KEMPTOWN, MD. -- Rudell Brandenburg has never been a farmer, but a while ago he took a shine to oldtime threshing machines. Now he owns 10, or, as he puts it, "I only got 10 of them," one of which works. All are planted on the hill by his house outside this tiny Frederick County village.

The old machines, pulled over farm fields by steam engines, were used at harvesting time to beat the grain from its husk before combines were invented.

But Brandenburg found another seasonal use for them. He strings them with Christmas tree lights to illuminate the land during the holidays.

This year, he figures he has strung as many as 2,200 lights on the machines and on some trees and two old commodes that sit in his front yard.

This unlikely scene materializes without warning as a driver dips down into what Brandenburg has labeled "Skunk Hollow" on Kemptown Church Road.

"People come by here, they think somebody's nuts in this bottom," said Brandenburg, 47, whose father was a junkman here in Kemptown and who is himself a "body man" working on cars down in Gaithersburg.

"I was born and raised right here in Kemptown," he said. "I got no reason to move anyplace else, and I couldn't take them with me anyhow."

He has paid from $5 to $160 for the threshing machines. The first one he bought for $5 about 18 years ago from "somewhere down around Sugarloaf Mountain." He paid $160 for the one machine that works. He bought another $5 machine at auction in Wolfsville, north of Frederick. "The man said, 'My God, I thought I'd have to pay someone to come and get it.' Most people want to get rid of them." He's gone to the Pennsylvania line and over to Lovettsville, Va., to acquire them.

"The old fella next door, he says, 'I hate to even look at them.' If you knew how much work went into {operating} them, you wouldn't want to look at them either. A lot of people don't like them. If you like them, you like them. If you don't, don't look at them . . . .

"I like to look at them. And I like to see people stop in the road here. Every once in a while, somebody will ask me about them. I really enjoy that.

"I guess I'm crazy gathering this stuff up. Well, I enjoy it, so why not? You've got to have something to do besides work . . . .

"They're not eating or drinking. They're all paid for. All I have to do The collection of lights brightens the countryside.

is throw a coat of paint on them every once in a while. I just enjoy having them setting around."

He said he collects outside while his wife Nancy collects inside: bells, plates, dolls. Actually, he collects inside, too: He has saw blades of different shapes and sizes, some of them painted with rustic scenes, hanging on the dining room wall. He also has some old harnesses, farm scales, more saw blades and a wheat cradle in the garage. But it is outdoors where his collection brightens the countryside.

He turns on the lights whenever the mood hits him, such as on the Fourth of July. "It gives people something to talk about," he said. But you can count on seeing the illuminated machines every year around Christmas.

"I been going to sales, bought every Christmas light I could find, 4,000 maybe," he said. "I can't put them all up without putting another meter up. Potomac Edison loves me, Christmas anyhow."