best.

“You don’t have to like tractors or threshing machines to enjoy the communal grandeur of this timeless agricultural ritual,” he told me. “But I guarantee you’ll fall in love with the steam engines. Only the most pitiless brute can fail to comprehend the proletarian profundity of a 120-year-old steam-powered road locomotive tooting its whistle through virgin timber.”  

Finally, a couple of summers ago, I managed to shirk off prior commitments and take him up on his offer.

“You’re doing the Lord’s work, dear fellow,” he smiled as we stood in the parking area slathering sunblock onto our forearms and necks. Then, donning his wide-brimmed, radiation-proof hat, my intrepid benefactor rattled his Falstaffian walking stick and ushered me through the ticket booth.

A vast field crammed full of handsomely restored internal combustion tractors dazzled my eyes with a candy-coated spectacle of original factory colors.  

“This doesn’t even look like a machine,” I remarked, bouncing high into the wrought-iron seat of an orange Minneapolis Moline. “It’s more like a giant gumdrop.”

“Now you’re feeling the spirit!” nodded my guide. “But if you don’t hop down soon we’re gonna miss the steam-powered sawmill and grain threshing demonstrations.”

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