When there's a Sunday traffic jam in Arcadia, which is part of the Upperco population of 600, you know something's up. For 20 minutes, we sat on our brakes on Route 30, one of 1,000 or so cars that wheeled into the Arcadia Carnival Grounds.
Every year the Maryland Steam Historical Society's Steam Show sprawls over the carnival grounds with steam engines of every description. The four-day show packs the acreage with tractors, steam-powered engines and equipment, and perhaps the most eclectic yard sale in this area.
For example, on Sunday a 5-foot-long stuffed marlin was offered in proximity to engine parts, cast-iron toys and pans, tools, old photo equipment, and stunning collections of antique glass and stoneware.
Whistle blasts from birds of steel and steam blew as we were flagged onto the grounds. Our car bounced and tossed over mud rutted by wheels of another species, the antique tractor. We parked on a hill. Below us, visible through puffs of blue engine haze, spread a herd of iron horses. We saw rows of spoked wheels and smokestacks, men shoveling coal and, on the iron, delicate carnival artistry in gold paint.
The best way to gawk at the whirling wheels was aboard the society's "shuttle," a trolley car giving a cruise behind an old green Oliver. We rolled past the weather-beaten wooden threshers from a century ago. Only head-high and sheaf-narrow, the old machines seemed like oversized tools. A modern combine dwarfed them. Steam shows are not quiet. Every engine has its own melody of chugs and pops, clunks and chop-chops, and an occasional scream of steam lets loose.
Tractors at the show seemed divided into two camps: finesse and muscle. Finesse drove the tractor parade. Leading the procession like royalty were the mammoth Case tractors. A powered-up Case displays a seemingly infinite number of greased wheels and levers circled against the long, fat neck of its coal burner.
The drivers wore the caps of train engineers. The big Cases looked like locomotives.
Other tractors paraded, too. Well-loved John Deeres and Massey-Fergusons and others passed in review as the announcer gave their birthdays: 1921, 1938, 1949. There were unusual feats of engineering motoring by, such as the highway trencher with three steering wheels, or the farm tractor with three wheels, each a different size. One early Caterpillar earthmover -- or was it a large toy? -- was driven by two teen-age boys.
Muscle drove the tractor pull, where FarmAlls and Olivers and others toiled in a field only 130 feet long.
In September, Arcadia is the promised land for lovers of steam-powered antiques. See you there next year.
How can a cup of coffee plant a tree, you ask? The Tree Commission of Manchester has a new stock of coffee mugs, T-shirts, sweat shirts and hats emblazoned with the town seal.
The sale of every item benefits the town's tree-replanting project.
The town seal of Manchester shows the steeple of Immanuel Lutheran Church and the 300-year-old oak tree, famous for marking the foundations of the town's first church.
This attractive image has been printed in mint green on most items except the T-shirts, which are in two colors, mint green and sky blue.
Items have been on sale for about a year, said town clerk-receptionist Susan Edwards, and the sweat shirts are now available at the close-out price of $8.50. The new T-shirts are $10; hats, $6; and coffee mugs, $5.
All are available 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at the Town Office.
Books on local history are also in stock. Pick up the paperback or hardcover version of "Two Centuries of Grace and Growth in Manchester," written by the Rev. Harvey G. Schlichter, or the softcover volumes by Joan Prall, "Mills and Memories" and "Schoolbells and Slates."
"I figure everyone in my family will get something from Manchester for Christmas this year," says Mrs. Edwards, who began as a clerk a couple of weeks ago. "I'll take one of each."
Not a bad idea.
You still have time to grab a table at the Manchester PTA Craft Sale, to be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 20.
"We're having community groups as well as crafts on display, to make it more of a family oriented event," says organizer Lou Ann Nalepa.
A blacksmith will be forging metal. County beekeepers will show beehives, honey and beeswax crafts, with a photographic display of bees at work.
The Boy Scouts and "Just Say No" club will exhibit, too.
The PTA will sell hot food and baked goods. A $1 donation for adults at the door will enter them into a turkey and cake raffle.
The show, to be held in the gym and cafeteria at Manchester Elementary School, will be accessible by elevators to wheelchairs and strollers.
Demonstrators of unique crafts are welcome. Ten of the 45 spaces are available, with each 6-foot table going for $20.
Information: Mrs. Nalepa, 374-9240, or Manchester Elementary, 374-4401.