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.