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Preserving the images of history

We all accumulate keepsakes, which we file away for that rainy day when there'll be more time for scrapbooks and photo albums. Our memories gather dust until they turn yellow, but we still don't find time to preserve them properly.

I've learned more than I ever wanted to know about sorting keepsakes while preparing for a change of residence. My daughters Michelle and Lara did most of the heavy lifting while my task was to look at each item, then say "save" or "sell" or "trash."

That was hard to do.

I've tucked away 50 years' worth of family pictures and cute cards from my children and grandchildren. Then there are all of the notes and pictures that were collected during a half century of writing local history books. Add to that the fact that I'm involved with the local historical society in preserving antiques and memorabilia.

Typical of my life was a recent experience with old wheat header pictures which I scanned from glass plates (or negatives). These were the best scenes that I've ever viewed and my initial reaction was to lay them out in a newspaper photo spread. But I can't do that because I don't publish a newspaper any more.

In a recent Hays Daily News column, I mentioned copying these rare pictures from the old-time glass plates. So my mail that week included a note from Clifford Roach of Alton, telling me that he has rebuilt a wheat header that had been abandoned for about 75 years.

Well, I know Clifford and his fine family and have attended their family harvests which feature some of his antique tractors and farm implements. He guided me to YouTube, where I Googled "Roach Family Harvest." Then I was face to face with two groups of moving pictures and other information that showed the harvest machinery that he demonstrated at his special events.

"A few years ago," Clifford writes, "I decided that the header which my dad and grandfather had used should be operational again after standing on the hillside for 75 years." So he brought it inside one winter and rebuilt it.

"The wood was all gone and had to be re-made," he says. "I made the canvases from some that I got at farm sales. Not having horses, I pushed it with a tractor."

One year, Norris Maydew of Lebanon hitched his team of mules to Clifford's header and drove it around, but that wasn't enough mule power to actually cut wheat. The header and a header barge (a special hay rack) are at his farm, but you might find in easier to visit the family website.

There's a lesson here for anyone who wants to preserve history so that others can enjoy it. Our historical society at Downs, or any group or individual, could assemble Power Point displays to post on the Internet. Lots of computer nerds can handle the technology nowadays. Then those precious memories would be available for people of any generation and they wouldn't fade or wrinkle, and mice couldn't reach them.

Darrel Miller lives near Downs in rural Osborne County and is a retired weekly newspaper editor.