There are opportunities when traveling, and being near Madison was no exception. In a former life, I collaborated with Carol, a colleague on several conference papers and presentations for the IT Leaders Program, Educause and the Distance Teaching and Learning Conference in Madison. Since both of us worked in higher education information and instructional technology, we were interested in how well today’s universities were meeting the needs and expectations of the digitally sophisticated students who studied there. As part of our work, we enjoyed trips to Seattle, Madison, Austin, Berkeley and State College, Pennsylvania. I hadn’t talked with her in several years and wanted to catch up.
La Brioche dinner in Madison Wisconsin
Another La Brioche creation
We joined Carole and her husband Merritt for our first dinner in Madison. They promised to take us to one of the most unique restaurants and they were true to their word. Although situated in a strip mall, La Brioche True Food is remarkable. This bistro and bakery is run by Jackie Patricia, feng shui expert and classically trained pianist with her husband, David Yankovich who was a student of Madison culinary pioneer Johanna Guthrie. Her vision was to serve people through conscious food and service. The website describes the space as “removed from the hustle-bustle outside – that you breathe and relax into yourself…” The atmosphere is amazing. Mahogany wainscoting, high back tapestry chairs and a warm light from the chandeliers. Another source says that they aim for a higher-ground culinary experience utilizing local organic food prepared well with just the right amount of fuss. Right on all points.
At Red Power Round Up, I was able to connect with Sally Jacobs, the McCormick/International Harvester Archivist at the Wisconsin Historical Society. I had been working with Sally and other staff members as I compiled the material for Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding. The collection is amazingly rich, offering publications like Harvester World online. The Internet has radically changed how authors access material. On past projects, I traveled thousands of miles, poured over boxes of papers and books, created countless index cards, before even starting to write.
Irma Harding by Haddon Sunbloom in 1948
Because the 27th annual Red Power Round Up was in Wisconsin, I really enjoyed getting to meet the people behind the emails and phone conversations I’d worked with for several years. As I was walking through the fairgrounds, I noticed a portable recording booth that was part of Harvester Heritage, a project of the International Harvester Collectors Club established to preserve the history. After Sally and I chatted for awhile, she mentioned Harvester Heritage and suggested that I sign up to record an interview about my research on Irma Harding. I walked back to the booth and the process began. I’ll be contributing both the visual and audio parts of my presentations to Harvester Heritage to share not only Irma’s story, but the story of the women behind Irma Harding, the roles they played at International Harvester and how they helped change the mid-western farm families way of life.
Saturday dawned clear and bright and I set out on my morning constitutional. The fair grounds were mostly deserted since the gates had not yet opened to the general public and most were just starting their day. Case/IH corporate offices are located in nearby Racine, Wisconsin, and they had provided models for display at the ‘Roundup. I had never seen this many current Case/IH tractors in one place before, so I stopped to look. They were impressive in the early morning light.
The 600+ horse Steiger
620 Quadtrack “face”
Many vehicles have what look like “faces”, but as I looked at the assembled horsepower, they seemed more exaggerated in their anthropomorphic details. High “foreheads” and curving hoods lent a childlike quality in spite of the size and apparent power. The line was very consistent in its styling as well — a far cry from the unstyled tractors of the pre-World War II years. There was something else — I was reminded of a cartoon aspect similar to the Disney/Pixar movie “Cars.” It wouldn’t have been surprising if they started talking.
One of the largest models, “Steiger” even had a name worthy of a cartoon superhero. In fact, the Steiger series comes from an American tractor manufacturer purchased in 1986. Founded by Douglas and Maurice Steiger in the 1950’s, they were some of the first to bring large horsepower and four-wheel drive to farms with their lime-green machines manufactured in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Quite a linage for the inviting giants of the farm greeting me.
One surprising highlight of this year’s Red Power Roundup was the “flash” restoration of an old Farmall tractor in just three days. Originally the brainchild of Howard Raymond of Wellfleet, Nebraska, the idea had its roots in another restoration completed by volunteers in Madison, Wisconsin in 2009. Deciding on a Farmall F-12 that was stored in a warehouse, the process of gathering volunteers and sponsors took a couple of years, and the unrestored tractor was displayed at the 2015 Red Power in Sedalia, Missouri to encourage participation.
Everything was ready to go on Thursday, June 16th, with 40 volunteers and an unrestored tractor. In the space of three days, it was disassembled, sandblasted, the motor overhauled, new brakes and clutch, the magneto and carburetor overhauled, re-assembled and painted. By Saturday, it was showing off around the ‘Roundup. The restored tractor then was presented to Case/IH for inclusion in their Farmall Collection.
Information regarding the planning process and a picture of the original unrestored tractor is available on the 2016 Red Power Roundup site. What a remarkable effort!