December 27, 2011

As we approach the end of the year, it’s natural to look back at the past year. An event that really stands out for me was one of those things that never happens traveling the interstates.

While topping a hill in western Washington state this summer, I saw before me a wheat field with harvest equipment circa 1930 and 1940. Feeling like I had slipped back in time, I pulled into the next driveway. A sign off to the side of the road announced the Vintage Harvest.

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A group of friends working with the county’s historical museum at nearby Davenport, Wash., had refurbished farm equipment from a half-century or more past. The exposition included not only the combines and crawler tractors of the day but also old farm trucks that had been restored.

I later found out that the Vintage Harvest is an annual affair held the last weekend of every August. Crayton Guhlke, one of the founders, told me the small, pull-type combines (pictured right) produced cleaner grain than many of today’s self-propelled combines. A number of them had automatic leveling devices developed during World War II to keep the threshing units level on the area’s steep hills. So here I found myself among machines that were, in some ways, superior or at least equal to the behemoths that crawl across fields today. Bigger isn’t always better.

If you are heading west out of Spokane, Wash., on Highway 2 the last weekend in August, watch for old combines working in fields on the north side of the road. You’ll not only see history, you’ll see some pretty darn good technology.

For photos of past Vintage Harvest events, visit this blog.

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