Deer Creek Sodbusters Antique Machinery Show

By Staff
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Pitching bundles in threshing machine at Deer Creek Sodbusters 1999 Show.
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Plowing with steam engines and antique tractors in wheat stubble field at Sodbusters 1999 Show.
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Fred Werman and John Focken sawing trees.

R.R.2, Box 85, Sterling, Nebraska 68443-9739

History comes alive every year the second Sunday in August on an
80 acre farm south of Sterling, Nebraska, in the rolling hills of
western Johnson County. That farm is the home of the Deer Creek
Sodbusters Antique Machinery Show. The seventeenth annual show,
held on August 8, 1999, was a special show indeed! The weather was
perfect which resulted in us having our largest crowd ever.
Exhibitors came from as far away as Grand Island, Columbus, and
Inland, Nebraska; Tarkio, Missouri; Wamego, Kansas; and Grand
River, Iowa.

But what made our 1999 show special is the fact that earlier
this year, our event was one of only five events or celebrations in
Nebraska’s 1st Congressional district to be officially
designated as a ‘Local Legacy.’ The 1st Congressional
district covers the entire eastern third of the state, except for
Omaha and adjoining areas. The district does include Nebraska’s
capital city of Lincoln. The district is represented in Congress by
U.S. Congressman Doug Bereuter. The Local Legacies Project is
sponsored by the U.S. Library of Congress as part of its
Bicentennial Celebration. The purpose of the project is to document
the grass-roots culture and heritage of all areas of the country.
The documentation gathered will be preserved in the
‘Nation’s Library’ for future generations to read and
study. A ‘Local Legacy’ is a traditional event or
celebration which exemplifies the local history and culture of the
area. We were thrilled to have been selected, and are proud to
participate in this program because from the start, the mission of
our show has been to preserve the heritage of southeastern
Nebraska, which of course is agriculture. What makes the honor even
more noteworthy is who Congressman Bereuter chose to make the final
selections. The selection committee included representatives from
the office of Secretary of State, the Nebraska State Historical
Society, the Nebraska Humanities Council, and the State Department
of Tourism.

Each ‘Local Legacy’ will be documented by written story,
including description and history of the event, still photographs,
audio/video tape, and other documentation such as news clippings
and memorabilia. The documentation package must be submitted to the
Library of Congress by December 31, 1999. In addition to being
preserved as part of the nation’s history for generations to
come at the Library of Congress, certain portions of the
documentation will be digitized and placed on the Library’s web
site where it can be accessed worldwide. A special ceremony is
scheduled for the spring of the year 2000 to celebrate the
Library’s Bicentennial. Representatives of all the Local
Legacies will be invited to attend. We are planning on having
someone there to represent the Sodbusters.

Throughout our 1999 show, the shutters were clicking and the
camcorders were rolling, hoping to capture enough of the action to
form the foundation of our documentation package. A ceremony was
held just before our parade to announce to the crowd about the
project and the Deer Creek Sodbusters Show participation.
Representing Congressman Bereuter at the show was Mr. Jon Peterson,
the Local Legacies project coordinator for the Congressman’s
office. Mr. Peterson gave the crowd some background on the program
and the selection process. He then read a letter from Congressman
Bereuter congratulating the Sodbusters for being selected to
participate, thanking us for helping to preserve the history of
Nebraska’s agriculture, and expressing his regret that he was
unable to attend in person. Also, as part of the ceremony, Floyd
Vrtiska, the state senator of Nebraska’s 1st legislative
district, which includes the Sterling area, presented a
proclamation signed by Mike Johanns, governor of the state of
Nebraska, proclaiming Sunday, August 8 as Deer Creek Sodbusters Day
in recognition of our show receiving this national honor.

Our show started back in 1983 as a neighborhood get-together of
antique tractor collectors to plow a wheat stubble field using
antique tractors. Back then, the farm was owned by Alvin and
Letitia Wolff, who also lived there at the time. It was their sons
Robert and John who organized the first Wolff Brothers Plowing Bee,
as it was known for the first few years. The show quickly grew to
the point where it was too much for the Wolff brothers to sponsor
on their own. That is when (in 1987) the Deer Creek Sodbusters were
formed as a non-profit corporation. Since the Sodbusters took over
the show, it has grown and developed into a complete antique show.
It features numerous machinery and field demonstrations to
entertain the men. The show also has added a craft show and flea
market to entertain the ladies who may not be so interested in the
tractors and machinery. We also provide entertainment and education
for the young people who attend. We work very hard to live up to
our slogan, ‘wholesome entertainment for the entire
family.’ Anyway, even though our show has much more to see than
plowing, plowing with antique tractors is still one of the
activities which draws the biggest crowd of spectators. And this
year, the field conditions were ideal for plowing. For the first
time in several years, the entire 10 acre field set aside for the
plowing demonstrations got plowed. In recent years prior to 1999 it
seems the field has either been too dry and hard to plow decently
or too wet and muddy.

As we come to a close of a century and prepare for a new
millennium, it seems natural to pause and reflect on how much
farming has progressed through technology over the last 100 years.
At the start of the 20th century much of the work was accomplished
by human muscle power with the help of crude implements and farm
animals. Mechanized equipment such as the steam engine and internal
combustion engine were just beginning to become a part of the
farming scene. At the close of the century, farming is totally
mechanized utilizing computerized, space age technology. We need to
also reflect on the fact that, whereas the rest of the
country’s economy is going through a period of remarkable
prosperity, the farming economy is again experiencing a crisis
brought on by record low commodity prices and drought conditions in
much of the country. Farmers have endured some tough times in the
past, and we hope and pray that enough can survive this crisis to
keep the tradition of the family farm alive. The family farm is the
rock solid foundation upon which this great nation was built. It is
the values of hard work, personal responsibility, faith in the
Almighty, strong family ties, and an interdependence of neighbor
helping neighbor which have long been an integral part of life on
the farm which have endured and which we hope to help preserve for
future generations. As we face a new century and new millennium, we
see a disturbing trend that fewer and fewer families are able to
survive on the farm and still fewer people are able to start a
career at farming the family farm. Unless this trend is reversed,
the family farming operation could be forced to give way to large
corporations taking over agriculture. If that happens, an important
part of our country’s heritage could be lost forever unless it
is preserved by events such as ours and by such programs as the
Library of Congress’s Local Legacies Project.

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