Monday, December 12, 2011

Ederville: Where Time Stands Still

Hark back to a bygone era much simpler by today’s standards but quite complex at the time for its industrial innovations and designs. One weekend each year Ederville, which opened to the public initially in 2006, springs to life to display “100+ Years of Progress.”

With a trestle that lifts an animal-drawn plow high overhead to show the evolution of mechanized farm implements to today’s indispensable and proficient tractor, the center of Ederville buzzes with commerce of an earlier time. On the sprawling perimeter is the main attraction — an ever-expanding collection of agricultural machines that, although not as old as Methuselah, illustrate generations of industrial progress.

Usually open on the first weekend in November in Carthage, NC, Ederville is full of possibilities for families who want to reminisce about the old days and teach lessons to children about how past generations labored to make life more enjoyable and beneficial for the next generation.

Walking, Watching and Tasting

Walk though open-air structures of farm implements, watch a primitive sawmill in operation, taste an old-fashioned fried pie, cruise on a Stanley Steamer, ride on a miniature train, stroll through replicated shops decorated with period furnishings, and shop at a general store — these activities are available until a “spark show” ends each day at dusk.

Visitors stroll leisurely through decades of ever evolving mechanical invention, some machines with only one purpose, such as shelling corn or threshing wheat. A few are truly one of a kind and exist nowhere else in the world. Names of most buildings — steel wheel, rubber tire, steam tractors, pedal tractors, prairie tractors, and oil pulls — are deceptively simple and belie the complexity of the machinery inside. For example, the “construction” building houses equipment that would amaze even the most devoted fan of Bob the Builder.

Ederville’s effort to preserve memories of how steam, gas and antique implements worked on American farms (and are still in use) is enhanced by several power and equipment clubs. Organizations such as the Sandhills Antique Farm Equipment Club of neighboring Harnett County and the Central Carolina Antique Power and Equipment (C-CAPE) Club of Sanford, NC, demonstrate historic farm equipment during all three days. Tractor games are conducted by Classic Power Antique, Inc., an educational organization of central and eastern N.C. families who restore antique tractors, farm implements, and related equipment.

In addition, Chapter 37 (Eastern N.C.) of International Harvesters Collectors, a worldwide network to maintain IH history, knowledge, and memorabilia, participates with a variety of IH tractors. Chapter 12 (N.C. and surrounding states) of the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club, a worldwide club, demonstrates historic Caterpillar machinery that it has collected and preserved. (In fact, Ederville will be the site of the national ACMOC meeting in 2013.)

Although the Southern roots of agricultural progress are evident with the activities of the state and regional clubs, most early machines of large-scale farming on display were made in the Midwest. Many brand names such as McCormick, Case, Caterpillar, International Harvester, and John Deere are still very familiar. Consistent with the no-thrills design, these machines little have no creature comforts (power steering or air conditioning) that a modern generation expects. Of course, only steel (nothing cushy) seats complement steel steering wheels and other metal components.

Demanding Weekend

Saturday is the busiest day at Ederville and starts with a parade through “town” with equipment polished and groomed as lovely as a Runway Angel prepared for Victoria’s Secret annual fashion show. A church choir and a bluegrass band add music to entertain the strollers and watchers.

Saturday also includes an early afternoon tractor pull organized by Old Time Tractor Pullers Association (which defines an antique tractor as 1960 or older) of Denton, NC. The event, with categories that start with the 3,700-pound stock, awards trophies to winners and is a greatly anticipated affair that builds on the competitive spirit of the lawn mower pull conducted the previous evening by East Coast Pullers.

All three days also usually feature open shops, a noon whistle, equipment demonstrations in a field, and plowing in an outer field. In addition, Sunday morning offers a church service with a guest preacher.

In early fall Patti Eder typically prays for no rain during the forthcoming demanding weekend when she and her husband Ken host up to 10,000 guests who inspect and appreciate the more than 1,000 machines — improving with age like fine wine — an amazing collection considering that he bought the first tractor in early 2003.

Being Thankful

Join Patti in praying for no rain during the first weekend in November, so that the next visitors are unimpeded in observing the full array of activities and exhibits. Seeing the improvements in agricultural life creates a wonderful appreciation for how “modern” we live today and more reasons to be thankful later in the month with another tradition as ageless as Ederville’s relics — a Thanksgiving gathering with family members.

Note: Click here to see recent photos of Ederville.

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