Wednesday, August 23, 2006

gone fishing again

Yes....we'll be "gone fishing" until Labor Day. I'm posting a group of pictures taken last weekend at a local festival called Elburn Days.

I invite you to view them all in one sitting, or ration them out one per day. If you choose the latter, just view the first picture and the next day scroll down to the second and so on.


We have our share of crime in this area, and I certainly don't recommend leaving a bicycle unattended and unlocked, but the fact remains that in this community a kid can tuck his bike under a tree unchained and return later to retrieve it. When I arrived at the park to work a shift in my employer's booth I spotted this bike. Four hours later - it was in the same spot.


The main street is lined with booths selling crafts and other items. This is Dieckmanns Honey Bees, selling fresh honey which is fabulous on warm biscuits.


This one I'll entitle "Rebel". We've all spent hard time as a teenager. The rebel is easily identified by her zippered and chained jeans. Self expression at it's best.


Families spend the day together. The older kids negotiate time with other kids their age, promising to meet dad by the funnel cake tent at 4:00.


Everybody's wired these days. This cowboy takes care of some business before the truck and tractor pull.

We'll just call this one festival still life.


Spectators begin to line up early. Saturday's main event is a truck and tractor pull. Very exciting and loud.


A beautiful 1940 Ford pulls in to make his bid to rack up the longest pull.


Another drive backs up to get hooked up to the sled.


The green flag signals the start of the pull.


A farmer waits for the next entry to line up.


The big diesels put on quite a show.


These girls were driving around in a golf cart selling pork chops, brats and hot dogs to the crowd.


The bus known as the Miller Light party deck cheers on their favorite drivers.


Twisted bibs seemed to be a fashion statement. I saw lots of them.


There was time after the race to stand around and relax. This is Hog Wild from Oregon, Illinois. As you can see these are big machines and a costly hobby. Blown engines are not unusual.


Just a little look at small town America. A different kind of culture.

day with dad

These boys got to spend the day with the best seats in the house.

They were content to sit on the leviathan steam tractor and watch the events from this location. To the left they were processing corn stalks into silage. And dad was tending his tractor which was powering the old threshing machine

Monday, August 21, 2006

illinois sweet corn

One of the best part of any local fairs or gatherings is, of course, the food. Huge barrels are filled with salt water and the corn is added and allowed to soak for quite awhile. Of course, as is tradition, husks on. Then the corn is either steamed or grilled. Personally I prefer the grilled corn with the outer husk slightly charred.

You pull back the husks and using the husks as a handle, squirting on butter and using the hanging salt shakers to complete the delicious treat.

These ears were so sweet and delicious we vowed to walk back around and have another. As we walked the flea market area I came upon this turkey.....

.... which was propped up on the roof of a van. It's probably an old decoy used by local hunters.

Our plans to enjoy more sweet corn was thrown off the track when we came upon Fay's Barbecue Tent. They're famous for their pork chop dinners, and rightly so. You're welcome to all the cole slaw, beans and white bread you care to eat. I guess you could get into a heated argument as to who is better - Fay's or 5 B's Catering. They both serve awesome fresh food and the pork chops served this day were heavenly. We are a major pork producing area of course.

Here's the grillmaster finishing off the alternative dinner which was 1/2 of a chicken.

The many acres of the Steam Powered Threshing Bee were bathed in a strange mix of smoke and steam.


A mom and daughter found the perfect place to rest - sitting in a Radio Flyer wagon.

Mom enjoyed the nice weather and the daughter had a corn dog.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

90 bucks

Adjacent to the Steam Power show was a flea market area. This vendor offered a mounted deer head for 90 bucks.

Some amateur radio operators set up a tent, but they didn't seem to attract much of a crowd.

This dealer was offering ecletic merchandise - a crocodile head and old golf clubs.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

feed the beast

The big steam tractor is put to work driving a threshing machine.

The tractor is positioned a distance away from the thresher and a long belt (shown here in the foreground) is attached to both machines. The steam engine drives the belt and the threshing machine does it's work.

It's an extremely dusty and dirty operation - chaff is flying everywhere, mingled with the smoke from the engine.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


The operator of this steam tractor concentrates on the task at hand - getting from one area of the show to another where his tractor will be put to work.

The huge tractor is a big lumbering mass of iron, burning coals and boiling water and steam - perhaps a disaster waiting to happen in less competent hands.

I know the difficulties encountered by my friends who collect and restore classic cars, but I can't imagine the conversation when someone tries to explain that they're bringing home a multi-ton fire breathing dinosaur.

Mike've got some 'spaining to do.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

the shovel

The big surprise at this years Stem Power Show was the appearance of a steam shovel.

This lumbering piece of machinery resembled a dinosaur blowing steam and gobbling up gravel. This is a two-man operation, but from this angle you can't see the second man who is in charge of the boiler. The shovel operator works a series of handles and levers.

It was absolutely fascinating to watch. I can't imagine the work involved in keeping this monster going.

Monday, August 14, 2006


In addition to the steam tractors and engines, there's always a large display of later era tractors, including John Deere, Farmalls and more.

It's a veritable Parade of Tractors!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

steam power

The Taylor Marshall farm in nearby Sycamore once again hosted the Steam Power Show & Threshing Bee. This was the 50th annual year of the event, and it was bigger than ever!

There are acres and acres of cars parked in a field, and the steam and smoke created by the leviathans can be seen from miles away.

What a fantastic piece of history brought alive by the collectors and preservationists involved with keeping these machines in working order.

Here we see a field being plowed by a steam driven tractor. Certainly the steam engine can beat the one-man and oxen team which could plow an acre a day by hand.

There were some suprises at this year's show, so watch all this week for photos!

Thursday, August 10, 2006


The tiny old farmhouse literally glows in the late afternoon light. It reminds me of those villages in Greece, glowing white under the clear Mediterranean sunlight.

And what you can't see is the carpet of McMansions just behind the lovely little house with it's cheery windowboxes. I bet the rooms inside this home are cozy and warm.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


We've been following the fate of this farmhouse. Honestly, I never much noticed it as I passed by each day. It was a nice farmhouse surrounded by large trees, barn and outbuildings. Then one day the developers cut down all the trees and the house stood shockingly exposed to the elements. It was a very dramatic event.

Next the earthmovers came in and began transforming the acreage from soybean fields to barren landscape. The barn was razed in a single afternoon and the land was neatly carved around the house leaving it to stand like a stranded white wedding cake. At this point it was obvious, and a local resident confirmed to me that the house was to be moved to a nearby location.

The house movers arrived to remove the foundation, leaving the house to stand for awhile on stacked timbers. Somehow the structure was mounted on wheels and it now awaits moving day. I'm not quite sure when this will occur, probably on a weekend. It would be fun to photograph, as I've already captured a large country store that was moved down our road.

I'm happy that the home will have a new life, hopefully surrounded once again by huge oak trees.


I can honestly say my commute each morning is a joy. Twelve miles of rural roads and only one stop light bring me to my job at the newspaper, which lies at the outermost edge of what we'll call the civilized world known as Chicagoland.

There is some traffic to be sure, maybe a car or two at the juncture of the main road heading east. Other than that you'll need to be on the lookout for wildlife - deer in season, foxes, pheasant, a coyote late at night. Miles and miles of corn and soybeans have a calming effect.

The only time I didn't enjoy the commute was in the dead of winter during a white out. This road was a nightmare, with nothing close enough in the dense fogged out snowstorm to provide a point of reference. Snow and fog had obliterated the landscape. Snow was falling so heavily you could not distinguish the roadway from the field from the sky. The fence on the left was barely visible, it's faint outline giving me a point with which to mentally compute the location of the road on which I was driving! By keeping notes in my head about the distance the fence should be from the road, I was able to keep from driving into a ditch.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Bees were working a patch of bee balm just outside the window. I grabbed the camera and stood outside in the patch for about 15 minutes watching them gather the nectar. I've never been afraid of bees and never been stung.

They went about their work, seemingly unfazed by the invader or the camera. Then.....POOF...they were all gone in an instant, flying off as if the 5:00 whistle had announced the end of the work day.