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WMSTR is a 'live museum'

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People who attend the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion at Rollag each Labor Day weekend have an opportunity to experience a "live" museum, as they learn about how the pioneers lived and worked in this community many years ago. By working together, each one of them, in their own special way, however great or small it may have been, had a part in building a great and mighty nation, the United States of America.

The Scandinavian immigrants that came to this area 100 years ago were a very hardy and rugged group of individuals. With oxen and horses as their beasts of burden, they carved out a living for themselves with their bare hands in a strange and rugged land. They experienced the heat of summer, the extreme cold of winter, spring floods, crop failures, prairie fires, along with disease and lack of medical care. Despite the hardships of the "dirty thirties," they kept striving to build a better way of life for themselves, their families, and those who would come after them. Those of us who live here today are the beneficiaries of their toil and sacrifice.

The feature at Rollag this year is women's activities and homemaking. Providing for their family was a full time job for the women of pioneer days. Sixty years ago, many homes in rural communities didn't have indoor plumbing, electricity and central heat. These conveniences didn't come until electricity came to many rural communities after World War II.

Whenever I watch the machines of a bygone era working at Rollag, I marvel at what our forefathers accomplished with what they had to work with. There are operating engines at Rollag, like the 600 horse-power Snow engine, that have parts weighing from 12 to 36 tons. How did our forefathers manage to forge castings like that? How did they get them into place to build the engine? And the question many people ask today -- how did the guys from Rollag get that huge engine here, assemble it and then get it running?

Just about every facet of life you can think of from a bygone era is demonstrated at Rollag. This year's feature of home making and women's activities will clearly demonstrate how women worked to raise their family and keep them clothed and fed. You can see old-fashioned farm equipment in operation, sawmills powered with steam engines sawing huge logs into lumber, and ride a steam powered train to nowhere. There are huge engines operating in the show grounds that were used in industry.

If you are one of those unfortunate people with allergies or mobility issues you probably can't enjoy a trip to Rollag over Labor Day weekend. However, with the technology we have today, there are DVDs available to purchase that give the viewer a good idea of what the show is about. For those with mobility issues there are special wagons you can ride to tour the show grounds. Every effort is made to accommodate people with handicaps. The volunteers at Rollag want to make a "trip into the past" a memorable experience for all those who are able to attend.

A trip to Rollag on Labor Day weekend gives us a deeper appreciation of how our ancestors lived and worked. It helps us realize that we are the beneficiaries of the labors of those who went before us.

I'll be at the show driving my Massey Ferguson "50" tractor that my dad bought new 50 years ago.

When it's time to thresh, I'll be by the bleachers explaining how a threshing machine works.

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