Sunday, July 29, 2012

Do-It-Yourself Carnival Ride

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

It’s the middle of summer and there are many fairs and community festivals going on all over the state of Wisconsin. A week ago marked the end of the Dane County fair and this coming week marks the start of the Wisconsin State Fair. All of these fairs make me think of carnival rides and the do-it-yourself ride we created for ourselves on the farm when we were kids.

I’m sure most of you are wondering what this contraption is, but if you grew up on a farm and you’re a baby boomer like me, you might just know what it is. In the days before automated barn cleaners, farmers used these to remove the manure from the barn.

They were called manure carriers or litter carriers and there were a number of different styles and manufacturers. The one pictured below was made by the Louden Manufacturing Company of Fairfield, Iowa and this photo was taken at a barn in Boone County, Iowa.

During my Internet search, I located the patent application for the Louden manure carrier, which was submitted in 1904 by inventor David B. Cherry of Knoxville, Iowa. The patent was granted in 1905 and it was an improvement over the design Mr. Cherry patented in 1897. This new design allowed for the carrier to be raised and lowered for more easily filling it and emptying it.

Notice the overhead trolley system and the two trolley wheels, which support the hopper box. The farmer would lower the manure carrier to the floor of the barn and then shovel manure from the gutters into the hopper box. Then the carrier was raised back up and pushed out of the barn onto an outside track or cable, which extended out into the barnyard.

Once outside, the hopper box could be tripped to dump the load of manure, either into a manure spreader or onto a pile. Eight years ago, Ruth and I discovered a rusty old manure carrier sitting on a track outside a barn in Crawford County, Wisconsin. It was sitting upside down in the dumping position and it was the first time we had seen a manure carrier since we were kids.

Rather than a track like this one, our manure carrier had a long cable that ran from the barn to a pole beyond the barnyard. At a certain point on the cable, there was a triplock that caught a lever on the carrier causing the hopper to flip over and dump its contents. Since that discovery, we have seen more of these carriers in barns in Iowa.

By now, you’re either wondering what all this has to do with carnival rides or you’ve realized how this hopper bucket could be used for something other than its intended purpose. One day when our dad was away from the farm, my brother Dave, my sister Phyllis, and I decided that the hopper box flying along the cable might make for a fun ride.

We lowered the hopper to the ground and Phyllis and I got inside. Oh, I should have warned those of you who are faint of heart…not because of the danger, but because of the thought of getting inside a big bucket that was used to haul….well, you get the picture.

Dave then raised the carrier back up, put his hands on the back of the carrier, and gave it the biggest push he could muster. The carrier went flying over the barnyard along the cable, which rose higher the closer it got to the pole beyond the barnyard. There we were, flying and laughing, just like the thrill of a carnival ride…until it hit the triplock and stopped in mid-air.

Fortunately for us, the hopper box didn’t dump. What were we thinking?! Unfortunately for us, the carrier was stuck and we couldn’t get it free so that it would travel back to the barn. So there we sat, gingerly trying to get the carrier unstuck, but trying not to cause it to sway back and forth. Below us was a stone pit where Dad dumped stones that were unearthed during field work, along with manure he didn’t need for the fields. I repeat, “What were we thinking?!!”

At this point, you’re probably wondering how we got ourselves out of this incredible predicament. The funny thing is, we’re wondering the same thing. The only thing we do remember is that Mom eventually discovered our failed “high wire act” and came running from the house. We also remember her threat of punishment when Dad got home, but we don’t remember how we got down or how we were punished (which is just as well).

One final word: Don’t try this at home!

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blue Shed

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Five years ago, Ruth and I visited Muscatine County, Iowa, to photograph barns that were featured on a tour sponsored by the Iowa Barn Foundation. After a full day of photographing barns, trains, depots, and churches, we decided to check into our motel. Then we headed out again to Wildcat Den State Park for a picnic supper. On the way to the park, we passed the Sywassink Farm, which we planned to visit the next morning.

Coming back from the park, we again passed the Sywassink Farm and I decided to stop and take a distant shot of the farm, which was nicely lit by the evening sun. What we hadn’t seen, however, was a wonderful old blue shed that was hidden by the other buildings.

The barn tours didn’t start until 8:30 the next morning, so we decided that we would photograph the Pine Creek Grist Mill at first light. This mill is located in Wildcat Den State Park, so we again passed the Sywassink Farm on our way. This time, however, we noticed the blue shed as we passed the other side of the farm.

As an added bonus, there were numerous turkey vultures sitting on top of the gambrel roof barn that was the featured barn for the barn tour.

As I photographed this wonderful old shed, Ruth and I watched as the turkey vultures came and went. Sometimes the roof was loaded with them and then most of them would fly off, only to begin returning one by one.

After our visit to the Pine Creek Grist Mill, we went back to the Sywassink Farm and I took some close-up photos of the blue shed, which had apparently been red previously.

I don’t know why, but I’m drawn to the peeling paint, the rusty roof, and the angles in farm buildings like this one. I hope you enjoy them, too.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Make Mine a Teenburger!

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Growing up on the farm in a big family, we didn’t often go out to eat. We had an occasional bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but more often we went to the local A&W.

Many times, the visit to the A&W was for a treat after a long summer day of making hay. We always got root beer ice cream cones for our treat. On those few occasions when we did eat our meal at the A&W, we remember the “family” of burgers that were offered on the menu.

Papa Burger, Mama Burger, Teen Burger, and Baby Burger were introduced in 1963. Our local A&W had the various burgers, but they did not have the family of statues. I always ordered the Teen Burger which was a bacon cheeseburger sandwich.

Joann and I found our first statues of the family on Route 66 on our way to the Ozarks. Luckily we found them when we did since they have been removed from the top of the truck.

We hunted up our first Teen Burger statue in Iowa in the summer of 2009. He was standing in front of an operating A&W restaurant and we captured him at first light.

Our next find was a Papa Burger statue in Minnesota. Papa Burger stands 8 1/2 feet tall with a 3 foot tall root beer mug. He was also at an operating A&W. When the owner saw us taking photos, he came out to chat for a few minutes. He told us his statue dated to the late 60’s.

Our best find, though, was on a trip to Iowa when we stopped at a campground that has a full set of statues on their mini golf course. As we pulled up to the office, we discussed Joann paying for a round of mini golf so she could get in to take photos. The owners were more than happy to let her in to take photos and said we didn’t have to pay them anything.

These are the only Mama Burger and Baby Burger statues we have found so far, but we’ll keep looking for more.

It’s not often we find even the single statues at a root beer stand these days and it’s even harder to find the whole family together. Many of the remaining statues now stand at restaurants that are no longer affiliated with A&W, and a few are privately owned and grace the owners’ backyards.

In 1974, A&W introduced Rooty the Great Root Bear as their new mascot and instructed their restaurant operators to use him in their advertising. At that time, the stores were encouraged to get rid of their Burger Family statues, but thankfully, a few of them did not.

Just this spring on our way to Ohio, we stopped at The Root Beer Stand in Illinois for a cold root beer and Joann took the opportunity to get photos of another Papa Burger statue.

If you visit any A&W’s this summer, cool off with a frosty mug and look around. You might see a large statue holding a burger and a mug.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

“I’m Not Saying!”

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Several times a year Joann and I make a short trip to Iowa to capture more photos of rural America. Our latest trip was two weeks ago, right before the weather turned incredibly hot.

I had some barns marked for us to check out, but my list of other items was very long. We had two and a half days, and I had items marked to last us a week or more.

We were heading down an unpaved road looking for an old one room school, and off to the right was an old shed. As always, when we drive down a road, we are sizing everything up for photo possibilities.

I didn’t think the old shed was worth stopping for, so I started to put my eyes down to the map. But then, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw….no, it couldn’t have been.

Several seconds passed, and then the following conversation took place.

Ruth: “You have to turn around.”

Joann: “What did you see? I didn’t see anything but an old shed.”

Ruth: “No, it wasn’t the old shed, just turn around.”

Joann: Well, what was it?”

Ruth (wondering now if I had really seen what I thought I had): “I’m not saying! Just turn around.”

Joann did an “asterisk turn” on the narrow road, and we drove slowly back. Just past the old shed, sure enough, was the sight below. I really DID see an old car, upended in the field next to the shed.

I wonder sometimes what all we miss as we drive down these country roads, since all it takes is a second looking away and you miss something. Something very cool, I’m sure!

Happy Shunpiking, and keep your eyes open for the good stuff!

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Change of Pace

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

One of the goals of our trip to Ohio this year was to spend a day in Amish country, so on the eighth day of the trip, we did just that. We had arrived in the area the evening before and drove around a bit before checking into our motel. Just outside of the town where we were going to stay, we saw a sign for an Amish bakery, so we made a mental note to stop there for breakfast.

The next morning, we headed out at dawn, stopping in a small town nearby to photograph an old mill building, and then out into the country where we photographed a country church and cemetery, some Amish and Mennonite farms, and some llamas at an area llama farm. At the llama farm, which was located at a crossroads, a car pulled up and the woman driving asked for directions. Ruth looked at the Ohio gazetteer and we pointed her in the right direction and then discussed that she must have been a Mennonite because she was driving a car rather than a horse and buggy.

Just down the road from the llama farm, we saw a beautiful farm and stopped along the gravel road to take a few pictures. As I set up my tripod, an old Amish gentleman in a buckboard wagon pulled up beside us. We talked for a few minutes and then I told him that I needed him to educate me. He said that he would try. So I asked him how to tell the difference between the Amish and the Mennonites.

He agreed that the woman driving the car was likely a Mennonite. And he explained that you could tell a Mennonite farm from an Amish farm by whether or not there was electricity running to the farm. I told him that I had assumed the farm in front of us was Mennonite and he confirmed that it was. It wasn’t easy to see, but there was a utility pole and there wasn’t a windmill for power like you see on Amish farms.

Then I asked if you could tell by the way people dressed and he said that it was more difficult to distinguish between the two. He told me that both the Amish and the Mennonites wear plain colors rather than patterns, but that the Mennonites wear more pastel colors than the Amish, who typically wear darker colors. But he also cautioned me that some of the Amish were beginning to wear lighter colors, so it might be hard to tell.

By this time, it was around 8:30 a.m., and we had been photographing since 5:30 a.m., so we were getting rather hungry. I asked him if he could direct us to the Amish bakery. His eyes lit up and he told me that they had huge cream sticks and they were the best in the area. I told him to have a wonderful day and he and his horse headed up the road.

As is typical for us, we stopped to photograph more Amish farms and buggies on our way to the bakery.

It was 10:00 a.m. before we finally arrived at the bakery. Everything looked and smelled so good. We considered the cream sticks and the fry pies, but settled on a doughnut and a cinnamon roll. They were both delicious. As we were leaving the bakery, we photographed what we thought was an outhouse. Later we discovered that it is actually an Amish telephone booth.

We had worked so hard the first seven days of the trip that this day in the slower paced Amish country was a welcome change and very relaxing. Speaking of a change of pace, we have decided to change the pace of our blog posts going forward. We have been writing these detailed blogs every week for three years, which has required an extreme amount of time, dedication, and discipline.

We have some other goals for our photography business to which we haven’t been able to devote any time. Therefore, these detailed blog posts that often require extensive research will be featured every other week. On the opposite weeks, we may or may not post. If we do, they will be shorter posts about photos that don’t require as much time and effort. We value our readers, so we hope you’ll understand and that you’ll keep reading our stories.

Stay tuned and Happy Shunpiking!