Thursday, August 4, 2016

Sun and Steam at a Muddy Showground

Saturday was a complete washout, heavy rain with thunderstorms, dazzling lightning forking down from the slate sky,. Poor little Kota was dopey from his trip to the vets, he has to be sedated because he behaves so badly, so he was slumped on the sofa in a near coma, while Rosie Lee took cover under the comforter. We all took naps, lulled to sleep by the pattering rain on the roof and the darkened room. All my plants on the patio were well watered and I knew the allotment was also loving its soaking. It was quiet restful day.
On Sunday I went the the Shenandoah Valley Steam & Gas Engine Association Pageant of Steam in Berryville. What a mouthful! I didn't even consider how the weather might have affected the show, I just knew I had to be there before noon for the parade. But on arrival, although I could hear steam whistling shrilly above the noise of the crowds, there were no engines or tractors lining up. I discovered the parade had been canceled and it seemed after looking around that a few of the participants had already left the grounds.
 I saw a couple resolutely trundling through puddles and came across a few more standing silent under some trees, although their huge wheels caked in brown sludge indicated that they'd been driving around before I got there.
 Two of the traction engines decided to put on a sort of parade anyway, and along with a couple of tractors they rode a circle around the edge of the grass. I stood in a puddle with my camera, grinning wildly and sucking up that wonderful aroma of coal smoke as they slowly passed.
 This guy with his little kiddy train was keeping the youngsters out of trouble and I kept bumping into their little convoy as I walked around the grounds. The mud was treacherous and I was extremely glad that I'd worn jeans and boots as within 20 minutes of being on the grounds my legs were splatted with goo and my boots were covered. I had to be constantly on my guard as I slipped and slid my way around, often having to just trudge through open stretches of water.
 Some of the engines here had me scratching my head as I had no idea of their purpose and the owners weren't present to ask, as in this case. But this one was making a lot of noise and robustly beating up a large drum of soapy water so I assumed it was a homemade washing machine. I was half tempted to throw my jeans in there.What ever these machine's uses were they were all very loud, pumped out a lot of smoke and were mostly lovingly coddled by a cluster of men, who stood around them with heads leaning in towards the workings, obviously discussing what color paint should be used on the bolt heads or something equally fascinating.
 The tractor arena interested me as I've always loved vintage tractors. There were some nice Farmall tricycles and a couple of Case machines, but no Minneapolis Molines, which I'd really been hoping to see. I could only assume that the storm sent some of the participants home early, not wanting to get their prize possessions muddied up or stuck in the sludge.
It was nice to get out of the mud for a while and walk on soft sawdust as I browsed among vendors' wares. There was even a blacksmith hammering enthusiastically on a thick steel bar and I marveled at his stamina. But the heat was too much and I couldn't wait around to discover what object of interest that rod of metal would become.
Because of the heat, most folks were sitting under shady trees, energies depleted by the searing sun and thick humidity but that little kiddies train was still chugging around the fairgrounds. I was pretty much on my last legs and was having a hard time even lifting my camera up. I foolishly hadn't brought any cash with me, assuming that there'd be an ATM somewhere on site, and after asking a food vendor if she took VISA, I decided that I really needed to leave so I could get a drink. I had wondered around the corner and was watching a tractor trundle by when she came up, tapping me on the shoulder, and asked if I wanted a burger and a drink for free, she didn't want me to go without. God bless her kind heart, I thanked her profusely and gave her a big hug, but declined, saying I was going to leave anyway. But her food had smelled delicious.
I headed over to the field to find Stuart but got distracted by a noisy tractor plowing up mud. The Tractor Pull had been scheduled for today but I had assumed it was also canceled. I chatted with a guy who was watching this huge John Deere 4555 as it tore up the strip and he explained the event was still going to happen once the strip had been readied. I stood there pondering as the sun started cooking the top of my head, wondering if I should wait, but the mud still had to be flattened and then the competitors lined up so I knew it would be at least another hour. Nope, I was moving on.
I walked through a field with a sign declaring there were vintage trucks inside the gate. I only found 2 and guessed the storm had caused the others to leave.
A screaming whistle pierced the air so I wandered towards it finding a couple of static steam engines with an antique threshing machine behind them that was being run by a tractor engine. It looked like really hot work and I felt myself wilting as I squinted up at the two guys hurling forks of hay onto a trailer. I needed a drink.
Stuart's AC felt delicious as it blew my hair off my skin and within a minute or two I was actively searching on my phone, curious to see if there was a brewery in the vicinity. And there was! Less than 9 miles away was one I'd never been to before, its name immediately arousing my curiosity, Dirt Farm Brewing. And so after a 20 minute drive including a very steep ascent to the top of a mountain I ended up sitting on a patio enjoying a most beautiful panorama with a cool breeze and even colder beers. Absolute bliss. It's funny how things work out as I would likely not have looked for this place if I'd had cash on me in the first place.

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