Last Saturday, I made the trek from Kansas City up to Conway, Iowa – about 45 minutes from where I grew up, to check out the 9th Annual Fall Antique Plow Day. For those who have never been to Conway, it's a town of 40, as of the 2012 Census, in Taylor County in southwest Iowa.
Mike Sleep, who lives in Olathe, Kansas, one of the original organizers of the event, says it started with him and a couple friends with plows that hadn't seen daylight in a while, including his own two-bottom hydraulic plow. "I had taken it out and done some work to it and wanted to see if it still worked," Sleep says. "A couple of us went out and plowed, and as we were doing it, people started showing up and watching."
They realized they could grow the event with some promotion. This year, the event drew 35 tractors, along with the one, two and three bottom plows they pulled. The event takes place on the farm owned by Sleep's brother-in-law and sister, Richard and Judy O'Grady. "We've grown it in the last few years," Sleep says. "[This year] we had equipment from the mid-1930s, up to some built in the mid-1970s."
A step back in time
Sleep says the average age of participants is around 60 years old, and the event gives them a sense of nostalgia. "A lot of people migrate or reflect back to what they remember as a kid," he says. "It's not something they get a chance to do because of no-till and erosion practices. There aren't a lot of places they can do that."
But there are some younger participants in their 30s, and Sleep himself is in his 40s. The event lets them experience something they wouldn't be able to otherwise. "I enjoy looking at museums and nicely restored equipment, but at the end of the day I like to see things actually being worked as they were back in the day," Sleep says, noting it can be a learning experience for both generations. "It's kind of fun to help someone who's done this more than I have to set up a plow the correct way."