Report from the OP, the Southeast Old Threshers Reunion, July 1-5, 2021

I both visited and worked at the Southeast Old Threshers Reunion in Denton, NC. On Day 1 I visited with friends and neighbors, prowled the vendors and browsed the tractors. Days 2-5, I worked. You’ve seen pictures here before of the vendors and the tractors, and honestly, that doesn’t change a lot. A few new things come and a few old things go, but to the casual observer, that part changes very little.

For those of us who “work” at the reunion (all of us volunteers who just like to play with steam equipment and maybe tractors), the change we notice most is the weather. Working steam in cold weather can be warm, but in 94o and 70%+ humidity, it can be brutal. Day 1 was about 91o and Day 5 was 94o. In between we had one stupendously beautiful day (Day 2) and two nice days for July (Days 3 and 4). Day 5 was brutal. I worked my mistress pretty much by my lonesome.

But what I did kept everything in the building moving so the visitors could enjoy it. That’s a part of my reward.

Another part of my reward is simply learning the things my ancestors knew and that a lot of the younger generations have no knowledge of at all. While it wasn’t so prevalent here, I see so many things each day that tells me that the most important aspects of the education of our young have become indoctrination at worst and are neglected at best. Those who don’t know their history are doomed to make all the same mistakes over and over again.

The 1905 Bates Corliss Engine, quietly reminding itself why it existed. Just a point of interest, but that flywheel weighs 32,000 pounds and was cast in one piece. Later it was broken, by a process I don’t know, into multiple pieces for easier movement. In its time, it powered the line shafts in 7 buildings. It was rescued from beneath a pile of debris and restored here. It’s big, somewhat dangerous (OSHA would have a stroke if this were used in a production environment today) and never fails to draw an admiring crowd. This was the first time I have ran it, and I was awed at the power of the machine.

These are the artifacts of America’s Industrial Revolution and the period when steam power began to replace muscle power on farms. They’re preserved here so we don’t forget where we came from.

Another Corliss engine, this time a Hamilton Corliss.
More steam engines. Industry once revolved around these. Now they revolve for your interest and perhaps, enlightenment.
Can’t forget the tractors.
Like it or not, it’s our heritage, just as much as these machines are. We understand where we were wrong and we remember where we were right.
This event within the event is called the “Parade of Power”, for obvious reasons. The sound track doesn’t do the real thing justice. This is power you feel in your chest and the soles of your feet. This is the power that built America, won two World Wars and gave birth to the longest period of relative peace since the Romans.
What we have done once, we can do again.

Despite my work, I was able to take time and watch the people. People were polite and neighborly, as you’d expect where a lot of the exhibitors, vendors and workers know each other. The crowds were also polite and well-behaved, with the biggest criticism being “Hot enough for ya?” We did have a few issues involving teenagers and golf carts, but as far as I know the injuries were minor.

I also saw a teenage girl step in and help an older vendor who was struggling to unload more food supplies for her family’s booth. No one asked her for help, she just saw the need and stepped in. As soon as a few other people nearby saw what was going on, they stepped in to help. Just neighbors helping neighbors.

I saw old men making acquaintance with babies and small children, the way it always was before the media-driven hysteria about pedophilia. No one freaked out.

I saw old folks, no longer mobile under their own power, using the fruits of our technology to ride around on various sorts of powered devices and see the things of their childhood and the machines that ran the factories and farms they worked on as adults.

I saw vendors and buyers engaged in real capitalism, the honest exchange of value for value. I participated in a bit of that myself. I didn’t get my Dad’s old typewriter sold, though. Maybe next time.

I talked to people who had questions about the machines, and the questions weren’t all of the light and fluffy variety. Several wanted to know if we still had the capability to build such things. My answer was that we do for now, but consider that all those foundries and fabrication shops run on electricity, from the electric induction furnaces that are used to melt and refine the iron ore from which all the parts are made, to the ones that use lathes, mills and CNC machines to produced the finished parts. That got some thoughtful nods.

A couple of us talked to a 65 year old lady who was in the process of repairing her clothes dryer, and needed some advice on electric motors. Between two of us were able to give her some assistance. Hey, it all comes with the ticket price. 🙂

I saw the best our country had to offer, then and now. While I’m not blind to our current situation, I am also more confident than ever that the right folks will come out on top.

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