Oliver Farming in Mower County (Part 4): The Wet Year

Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota (Part IV):

The Wet Year of 1947

  by

Brian Wayne Wells

 

Since the late fall of 1945, one particular farmer in Nevada Township, Mower County, Minnesota, had been farming with the help of his two adult sons who had just returned home from their service in the Second World War.  He was glad to see the return of his sons and looked ahead to farming them as partners.  However, in late 1946, changes had been happening in the life of his eldest son.  Just after Christmas of 1946, the eldest son had two epiphanies that set him on different course in life.  The first epiphany had resulted from the Christmas dinner he had attended at his girl friend’s parent’s house in Charles City.  During their conversations that day, her father had told him of the new expansion that was taking place at the Oliver Tractor Works.  This new expansion would allow the Oliver Tractor Works to maximize production of the full line of new tractors that were scheduled for introduction in 1947.  Despite the fact that demand for tractors was greater in the post-war era than it ever had been, production of the large four-cylinder Model 80 and the small four-cylinder Model 60 tractors still had not gotten into full gear since the end of the war.  Only the production of the middle-sized six-cylinder Model 70 was close to meeting the new post-war demand.  According to his girl friend’s father, the problem was that the factory in Charles City was just too small to allow all the production that was needed to meet the rising demand of the post-war era.  The rumors implied that there would be a great deal of hiring at the Oliver Tractor Works after the expansion of the factory.  His girl friend’s father asked the eldest son whether he would like to apply to work at the Oliver plant.

This idea planted a seed in the mind of the eldest son which began to grow.  The eldest son had been wondering of late about his place in the world.  Now that he was back from the war, what should he do?  Should he go into farming?  If so, he would need to find a place of his own.  His father gave no indication of wanting to retire from farming.  Even if his father were ready to retire, his brother, the younger son, would probably want to take over the home farm.  Furthermore, he had come to see that diversified farming, in the way that his parents did it, meant that the farmer was married to the farming operation.  There were no weekends off, no holidays and no annual vacations.  There was just too much to do on the farm for any days off.

He had seen how his girl friend’s father lived.  Her father had hobbies!  He worked at his woodworking in the basement of their house on the weekends.  Something like this was unheard of on his parent’s farm.  To be sure their was no field work in the winter, however, even in the winter, there were cows to milk twice a day, sheep, pigs and chickens to feed and eggs to gather in the chicken house every day.  Even in the winter, there was no time for hobbies.  Hobbies did not pay the family an income.  Additionally, after experiencing the financial ups and downs of his father’s diversified farming operation since returning from the war, he had begun to appreciate the idea of a steady work check around which monthly expenses could be planned.  He shared many of these thoughts with his girl friend.  Sometime following Christmas of 1946, he decided to apply for work at the Oliver plant in Charles City.  His girl friend’s father pledged to talk to some people he knew in the “office” at the plant on the eldest son’s behalf.

A second epiphany struck the eldest son like a “bolt out of the blue” sometime in February of 1947.   He decided to get married.  It sounded strange, but this idea descended on him without warning.  It was almost like he had gone to sleep the night before in one frame of mind and had awoken in the morning in a directly opposite frame of mind.  After all the occasions on which he had maintained to friends that he and his girl were “just friends” and there really was no serious relationship between them, he now concluded that he would be much happier living with his girl friend on a permanent basis rather than living alone.  It now seemed like the most natural thing in the world.  He actually wondered why the thought had not struck him with such clarity before.  Consequently, he shared all this with his girl friend the next time they got together.

She was somewhat surprised when he related all this.  She, too, had thought of their relationship as a friendship.  So it was an adjustment to think about a permanent relationship.  She had always wanted a husband, a house and children.  However, she enjoyed her new life working at the Gilles Amusement Company and her life and friends in Osage.  Consequently, her first reply was that she wanted to keep working at Gilles even if they were married.  He did not argue with this proposal.  As she thought about the idea of marriage she warmed to the idea.  This was a real proposal of marriage and must be considered seriously—besides a marriage meant a wedding.  Ever since she had been a child, she had been thinking about her potential wedding.  Now she began to recall all those childhood thoughts and plans of a wedding.

First, she had always wanted a wedding in the month of June.  June was, after all, the traditional wedding month.  On her next trip home to her parents’ house in Charles City, she would have to find her old “hope chest.”  Back on her 13th birthday, her mother had started a hope chest for her as part of her passage into her teenage years.  The hope chest was a rite of passage into semi-adulthood.   Every so often, she or her mother had purchased dishes or silverware or something that to put in the hope chest for her marriage some day.  During high school, marriage had seemed so far away that she and her girl friends began referring to their hope chests as “hopeless chests.”  Consequently, she had not thought about the hope chest for years and she had lost track of what was in the chest.  Now, however, there with a real marriage pending in her future and she was anxious to find the hope chest and explore the content of the chest.  When she found the hope chest she discovered it contained four dinner plates made from pink “depression ware” glass.  There were also four matching coffee cups and saucers.  There were also a matching butter plate, salt and pepper shakers and a gravy boat in the hope chest.  These still appealed to her but were far too few for practical use in a house.   Additionally, there were some cloth napkins and matching kitchen window curtains featuring a design of little pink and green flowers.  As a child her favorite color had been pink.  Now she cringed at the color and design of these curtains.  She would have to find something else to do with the napkins and curtains.  However, the peuter candle stick holders might help decorate their first dinning room table until she found something better.

In the end, there was no real decision to be made, she really did not want to live without him.  She would marry him.  However, June of 1947 was just 4 months away.  There would be a lot of planning to be done to have the wedding in June.  So they set a wedding date for late June of 1947.

In the fall of 1944, while she was still a senior in high school living at home with her parents in Charles City and before she had ever met the elder son of our Nevada Township farmer, she had seen a movie called Janie.  (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment Part III: After the War” on the blog WellsSouth.com)  She had loved the movie.  Working at Gilles since the earlier in fall of 1946, she became aware that a sequel to this movie had been made.  She even learned that the name of the movie was Janie Gets Married.  She wanted to see this sequel.  She watched the papers closely to see when the movie might be coming to the local theater in Osage.  Finally in February of 1947 after she had already set about planning her own wedding and after they had informed both of their respective families about the proposed wedding date, the movie, Janie Gets Married arrived at the Osage theater.  She and her new fiancé attended the 7:00PM showing of the movie and stayed through the entire second showing of the movie at 9:00PM the same night.  They informed their respective families about the prospective wedding date.  Her parent’s were not surprised and really had been wondering what was taking them so long to plan a marriage.  His parents were more curious as to what he was going to do to support a family.  They thought that June of 1947 was too close to make all the decisions that had to be made about a wife and family.  His parents were still thinking of their eldest son as becoming a farmer on a place of his own in their local neighborhood.  His plans about going to work at the Tractor Works in Charles City caught them off guard.

In April of 1947, just when field work was about to start, the eldest son heard back from the Oliver Tractor Works.  The Oliver Tractor Works wanted him to come to work immediately.  The eldest son had not expected to hear from the tractor plant so quickly.  He told his parents that he would move down to Charles City to stay with his fiancé’s parents until he could get a room of his own in Charles City.  However, he promised to be back on the farm on the weekends.

On the farm, it had been a mild winter with little snow accumulations.  April brought showers as expected and everybody expected that when the showers ceased, the growing season would be glorious.  The soil warmed quickly under the April sun.  Field work would begin soon.  Then on the last day of April, 1947 there was a large one-inch rain that delayed the prospects of getting into the fields and the rains continued into May and June.  Planting of corn and soybeans was delayed later than ever.  Our Nevada Township farmer felt that the rains of the previous harvest season of 1946 were continuing with only the interruption of a mild snow-less winter.  Only the hay seemed to be in good condition.  The hay field had been last year’s oat field in the crop rotation plan employed by our Nevada Township farmer.  The hay had actually been planted together with the oats in the spring of 1946.  The hay had grown as an “under crop” to the oats.  Then when the quick-growing oats had been harvested in the summer of 1946, the hay had continued to grow—establishing a good root system prior to the onset of winter.  As the rains continued in the spring of 1947, the planting of the crops was delayed much later than usual.  It became apparent that hay—the one crop that was already “planted” in the field in the spring of 1947—was the only crop on the farm that was developing according to schedule.

The only trouble was that the rains continued so persistently that our Nevada Township farmer had a difficult time getting the hay harvested and stored away in the barn.  He planted the corn before the soybeans.  Consequently, the soybeans were not entirely planted until well into mid-June.  Some farmers in Mower County were unable to get their soybeans planted until the 4th of July.  Our Nevada Township farmer began to wonder if it was worthwhile planting soybeans if they were planted so late.  Once in the ground, the crops still had problems because of the continuing rain.  They seemed to flounder and drown from too much rain.   Even the family garden failed because of the drowning rain.

The rain provided a backdrop to the new life of the eldest son.  The management at the Oliver Tractor Works hired the eldest son for a position on the field testing team for new tractors they were considering.  When the eldest son went to work for the field test team in April of 1947, the new prototype of the tractor that was intended to replace the old Model 80 in the line of Oliver tractors was in the final stages of its pre-production testing.  Although this prototype had no model designation number as yet, the field crew working with the prototype referred to prototype as “the new improved Model 80.”  However, the prototype was very different from the Oliver Model 80.  The Model 80 had originally been introduced as an un-styled 4-cylinder successor to the Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tractor in 1937.  The eldest son was well acquainted with the Oliver Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tractor.  His father, our Nevada Township farmer,  still farmed with a 1935 Model 18-27 on the family farm.  Our Nevada Township farmer had purchased this tractor in February of 1943.

The model designation of the “18-27” indicates that the tractor delivered 18 horsepower (hp) at the drawbar and 27 hp to the belt pulley.  Thus, the Model 80, as originally introduced in 1937, developing 29.92 horsepower (hp) at the drawbar and 38.78 hp at the belt pulley, represented a big improvement over the Model 18-27.   “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part I]: Purebred Suffolk Sheep Raising” contained at the blog WellsSouth.com.)

As noted earlier, the smaller Model 70 had begun production in 1935 as a “styled” tractor with a streamlined hood, grill and side curtains over a 4-cylinder engine with a power lift, electric lights and electric starting as options.  (See the previous article in this series of articles “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part II]: Soybeans” contained at the blog WellsSouth.com.)  Indeed, the popular Model 70 had even undergone a second stylization into a more rounded look in 1937.  These new post-1937 tractors were fitted with a new Oliver-built 6-cylinder engine and became known as “late-styled” tractors.  The more “square” styled 4-cylinder powered Model 70s of 1935-1937 became known as the “early styled” Model 70 tractors.  In 1940, a new small Model 60 had begun production as a styled tractor following the late-styled design of the 1940 Model 70.  The Model 60 was also introduced with the power lift, electric lights and electric starting available as optional equipment.   During all these improvements to the smaller Oliver tractors, the Model 80 remained basically unchanged.  The Model 80 still lacked even the option of electric lights, electric starting and other modern conveniences.  In the post-war era this was a tremendous handicap for the Model 80.  As a result, sales of the Model 80 lagged far behind both the more modern and “styled” Model 70 and Model 60.

Development of the new 231 c.i. 6-cylinder engine for the new improved and stylized Model 80 had actually begun in the late 1930s.  However, the war had intervened and work on the new engine had ceased and plans for the stylization of the Model 80 were postponed.  Only now with the war ended, could the Oliver Farm Equipment Company return to their plans for updating the Model 80.  The new and improved Model 80 would go into production at the Charles City Tractor Works later in 1947 with power lift, electric lights and electric starting.  It was unclear what the model designation of the new and improved six-cylinder Model 80 would be, but the entire line of Oliver tractors would appear as a coordinated line of tractors—all with the same styling and with the same options available for each tractor in the line.

With the pre-production testing of the new and improved Model 80 almost entirely completed by the time he began work on the Oliver field test crew, Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son was most actively involved in the 1947 pre-production testing of the new improved Model 60 and Model 70 tractors which would be introduced in 1948.  Under ordinary circumstances, these new 1948 Oliver tractors would have been introduced in September or October of 1947.  However, currently, the introduction of the new 1948 line of Oliver tractors was being scheduled for April of 1948.  This date would coincide with the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Nichols and Shepard Company—the oldest of the four companies that had merged in 1929 to form the Oliver Farm Equipment Company.

The field test team was testing experimental prototypes of both the improved 6-cylinder Model 70 and the improved 4-cylinder Model 60 on various farms around Floyd County.  However soon, our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son found that some of the new experimental tractors were also being tested up in Minnesota on the farm of John Thill of Windom Township in Mower County.  As noted earlier (see the second article in this series contained called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota Part II: Soybeans” contained on this blog), the Thill farm was owned by John Peter Thill of Rose Creek Minnesota.  John Thill was also the owner of Thill Implement, the local Oliver dealership located in Rose Creek, Minnesota.  The eldest son was thoroughly familiar with John Thill and Thill Implement.  Ever since childhood he had been visiting the dealership with his father.

When he was scheduled to work with the team in field tests on the Thill farm in Windom Township, the eldest son would drive his 1939 Oldsmobile Business Coupe up from Charles City to stay with his parents on the home farm in Nevada Township.  While the tests on the Thill farm were being conducted, he could drive the short distance, each day, from his parent’s farm to the Thill farm to report to work.  This would save him the drive back and forth from Charles City each day.

Because of the nearly constant rain, the field tests could not always able to proceed as scheduled in the spring and early summer of 1947.  Nonetheless, the field test team did what they could to collect the information they could on the performance of the new experimental Models 70 and 60.  The team had several prototypes of the new Model 70 and Model 60 tractors that they were testing.  The new experimental Model 70 prototype tractors were fitted with a new 6-cylinder Waukesha engine.  This new engine had been designed by the Waukesha Company of Waukesha, Wisconsin.  However, this new Waukesha engine was now being built by the Oliver Company at its South Bend #2 Engine Works plant located on Walnut Street in South Bend, Indiana under a license from the Waukesha Company of Waukesha, Wisconsin.

The old 6-cylinder engine that was currently being installed in the Model 70 tractor on the production line at the Charles City Tractor Works had been designed and built by the Oliver Company.  It was a 201.3 cubic inch engine.  This engine developed 22.7 hp at the drawbar and 30.37 hp to the belt pulley.  The new Waukesha-Oliver 6-cylinder engine that was currently being tested in the new Model 70 prototype, was a 193.3 c.i. 6-cylinder engine.  Although slightly smaller in overall displacement, the new Waukesha-Oliver engine actually delivered more horsepower (32.89 hp at the drawbar and 37.17 hp to the belt pulley) than the 201.3 c.i. engine currently in production.

When his field crew was scheduled to work with the new experimental Model 70s on the Thill farm, our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son compared the new Model 70 with the 1941 Model 70 he had driven on his father’s farm.  His father’s Model 70 tractor was clearly a two-plow tractor—pulling no more than a two bottom plow with 14-inch wide bottoms.  Here on the Thill farm, however, these new experimental Model 70s were comfortably pulling the Oliver Series 100 Plowmaster plows with three 14-inch wide bottoms in basically the same type of soil as on his father’s farm.

The new Model 60 was fitted with a 129 c.i. 4-cylinder Waukesha/Oliver engine which could develop 22.50 hp at the drawbar and 25.03 hp at the belt pulley.  This compared favorably to the 16.92 hp at the drawbar and 18.76. hp to the belt pulley of the Oliver-built 120.6 c.i. engine that was currently being fitted to the Model 60.  This effectively moved the current 1-2 plow Model 60 tractor up into the full 2-plow class of tractors.

However, the most significant of all the improvements added to all the new experimental Oliver tractors was the independent or “live” power take-off (pto).  So far, however, the field test team had not had an adequate opportunity to use this new independent pto to its best advantage.  During the early part of the summer on the Thill farm, the field test team used the pto shaft protruding from the rear of the tractors when they backed one of the experimental tractors up to a pto-driven dynamometer and hitched the coupler on the dynamometer to the spleened pto shaft on the tractor in order to measure the horsepower of the tractor at various stages during the field tests.  The team would then engage the pto by merely pulling back on a lever located behind the operator’s seat on the tractor.  They did not need to be in the operator’s seat to do this.  They could engage the pto while standing on the ground beside the tractor.  The independent pto could be engaged without engaging and/or disengaging the foot clutch.  This was the meaning of “independent” pto.  Power to the pto did not depend on the foot clutch on the regular power train of the tractor.  Later, however, when the team was using the various experimental tractors on the Thill farm to put up hay they would find that they could easily stop all forward motion of the tractor and baler without stopping the power going through the pto shaft and to the baler.  Accordingly, when the driver of the tractor noticed that a large clump of hay was about to be taken up by the pickup on the baler, he could depress the foot clutch and allow the baler to clear itself of all hay before releasing the clutch a little and allowing some of the clump of hay to be picked up a little at a time so that the baler would not plug and stall trying to deal with the entire clump all at once.  Of course, our Nevada Township farmer’s oldest son would not be present on the Thill farm for the use of the experimental tractors during this first-cutting hay harvest.  He would be gone on his honeymoon, but upon his return from his honeymoon, he would many opportunities to work with the new live pto in the harvest season ahead.

Not only did the constant rain in the spring and early summer of 1947 provide a backdrop for his work with the test crew on the Thill farm, the rain also provided a memorable backdrop for the wedding plans.  Planning of the wedding ceremony, itself, was largely handled by his fiancé and her family.  However, the eldest son needed to make arrangements about where he and his fiancé would live following the wedding.  He had never really moved out of his fiancé’s parents’ house to find a room of his own in a boarding house in Charles City, as he had originally intended.  Accordingly he and his fiancé now decided to rent a larger apartment in Charles City as the place where they would live after the wedding.  They rented the apartment immediately and this is where the eldest son moved to when he moved out of his finacé’s parents’ house.

The eldest son and his fiancé also needed to determine where they would like to honeymoon.  They settled on a trip to the Great Lakes resort region of northwestern Iowa near Lake Okoboji.  Having been employed at the Oliver Tractor Works for only about a month, the eldest son was hesitant to go up to the offices at the plant to ask for any time off for a honeymoon.  Nonetheless, when he did, he was pleasantly surprised when the Personnel Dept. extended him as much as two weeks, if he needed for his honeymoon.  They would advance him the necessary vacation time which would then be paid back as he continued to work at the Tractor Works.  Once again, he was being extended courtesy because of his status as a returning war veteran.  However, he also reflected that his future father-in-law had probably prepared the ground work for this courtesy by talking to the Personnel Department ahead of time.

Additionally, the eldest son determined that he and his fiancé should take her 1940 Ford Tudor Sedan rather than his 1939 Oldsmobile Business Coupe on their honeymoon.  With less miles on it, the Ford was in better shape that the Oldsmobile.  Furthermore, he felt the 221 c.i. V-8 engine in the Ford would get better gas mileage than the 257 c.i. straight-8 “L-head” engine in the Oldsmobile.  He felt that the 60 horsepower (h.p.) “flathead” Ford would get about 22-27 miles per gallon (m.p.g.) out on the open road.  The Oldsmobile could not be able to match this mileage.  At 23¢ per gallon the cost of gasoline was a serious concern.  The price of gas had risen 2¢ in the last year alone and was up 4¢ from the 19¢ per gallon price he had come to expect before the war.  Furthermore, his fiancé was not familiar with the semi-automatic transmission of the Oldsmobile. She was more at home, using the clutch and shifting gears in the Ford.  Taking the Ford, meant that he could share the driving with her.  Also as a Sedan with a rear seat and a trunk, the Ford offered more space inside for their luggage than the Oldsmobile Coupe.

Although, traditionally, it was the responsibility of the bride’s family to handle the arrangements for the wedding ceremony itself, our Nevada Township farmer and his wife also wanted to help with the planning of the wedding of their oldest son.  Inevitably some conflicts arose between the two families and the parents and the bride, when their ideas and expectations for the wedding collided.  Sometimes it required delicate negotiations to settle these conflicts.  The eldest son’s fiancé expressed her frustration at times by stating that she sometimes felt that she and the eldest son should simply elope and run off to the Little Brown Church in neighboring Nashua, Iowa.  The Little Brown Church was the historic church which is alluded to in the famous hymn “The Church in the Wildwood.”  Since the 1920’s the church had become famous for elopements.  However, the eldest son knew that his fiancé was not serious in wanting to go to the Little Brown Church.  She had waited too long for a wedding in her home church in Charles City.  She had been planning this wedding since she was a teenager.  She could not simply turn her back on all these is plans at this late date.  Furthermore, to elope to the Little Brown Church would lead people to think she was pregnant before her wedding.

So they continued to work away each day, making all the necessary arrangements.  As the parents of the groom, our Nevada Township farmer and his wife had responsibility for entertaining the whole wedding party prior to the wedding.  This event was called the “rehearsal dinner.”  This dinner was meant to appreciation to all the people serving in the wedding itself.  Our Nevada Township farmer and his wife booked the dinning room in the back of the Normandy Cafe in Austin for the rehearsal dinner.  Located downtown in Austin, te Normandy Café advertised itself as being Austin’s best restaurant.”

The eldest son’s fiancé invited her best friend from high school days in Charles City to be her maid of honor.  However, she also invited her new friend, the stenographer from the Osage theater to be an additional bridesmaid at the wedding.  On the groom’s side, the eldest son asked his own younger brother to serve as his best man.  His brother would be entrusted with the wedding ring that would be presented to his bride at the wedding.  He also sought an old classmate from his senior class at Lyle High School to serve as a second groomsman.

Because the bride’s parents were bearing a large portion of the expense of the wedding, they would, following tradition, be treated as guests at the wedding and reception and, thus, they would be free from any responsibilities during those ceremonies, themselves.  An official hostess would be appointed to direct the smooth running of the wedding ceremonies—especially the reception and the display of the wedding gifts.  As they arrived at the church the guests they would be greeted by the hostess.  The guests would leave their wedding gifts with the hostess before being seated by the ushers.  During the wedding ceremony the hostess would busily open each present and place them on a display table in the banquet hall in the basement of the church.  During the reception in the banquet hall, the presents could be viewed by all the guests.  Following the ceremonies the hostess would move all the presents from the church to the new apartment in Charles City where the eldest son and his fiancé would live after they returned from their honeymoon.  To serve as the “official hostess” for the wedding the bride wanted her other new friend from the music shop in Osage.  This woman was capable and organized and, since she was already married, her husband could help her move the gifts.  Together they would be listed in the wedding invitations as the “host and hostess” of the wedding.

During the actual wedding, it was, of course, raining once again.  What else was to be expected?  It seemed that the rain had become a daily event in 1947.  Guests arrived with an assortment of raincoats and umbrellas that were hung up in the coat racks of the Narthex—the room just inside the front entrance of the church.  With the farmers unable to get into the field, the wedding was a chance to get out and have a good time with the neighbors.  Accordingly, the wedding and reception held in the church in Charles City was a well attended and was an emotional release for all the families and guests.

This wedding in Charles City was just one of many that were occurring across the nation in 1947.  Indeed, there was a nationwide plethora of weddings in the United States in 1947.  The return of the veterans from the war had created a large increase the number of weddings in 1946.  However, in 1947, weddings in the United States had far surpassed even the record number of weddings in 1946.  Furthermore most of the weddings in 1947 occurred in the month of June. 1947.

Following the wedding, the entire wedding party stood in the narthex of the church and shook the hands of all the guests as they left the Nave—the main part of the church—and turned a sharp right in the Narthex and proceeded in a slow moving single file down the stairs to the banquet room located in the basement of the church.  After the guests had all passed the reception line, the eldest son and his bride and wedding party were directed back into the Nave where the photographer took the wedding pictures.

Downstairs in the banquet room, the guests filed past the opened wedding presents on the tables against the wall.  As they waited for the wedding party to appear, they were served punch in clear glass coffee cups and mints and peanuts served on matching clear glass plates.  They found that the punch was rather good and did not refuse seconds when it was offered.  Eventually, a rumor circulated that the punch had been secretly spiked with a flask of rum.  Nobody could substantiate this rumor, but many guests returned for an additional cup of punch and there gradually arose a certain boisterous joviality at the reception as time went by.  Friends of the groom’s family suspected that the grooms brother—our Nevada Township farmer’s younger son—had “fixed” punch.  He had always been a “wild boy.”  (Weeks later when the eldest son heard that his brother was suspected in this rumor, he smiled.  He was glad to hear that the war had not changed his younger brother’s carefree spirit.)  When the bride and groom did appear at the reception, they were led along the tables with wedding presents by the hostess while the photographer took pictures of the “viewing of the presents.”  Then the entire wedding party was seated at the head table and the guests were invited to take their seats at other tables in the banquet hall.  The women of the church then brought on the mashed potatoes, ham, chicken and vegetables.  Since this was June, English peas and asparagus were served because they were “in season.”  During the dinner there repeatedly arose a clinking of forks against the glasses.  One guest may start this clinking and would gradually be joined by the other guests until there was huge din in the banquet hall.  The eldest son would then lean over and kiss his new bride.  The din of noise would stop and the eating would resume.  After a while, the whole process would repeat itself again.

After the dinner the photographer gathered around the bride to take a few pictures of the eldest son kneeling down before her to remove the traditional wedding garter from her leg.  Then, the bride was requested to take her wedding bouquet up to the Nave of the church and then up the stairs to the choir loft in the balcony at the back of the church overlooking the Nave.  The hostess then announced that all young single girls should go to the Nave and gather at the back of the Nave under the choir loft.  Standing in the choir loft, the bride turned her back to the crowd below and tossed the wedding bouquet over her shoulder to the crowd gathered below.  All this was gathered on film by the photographer including a picture of the girl that caught the bouquet—who, legend had it, would be the next future bride.

Sometime during the latter stages of the wedding dinner, the best man unexpectedly absented himself from the banquet hall.  Outside the church he rounded up a few of his cousins who were in attendance and formed a conspiracy to “kidnap the bride” and hustle her off in his 1941 Buick Model 50 Super Sedan.  He had purchased this car as a used car from Usem’s in Austin, Minnesota (1940 pop. 18,307) the previous year.  The Super Sedan’s famous “torpedo” body style had been introduced by Buick in 1940.  The Super Sedan was fitted with the straight-eight 248 c.i. 107 hp. engine and 6.50 x 16 inch tires.  The Buick Division of General Motors had sold a total of 310,995 cars in 1940, which was enough to place the Buick Division in fourth place in nationwide sales among all U.S. car manufacturers.  Of that total almost one third, or 95,875, were Super Sedans models.  The popularity of the Super Sedan had continued in 1941, as Buick sold      New for 1941 was the dual carburetor system which Buick introduced as standard equipment for the Super Sedan’s eight-cylinder engine.  This boosted the horsepower of the engine in the 1941 Super Sedan up to 125 hp.

Now at the wedding of his brother, the second son climbed into the driver’s seat of his Buick while his compatriots in the “kidnapping” placed the captured bride in the back seat of the .  The photographer captured pictures of the bride being led out of the banquet hall and placed in the Buick Super Sedan.  The conspirators then drove the bride around Charles City before returning her to safe and sound to the banquet hall a few minutes later.

Then it was time for the bride and groom to change from their wedding clothes into their traveling clothes.  The bride adjourned to one of the Sunday school rooms in the basement of the church.  The bride was assisted in changing out of her wedding dress by her maid of honor.  The groom changed his clothes in the men’s bathroom in the church.  The bride and groom gave their formal wedding clothes to the hostess, who would see that these clothes were delivered to the apartment where the new couple would live after their honeymoon.  By this time, most of the guests had left the banquet hall and were now gathering in front of the church.  It was still drizzling outside, but a heavier rain was expected to return at any moment.  Consequently, the host and hostess of the wedding encouraged the bride and groom to take advantage of this lull in the rain to make their get away from the church.  As they came out of the church they found unexpected surprises.  Rather than rain the bridal couple was showered with rice thrown by the guests.  Additionally their 1941 Ford had taken on an altered appearance with “Just Married,”  “True Love” and “Best of Luck” written all over the vehicle along with figures of hearts and cupids with bows and arrows.  This artwork had been undertaken with bars of soap which had been temporarily borrowed from the bathrooms of the church.  There were white ribbons tied to the door latches on both sides, to the bumpers and to the windows of the car.  The eldest son and his bride finally made it to the car and got inside.  They started the car and drove off to a clatter of old shoes and tin cans dragging along the street.  This tail of noise makers had been tied to the rear bumper of the car.  As if this were not enough to attract attention of all Charles City residents, a line of cars, all honking their horns, followed the behind the bridal couple as they drove out of town.  The line of honking cars following the happy couple was led by the best man—our Nevada Township farmers’ younger son.  At the edge of Charles City the younger son and the line of cars behind him turned back to the church.

Now that they were no longer pursued, the eldest son pulled the car over to the side of the road.  He got out and untied the string of noise makers from the rear bumper and threw them into the trunk of the car.  He then got back into the car.  His new bride was still smiling over the unexpected “escort” out of Charles City.  She had successfully planned her wedding and the wedding had gone pretty much as she had planned.  However, it was these spontaneous and unexpected events were the things that really made the wedding and reception memorable.

After the wedding, our Nevada Township farmer drove home with wife and younger son.  It was still raining and the drizzle had turned into, yet another, 1 inch rain.  The rains continued for the rest of the month of June and into July.  Mid-July, however, brought a pleasant surprise—a rainless day.  Furthermore this surprise was followed by another surprise—a second rainless day and the drier weather continued.  The hot 90ºF temperatures of July soon dried the soil sufficiently for our  Nevada Township farmer and his younger son put the Oliver 70 and the 1935 Hart-Parr Oliver 18-27 (dual wheel) to work in the fields each with its own two-row cultivator.  They wanted to get the cultivating done, before the rains returned.  They were also in a hurry to get the first cutting of hay harvested and stored away into the barn as soon as possible.  They thoroughly expected that the rains would return at any time catching them with their hay still in the field.    However, days went by and pretty soon there had been an entire week without rain.

Because of the delay in planting in the spring, the oats did not ripen until the second week in August.  This was fortunate as the first full week in August of 1947 [August 4 through August 10, 1947] was taken up with the Mower County Fair in Austin.  Our Nevada Township farmer showed his purebred Suffolk sheep during the “open class” judging on Friday and Saturday of the Mower County Fair.  This year, our Nevada Township farmer was looking forward to the oat harvest with particular interest.

Over the summer our Nevada Township farmer had taken delivery of the new Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster combine from Thill Implement.  Since the Grainmaster combine had arrived on the farm it had been parked under the roof of a “lean-to” structure that was attached to the backside of his granary.  Here the combine had remained clean and dry during all the rains of the year.  Our Nevada Township farmer anticipated keeping the combine under this lean-to whenever it was not in use.  Thus, the Model 15 could be kept out of all the rain and bad weather.  Machinery always ran better and lasted longer when stored indoors out of the weather during the off season.  As he prepared the Model 15 combine for the oat harvest, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son removed the sickle from sickle at the front of the combine’s feeder.  They stored the sickle on some pegs high up on the wall of the granary under the lean-too.  They would need the sickle again when they combined the soybeans  in the coming fall.  Currently they needed to mount the new windrow pickup right over the top of the empty sickle bar of the feeder on the Model 15 combine.  This new windrow pickup was not manufactured by the Oliver Company.  It was manufactured by the Innes Company.  The Innes Company was largely a supplier of windrow pickups for many of the popular small combines that were currently on the market in the post-war period.  The salesman at Thill Implement had advised our Nevada Township farmer to purchase the Innes pickup rather than the Oliver windrow pickup that would have normally have come with the Model 15 combine.  Prior reports from previous farmer/customers of Thill Implement had persuaded the dealership to strongly suggest to all future potential buyers of the Model 15 combine, that they seek an Innes windrow pickup for their new Oliver combine.  Wrapping of the grain from the windrow was a major problem with traditional windrow pickups.  Made in the form of a cylinder that revolve as the “teeth” of the pickup protruded through small holes in the cylinder to lift the windrow of oats or wheat as the combine was pulled across the field.  As the cylinder brought the windrow up to feeder the teeth of the pickup would withdraw into the cylinder.  The Innes windrow pickup design had proved to result in less wrapping of grain around the axle of the windrow pickup than was the case with the Oliver’s own windrow pickups.

The purchase of the new combine had meant that our Nevada Township farmer was able to cancel the contract with his neighbor for the custom combining of both his oat crop and the soybeans with his neighbor’s large Model 10 Grainmaster combine.  This year for the first time, our Nevada Township farmer would be able to harvest his oat crop exactly when it was ready rather than waiting on someone else to get around to harvesting the crop.  He was anxious to get the new combine in the field to see how it would work.

Unlike the soybeans, which could be harvested as a standing crop in the late fall, the oats needed cut and laid into windrows in preparation for combining.  Ever since 1944, when he had first hired his neighbor to “custom combine” his oats with the Model 10 Grainmaster combine, he had been windrowing his oats.  To accomplish the windrowing of his oats, our Nevada Township farmer converted his old 6-foot horse-drawn Minnesota grain binder into a “windrower” by disengaging and removing the tying mechanism of the binder and removing the bundle carriage of the binder.  This binder had been manufactured by the Minnesota Prison Industries located in the Minnesota State Prison at Stillwater, Minnesota.  Being a horse-drawn Minnesota grain binder was a “ground-driven” machine rather than a tractor-powered binder.  Rather than obtaining power from the “power take-off shaft” of a tractor, this ground-driven binder was powered by a large “bull wheel” or drive wheel.  The large metal wheel operated the binder as it was being towed, either by a tractor or horses.

Like most grain binders the cutter bar and feeding platform extended out the left side of the binder.  The large reel of the binder located over the cutter bar turned and each “bat” on the reel gently bent the standing grain over the 6-foot wide cutter bar where the rapidly moving sickle cut the grain.  The cut grain would fall directly onto the feeder platform of the binder.  Wide canvas belts or “drapers” moving across the feeding platform would carry the cut grain to up onto the “binding table” of the grain binder.  Under normal operations the cut grain would accumulate on the binding table and be tied into bundles.  As each bundle was tied, it would be ejected out of the tying mechanism and fall down onto the bundle carriage on the right side of the binder.  When three or four bundles had been dropped into the bundle carriage, the operator riding on the binder would trip the bundle carriage and leave the collection of bundles on the ground.

Now with the binder configured as a windrower, the grain would flow straight across the binding table and out the side of the binder directly onto the ground without any interference by the tying mechanism and the bundle carriage.  Using the binder as a windrower was a one-person operation.  There was no longer a need for a person to ride the binder to trip the bundle carriage.  To pull the binder/windrower, our Nevada township farmer traditionally used his Model 28-44 standard tractor.  This would free up both of his tricycle-style tractors, the Model 70 and the Model 28-17 tractors to continue the cultivation of the row crops while he combined the oats.   Accordingly, he towed the binder/windrower to the oat field with this tractor and lined the binder up to cut the first swathe around the field.  On this first trip around the field, the tractor would be running as close to the fence as possible.  However, the wheels of the tractor would still be running down some of the grain in the swathe nearest the fence.  However on all subsequent trips around the field, the tractor would be rolling along on the stubble of the grain that had been cut on the previous trip around the field.

Once he had the entire field windrowed, he could finally bring the new Model 15 combine to the field.  To pull the combine, he again used the Model 28-44 standard tractor to keep both of his tricycle style tractors free for cultivating corn and soybeans.  As shown by the Model numbers, the Model 28-44 tractor delivered 28 h.p. to the drawbar and 44 h.p. to the belt pulley.  Since the belt pulley horsepower was also a reflection of the horsepower that the tractor would deliver through the power take-off shaft to the Model 15 combine, the tractor had 44 h.p. to deliver to the Model 15 combine.

With the oats all windrowed, our Nevada Township farmer was able to drive his Oliver Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 28-44 towing his new Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster to the oat field in the second week in August of 1947.  Because the cutter bar on the binder protruded off the left side of the binder, the binder was towed around the oat field in a counter-clockwise direction.   However, the cutter bar (with the Innes pickup attachment) was on the right side of the Model 15 Grainmaster combine.  Accordingly, he would pull the combine around the field in a clockwise direction.  From mid-July until mid-August rains ceased almost entirely.  Thus, our Nevada Township farmer was able to get all the oats harvested and stored away in the granary.

The Model 28-44 tractor, hardly, “broke into a sweat” as it towed the Model 15 combine and provided the power to the combine at same time.  Our Nevada Township farmer could see and “feel” the light crop as he combined his oats.  The windrows were not as heavy as the windrows in previous years.  Because of the excessively wet weather of early 1947, the yield of the oat crop over the whole of Mower County was reduced to 33 bushels per acre.  Since 1939, the average oat crop yield per acre in Mower County had been 35.8 bushels per acre.  Thus, the 1947 oat crop yield was down by 8% from a normal year—down by 13% from the 1945 harvest.             Just when our Nevada Township farmer was beginning to wonder if the downing rain of the early summer would be followed by a drought in the late summer, a couple of rains occurred in the third and fourth weeks of August.  These rains were actually welcomed.  The soybeans had been planted so late they actually needed the rains to continue growing.  In September and October, the weather was dry and it was a perfect harvest season.  If only the soybeans would have sufficient time to develop fully.

Having been planted somewhat earlier than the soybeans, the corn was ready to be harvested before the soybeans.  Dry weather in the fall allowed our Nevada Township farmer to get into the field and start harvesting the corn.  He knew that he was taking a risk by doing so.  The snow could come at any moment.  Snow accumulations in the soybean fields would prevent the combine from harvesting of soybeans.  Corn, on the other hand, could be harvested even with snow accumulations on the ground.  Accordingly, all during the time that he was picking corn, our Nevada Township farmer kept checking on the soybeans for dryness.  He would pick a couple pods off a soybean plant, crack the pods open, remove the soybeans, place them in his mouth and chew them.  He wanted a moisture content of around 13% for best harvesting.  Experience had taught him to make pretty close estimate of              the moisture content based on this chew test.  For a really accurate measure of moisture content our Nevada Township farmer would need to send a sample up town to the Hunting elevator for testing.  However, for an approximate test of the dryness, our Nevada Township farmer would chew a few soybeans in his mouth.  If the soybeans split easily in his mouth they were probably around 17% moisture content—too wet to harvest.  If the soybeans were crunchy and somewhat difficult to split by chewing, then they were probably about 13% moisture content.  If the soybeans were “little stones” in his mouth then the moisture content was probably down around 8%.  This was too dry for harvesting.  Indeed, it was not recommended that soybeans be harvested with a moisture content of less than 12% moisture.  Dry soybeans would shatter and there would be a good deal of loss in the field.  With the late planting and development of the soybeans in 1947, our Nevada Township farmer knew that dry beans would not be the problem this year.  The problem was going to be that soybeans would have too high a moisture content due to the lack of time for growth and ripening.

The first killing frost of 1947 occurred in early November.  After the killing frost, the leaves of the soybean plants dried up to a brown color and tended to fall off the plant altogether.  This left only the dark brown stem of the soybean plant covered with dark pods.  With his own combine, he would be able to get into the field just as soon as the soybeans dried out properly.  This was one major improvement over the past years.  Still he kept on working on the corn from day-to-day waiting on the soybeans.  Thus, he was able to get all the corn harvested and stored away in the corn crib before the soybeans were dry enough to be harvested according to his chewing test.  The amount of corn harvested revealed that the corn had recovered somewhat from the downing rain of the early summer.  Still our Nevada Township farmer found that his corn crop yield had been damaged by the drowning rains in the early summer.  He estimated that his corn crop yield was down by 10% from an average year.  He would have to wait until the  corn crop was shelled out in February or March of the coming year to be sure what his corn crop had yielded per acre.

Accordingly, in the middle of November 1947, once all the ear corn was harvested and stored safely away in the corn crib, our Nevada Township farmer could start preparing the Model 15 combine for the soybean harvest.  He removed the Innes pickup from the header of the combine, replaced the sickle into the cutter bar of the combine and re-attached the reel on the header immediately over the cutterbar.

Last summer while harvesting the oats our Nevada Township farmer had kept the cylinder speed at 1,300 r.p.m.  To reach this speed, he had positioned the two main pulleys on the combine so that the larger pulley was the “drive” pulley and the smaller pulley was the “driven” pulley.  This had allowed the cylinder speed of the combine to operate in the range of between 1,000 revolutions per minute (r.p.m.) and 1,400 r.p.m.  Both of these main pulleys were “split pulleys” that could be adjusted on their respective axle shafts to reach any speed within that range.  As the two halves of the pulley were adjusted closer toward each other, the large “v-belt” connecting the two pulleys would ride higher on the pulley.  This changed the effective diameter of the pulley and, indeed, made the pulley a larger pulley.  Naturally, as the two halves of the pulleys were adjusted further from each other—the pulley would become a smaller pulley.  By this means the cylinder speed of the combine could be adjusted to any speed within the range of 1,000 r.p.m. to 1,400 r.p.m.

However, for soybeans the cylinder speed of the combine needed to be slowed down considerably—probably to a speed of 800 r.p.m. or less.  Thus, our Nevada Township farmer removed the two main pulleys of the combine and reversed their positions so that the smaller pulley was now the “drive” pulley and the larger pulley was the “driven” pulley.  According to the Operating Instructions for his Oliver Model 15, swapping the pulleys like this should reduce the cylinder speed of the combine to a range of between 450 r.p.m. to 1,100 r.p.m.  The reason for reducing the cylinder speed when harvesting soybeans was to avoid shattering the soybeans.  As noted earlier (See the second article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County [Part II]: Soybeans”), shattered soybeans could not be processed as efficiently as whole soybeans.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer would be “docked” in the price, he received at the Hunting Elevator for his beans if there was an excessive amount of shattering in the crop that he delivered to the elevator.

Now with the new Grainmaster combine ready for the soybeans, our Nevada Township farmer started up his Model 70 Oliver row-crop tractor to hitch up to the combine.  The Model 70 tractor was finally free of the front-mounted cultivator that had been attached to the tractor all summer long.  Our Nevada Township farmer wanted to use the Model 70 tractor while combining because of its modern features.  The Model 70 created 28.46 h.p. at the belt pulley/power take-off shaft and 22.72 h.p. at the drawbar.  So the Model 70 would have less power available for powering the combine than his Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 28-44 standard tractor.  But the Model 70 tractor was much easier to steer and was more convenient because of the electric starting, as opposed to the hand crank on the Model 28-44.  Furthermore, the electric lights on the Model 70 tractor would allow him to combine soybeans into the evening and night during the short days of late fall.  The 70 had two headlights pointed forward and a headlight mounted on the rear of the tractor was turned to the right side of the tractor where it would shine directly on the cutterbar and feeder of the combine.  This would allow him to combine into the dark until the dew began to settle on the plants again for the evening.

After greasing the Grainmaster, our Nevada Township farmer drove the Model 70 tractor to the soybean field pulling the Grainmaster.  He was followed by his younger son driving the drove the Model 18-27 (dual wheel) pulling their old steel wheeled wagon with the Birdsell triple grain box.  This old wagon box had been made by the Birdsell Manufacturing Company from South Bend, Indiana.  Although originally, Birdsell grain boxes had been sold through the Oliver dealership network, in 1931 the Birdsell Company itself had been sold to the Allis-Chalmers Company.  When our Nevada Township farmer had first purchased this wagon at a local farm auction, the Birdsell grain box was mounted on a wagon gear with large wooden spoke wheels.  The wagon gear had the typical “fifth wheel” type of steering common to horse drawn wagons.  One of the disadvantages of this old wagon gear with its fifth wheel type steering, was that when turning the front wheels swiveled a single pivot in the center of the front bolster.  Accordingly, on any sharp turn the front wheel of the wagon needed to fit under the wagon box to complete the sharp turn.  However, the wooden spoke wheels were so large that they could not fit under the wagon box.  Accordingly, the wagon could not turn a sharp corner with the original wooden spoke wagon gear.  Even on gradual turns the front wheels would constantly rub against the side of the grain box.

Accordingly, after he had begun to use tractors on his farm, our Nevada Township farmer had moved the old Birdsell triple grain box off the old wooden spoke wagon gear and onto a new Oliver/Electric steel wheeled wagon gear that he purchased from the Thill Implement dealership in Rose Creek, Minnesota (1940 pop. 261).  This steel wheeled wagon gear had smaller wheels with steel spokes and had an automotive type of steering.  Thus, the front wheels on this new wagon gear were small enough to fit under the wagon box if there had been a need while the wagon was turning.

Now while his son parked the tractor and wagon outside the gate to the field, our Nevada Township farmer drove the Model 70 tractor and pulled the Grainmaster combine through the gate and into the soybean field.  To “open” the soybean field, our Nevada Township farmer our Nevada Township farmer backed the combine up against the fence to line the header of the combine to harvest the third and fourth rows of the eight end rows.  Maneuvering, the tractor and combine around to line the header up with these two rows meant running over a certain amount of soybean plants with the wheels of the tractor and the combine.  This, of course, meant a certain amount of loss of crop.  Still the small size of the Grainmaster Model 15 made the combine much easier to maneuver with less crop loss than had occurred the previous year when his neighbor had harvested the end rows using his large Model 10 Grainmaster.

Next our Nevada Township farmer reached around behind himself to grab the lever on the combine and lowered the header of the combine.  The lowest hanging bean pods on the soybean plants might be only about 2” off the ground.  To harvest all the soybeans, even these low hanging pods our Nevada Township farmer lowered the header on the combine so that the cutter bar would “shave the ground.”  Next, he engaged the power take-off (p.t.o.) on the tractor.  As he released the clutch on the tractor the combine shook as it came to life.  Then he pressed the clutch pedal with his left foot, the power take off was disengaged and the combine ceased operating while our Nevada Township farmer shifted the tractor into first gear.  As he released the clutch again, the combine started operating again as the tractor started moving forward.

With the soybeans planted in 40 inch rows the six (6) foot cutterbar on the Grainmaster could cut and harvest two rows of soybeans as combine passed across the width of the field, harvesting the third and fourth end rows.  As he did so the wheels of the tractor and the combine were able to drive down the spaces between the fifth and sixth rows of the eight end rows on this near end of the field.  So these rows were not damaged by the wheels running directly over soybean plants.  Still a certain amount of loss crop was incurred as the dried soybean plants passed under the hitch of the combine.

Reaching the other side of the field, our Nevada Township farmer disengaged the p.t.o. and reached around behind himself to pull the lever located on the hitch of the combine to raise the header.   Then he backed the tractor and combine around to harvest the fifth and sixth rows.  This time the tractor would pass over the stubble of the rows he had just combined.  Before starting out again with the combine, stopped the tractor, disengaged the p.t.o. and dismounted the tractor to check the condition of the soybeans that he was gathering in the grain tank of the combine.  He was pleasantly surprised to see that the crop was quite clean and free of trash.  Furthermore, there was hardly any splitting of the soybeans.  Apparently, the cylinder speed was correct.  He also checked the straw and waste material that was coming out of the back of the combine.  There appeared to be no soybeans or un-threshed soybean pods among the straw.  The combine was apparently doing a thorough job of getting all the soybeans threshed.

After checking on these things, our Nevada Township farmer remounted the operator’s seat of the Model 70 tractor and engaged the p.t.o. and shifted the tractor into gear and started forward again.  Another pass across the end rows and return, meant that all the end rows on the near end of the field had been harvested.  Now his younger son could drive the Model 18-27 tractor and the wagon into the soybean field and park the tractor and wagon next to the fence.  Before attempting to start across the length of the field with the new combine, our Nevada township farmer pulled the combine along side the grain wagon.  He reached around behind himself to disengage the clutch on the combine.  Then he dismounted the tractor and walked back to the left side of the combine.  He positioned the grain tank unloading elevator to reach over into the wagon.  Reaching down under the grain tank he pushed down the elevator control lever to engage the unloading elevator.  Then he mounted the operator’s seat of the tractor and engaged the power take-off on the tractor again.  When he let out the clutch pedal again, the p.t.o. shaft began spinning, but the only the grain unloading elevator on the combine began operating.  Soybeans soon began flowing out of the end of the unloading elevator into the wagon.      Once the 20-bushel grain tank of the combine was entirely emptied into the wagon, our Nevada Township farmer disengaged the p.t.o. then dismounted the tractor to re-positioned the unloading elevator back into its transport position and pull up on the elevator control lever to disengage the unloading elevator.  He instructed his youngest son to follow the combine with the Oliver 18-27 and the wagon to the opposite end of the field.  While he felt that he might be able to complete a “full round” (two complete lengthwise passes of the field) with the combine before emptying the grain tank, he knew upon reaching the other end of the field he would need to harvest the end rows on the far end of the field in addition to making a return trip full round.  He was unsure whether he could do all this without unloading the 20-bushel grain tank.  Just to be sure, he would empty the grain tank at the other end of the field and then his son could return to the near end of the field and park the tractor and wagon.  After that he should be able to empty his tank after each round until the wagon was full.

Now, our Nevada Township farmer drove the Model 70 around to line the combine up with two rows in the middle of the field.  Here, he would again have the wheels of the tractor pass down the space between the neighboring rows.  While avoiding running over those two rows, the hitch of the combine would again cause some damage to the bean plants in those two rows.  However, on his return trip he would drive the tractor down the stubble of the rows he was now harvesting.  His field would then be “open” and on each succeeding round of the field he would be able to drive over the stubble and would not need to damage any other rows of un-harvested crop.  Our Nevada Township farmer would combine up one side of this pathway of stubble across the center of the field and return down the other side.  The pathway of stubble across the field would become wider and wider with each round, he would make across the field.

The Operating Instructions for the combine which had come with the Oliver Model 15 combine recommended that the tractor powering the combine be operated at “wide open” full throttle.  Consequently, as he started out on his first trip across the field he started out with his tractor in first gear.  With the throttle wide open, the ground speed of the Model 70 tractor was 2.56 miles per hour (m.p.h.).  Our Nevada Township farmer could see that at this speed, the reel over the cutter bar was turning a little too fast.  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer shifted the Model 70 up into second gear.  Second gear allowed the tractor to pull the combine across the field at a top speed of 3.47 m.p.h.

Reaching the far end of the soybean field, our Nevada Township farmer combined all the end rows on the far end of the field.  Then he emptied the grain tank again into the wagon.  Then he told his younger son to take the Oliver 18-27 and wagon back across the field over the narrow pathway of stubble extending across the field.  He then told his younger son to park the wagon and tractor on the “near” end of field and take a sample of the soybeans from the wagon and have it tested uptown.  The younger son, shifted the old Model 18-27 into high gear, and headed off down the narrow strip of stubble to the opposite end of the side of the field at 4.15 m.p.h.  Then he turned the tractor off, collected a sample of soybeans from the wagon and walked the jar of beans up to the house and got the keys to the family Chevrolet Sedan and drove the nine miles to Lyle where the Hunting elevator tested the sample tested for moisture content.

Our Nevada Township farmer followed his son down the stubble, harvesting the next two rows.  Upon reaching the near end of the field, he emptied the grain tank and head back over the field harvesting the two rows on the opposite side of the stubble pathway.  After every “round” of the field, our Nevada Township farmer would disengage the p.t.o. shaft on the Model 70 tractor and taxi over to where the wagon was sitting.  There he again positioned the grain unloading elevator over the wagon and then disengage the hand clutch on the combine so that only the elevator would be powered by the tractor and then he would engage the tractor’s p.t.o. again.  Each time the soybeans flowed out the end of the unloading elevator and into the wagon until the wagon was full.  As he came back across the field with the combine and the grain tank filling with soybeans, he looked out and saw that his younger son had already driven the old 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck out to the soybean field.  He could see his son in the back of the truck sweeping all the debris out of the truck, in preparation for loading the truck bed with soybeans.

As our Nevada Township farmer parked the combine beside the truck, he heard the report from his youngest son that the Hunting elevator found the moisture content of these soybeans was right at 13%.  Our Nevada Township smiled.  His “chewing test” had been proved correct.  This meant that the beans would be not be “docked” in price because the moisture content of the soybeans were higher than the 13.5% allowed.  Moisture content of more than 13.5% created a chance that the soybeans would mold and spoil while in storage.

Now his second son would be able to take the Model 18-27 and the wagon up to the house and hitch the wagon on to the back of the family Chevrolet Sedan and take the wagon load of soybeans to the elevator.  In the past, when he had no combine of his own, our Nevada Township farmer had worried, as he waited for his neighbor to show up with the custom combine his soybeans would become too dry to harvest or that the snow would come and prevent the harvest altogether.  At this stage of dryness, harvesting the soybeans would result in excessive splitting of the soybeans.  As noted above, if he delivered soybeans to the Hunting elevator in Lyle with an excessive amount of splitting among the soybeans, the price of the soybeans he received would be docked.

Due to the late planting this year, our Nevada Township farmer was faced with the opposite problem.  This year his soybeans might be docked in price because they are too high in moisture content of the soybeans might be too “rubbery” or high in moisture content.  At the end of the day when the grain wagon was full of beans, our Nevada Township farmer told his son to drive the Model 18-27 and the tractor up to the building site and park the wagon in the alley of the corn crib until they could determine what to do about the soybeans.

That very night the temperatures fell down to 10º F and during the days that followed in middle part of November, the temperatures remained cold enough that the ground froze solid.  Our Nevada Township farmer welcomed the cold weather.  The frozen ground also presented no problems.  The frozen ground provided a firm base in the fields for the tractors and machinery.  Better to have a frozen ground, rather than the muddy quagmire of the 1946 harvest.

Each day that passed dried the beans still more.  When combining the next day, he kept checking the soybeans in the grain tank his combine.  If he noticed an unusual amounts of split soybeans in the grain tank, he adjusted the pulleys on the combine, right there in the soybean field, to slow the cylinder speed of the combine, still slower.

This year the harvest was moving along perfectly—so far.  However, our Nevada Township farmer was worried that the cold weather may portend the coming of snow.  If an early snow storm occurred it could prevent him prom completing the soybean harvest.  At noon while eating dinner and in the evening after milking the cows he listened to the weather reports on Austin’s own KAAL radio at 1480 kilocycles (kc) on the radio band.  Luckily, he had not heard anything about snow—so far.   Our Nevada Township farmer also turned the radio back to 830 kc.  This was WCCO radio out of Minneapolis.  Broadcasting at 50,000 watts WCCO could be heard far beyond the boundaries of Minnesota.  Thus, WCCO advertised itself as the radio of the entire “Great Upper Midwest” region of the United States.  He listened to this station for any weather changes over the broader area of the Midwest region which might come his way.

The average yield of soybeans in Mower County was only 13 bushels per acre—down 13.3% from the previous year.  However, now in November of 1947, the price of soybeans had reached $3.44 per bushel a new record high price—up 30¢ per bushel from November of 1946.  Our Nevada Township farmer expected that any day the price would fall with the soybeans coming to market.  Accordingly he intended to sell whatever he could straight from the field before the market price fell.  Thus, he told his younger son to bring their old Chevrolet ¾ ton truck out to the field and leave it beside the wagon and then when the wagon was full he would tell his second son to take the wagon to the Hunting elevator in Lyle, Minnesota.  While his son was gone to Lyle, our Nevada Township farmer would continue to combine soybeans and empty the grain tank into the back of the truck until his son returned.

His son drove the tractor and the wagon to the yard and unhitched the tractor and hitched the wagon hitched behind the family car.  It was a slow trip to Lyle with the steel-wheeled wagon.  Rather than drive down U.S. #218 with the wagon, he took the “back way.”  U.S. #218 was paved and would have some pretty fast traffic with a lot of semi-trucks.  It might be dangerous going that way.  The back way offered gravel roads the whole way to Lyle and promised much less traffic.  With the steel-wheeled wagon rattling along over the frozen gravel roads behind the car, the youngest son could only travel at about 15 miles per hour (mph).   The trip took about half an hour to reach Lyle with the load of soybeans.  It was one of those cold, crisp days of winter with not a stitch of snow to be seen on the ground.  The temperature had dipped down to almost 10º F last night.  However, now the sun was shinning and it was warming up to nearly 30º F.  The back way to Lyle brought him into town from the east on the road past the high school which intersected with U.S. #218 just north of Attlesey blacksmith shop.  Then, it would be just a matter of crossing #218 which ran north and south through town.  The Hunting elevator was located south of the intersection on the west side of #218.   Along the west side of west of #218 to the north of the elevator there was a large space of land where trucks and wagons lined up waiting on their turn to get into the elevator.  There was a large line up today.  It seemed that everybody was selling soybeans.  Everybody had the same fear that the price of soybeans would fall before they could sell their soybeans.

As noted above, soybeans had not stopped climbing in price since the end of the war.  Currently the high prices for soybeans had three principal supports.  The first support was the continuing growth of new markets for the peacetime use of plastics made from soybeans.  Secondly, there was a nationwide decrease in the number of soybeans coming into the market in 1947 due to the poor crop nationwide caused by the wet weather and late planting of the soybean crop.  This lack of supply tended to raise the price of soybeans.  Thirdly, there had been a general rise in all farm commodity prices ever since this last June, when Secretary of State William C. Marshall had addressed the 1947 graduating class at Harvard University outlining the new plan to aid Europe which would bear his name—the Marshall Plan.  Soybean and corn prices rose significantly anticipating that corn and soybeans would make up a large portion of this aid to Europe.  Indeed, corn had prices had set a new all-time record high price of $2.10 in June of 1947.

While he waited in the line of trucks and wagons, the younger son had a chance to talk with some of the young men working at the Hunting elevator.  Some of them he had known since he was in high school.  Many of the staff at the Hunting elevator were, like himself, returning war veterans.  When it was his turn to enter the elevator alleyway, the younger son edged the car forward until he pulled the front wheels of the wagon on to the lift located in the alleyway.  Then he unhitched the wagon and drove the car forward off the scales which formed a major portion of alleyway of the elevator.  Now the wagon full of soybeans was weighed and the total weight was recorded on a slip of paper.  Then the staff working at the elevator took a sample of the soybeans out of the wagon to test for dryness and split or shattered soybeans.  Then they opened the tailgate of the old Birdsell grain box and let the soybeans fall out of the wagon and into a grate on the floor of the alleyway.  A large auger under the grate was engaged which pulled the soybeans to a large hopper under the floor where, hidden from view a large vertical elevator would lift the soybeans up to the top of a storage silo.  There the soybeans would wait until they were loaded into a box car of the Chicago-Milwaukee and St. Paul (Milwaukee Road) railroad which passed through Lyle in a north-south direction.  The Milwaukee Road train tracks  were located immediately behind the Hunting elevator with a separate track siding close to the elevator on which boxcars could be parked for loading and unloading.  The Hunting elevator would ship the soybeans to a market (terminal) elevator in either Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; or St. Paul, Minnesota, where ever the Hunting elevator could find the best price for the soybeans.

Once the soybeans would no longer flow out of the wagon, the staff at the elevator proceeded to push a button on the wall of the alleyway which activated an electric motor and winch which raised the lift under the front wheels of the wagon to allow the rest of the soybeans to flow out the tail gate of the Birdsell grain box.  When the wagon was empty of soybeans the lift was lowered and the empty wagon was weighed and this weight was subtracted from the earlier weight.  This provided the Hunting elevator with a accurate figure of the number weight in pounds (lbs.), of the soybeans contained in this wagon load.  Divide this weight by 52.2 lbs. (the weight of a bushel of soybeans) and the number of bushels of soybeans in the wagon could be determined.  This is how our Nevada Township farmer would be paid for his soybean crop.  Once the wagon was empty, the younger son backed the car up to the wagon and hitched it up to the wagon and pulled away from the elevator and headed home again.  In the yard of the farm he once again unhitched the car from the wagon and hitched the wagon to the Oliver 18-27 and headed for the soybean field once more.  Upon reaching the soybean field again he parked the wagon and tractor.  He noted that their old Chevy truck was now full of soybeans.  He checked his watch and saw that he would have enough time to deliver this truck load of soybeans to the elevator, but first he would wait on his father to complete the current round with the combine.  His father would want to hear if there were any changes in the prices at the elevator.  Each time his son returned from the Hunting elevator, our Nevada Township farmer would inquire about the prices and each time he was pleasantly surprised to hear that the price was remaining steady.  They were still receiving about $3.44 per bushel for the soybeans.  So it went all during the soybean harvest until all the soybeans were harvested and sold to the Hunting elevator.

The last of the soybeans were combined just the day before Thanksgiving in 1947.  As put the combine away in its spot in the machine shed and walked toward the house, he noticed some snow flakes.  It had started to snow.  It snowed all night and in the morning there was six inches of snow covering the ground.  This was the start of a very cold and “closed” (large accumulations of snow) winter of 1947-1948.  He had finished his combining just in the nick of time.  Any soybeans left in the field that night would have been lost.  He credited the new little Grainmaster combine with saving the soybean crop.  He shuttered to think what would have happened if he had been forced to wait on his neighbors custom combine to harvest the soybeans.  He might have lost the whole soybean crop.  Considering the high price of soybeans at this time, that would have been a big loss to the family income.  The new Grainmaster combine had certainly proved its worth in its very first year on the farm.

As he sat down in the house and figured up his crop yield, according to the slips his son had brought home from the elevator, he could see that the wet weather of the spring and early summer had taken a toll on his crop.  All across Mower County it was the same story.  There had been a 13% decline his soybean yield in Mower County in 1947.  However, the high price farmers were now receiving for their soybeans more than made up for the loss of yield.   Once again, soybeans had saved the family income.  Not only did the high price of soybeans save them from a loss in income caused by the low soybean yield, it also helped recover some of the losses he had suffered in his corn yield in 1947.  Once again, just as in 1945, diversification, and specifically diversification into soybeans, had saved the day.

Oliver Farming in Mower County Minnesota (Part III): After the War

Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota (Part III):

After the War

     by

Brian Wayne Wells

 

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In the post-World War II period, the Oliver Farm Equipment Company began experimentation on a proto-type of a new tractor. The experimental tractor was called the XO-121.

The end of the Second World War in September of 1945 brought about sudden changes in the farm equipment market.  During the war, farm equipment companies all across the United States had been severely restricted in the amount of farm tractors and equipment they had been allowed to make.  With the end of the war, these companies were scrambling to re-tool for civilian production.

Through out the rural areas of the United States, farmers, who had been unable to obtain any new farm machinery during now flooded their local farm equipment dealers to buy new farm equipment as it became available.  One of the farmers seeking to modernize his farming operation with new farm equipment was a particular farmer in Nevada Township, in southern Mower County, Minnesota.              As noted earlier (see the previous article in this series of articles “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part II]: Soybeans” contained at the blog on this website), out Nevada Township farmer had in the spring of 1945, joined the growing number of farmers across the United States who were planting soybeans.  Experiments in raising soybeans had been going on for many years prior to the war.  However, only with the massive new demand for plastic for the production of cowlings, turrets and windscreens for modern aircraft for the war effort, did the simple little soybean become a large nationwide farm product.  Accordingly, the price of soybeans rose from its pre-war level of around 90¢ per bushel to a high of $2.10 per bushel in November of 1945.

Our Nevada Township farmer realized the value of diversifying his farming operation into the production of soybeans almost immediately in the fall of 1945.  The growing season of 1945 had proved to be a dry season with insufficient rain for the crops.  Our Nevada Township farmer corn crop had suffered.  He harvested about 1/3 corn less in 1945 than in a normal year because of the dry conditions.  Because the drought seemed to be localized to southern Minnesota, there was no large drop off in production of corn nationwide which might have resulted in higher prices for corn harvested in 1945.  Therefore, our Nevada Township farmer and his neighbors in the drought area of southern Minnesota suffered a double blow.  They did not have much crop to bring to market and the smaller crop they had did not bring a price high enough to offset the reduced volume of crop.  This situation might have put a real strain on his farm income and budget for the coming year, 1946, had it not been for the soybean crop.  The 1945 soybean crop had weathered the dry growing season in better shape than the corn.  As a result, there was only a 9.4% decline in the soybean harvest on his farm.  Furthermore, the price of soybeans actually rose to a new record high level in the fall of 1946.  This higher price was sufficient to offset the loss felt by our Nevada Township farmer to his farm income caused by the drought of 1945.  So the diversification into soybeans had saved the farm income from a loss in 1945.

As he looked to the future, however, our Nevada Township farmer was worried.  Like everyone else, he had come to think of plastics as only a wartime product.  He did not see any peacetime use for plastics.  Thus, he expected soybean prices to fall with the end of the war.  There were, however, reports that the industry was finding new peacetime uses for plastics.  Our Nevada Township farmer was skeptical of these forecasts—thinking them just so much wishful thinking.  However, he could not argue with the fact that the price of soybeans remained high throughout the winter of 1945-1946 and into the early spring of 1946.  Based on this continued high price of soybeans, our Nevada Township farmer determined to plant soybeans again on his farm in the spring of 1946.  However, he remained uneasy about the future of soybeans and as a result he planted only the same amount of acres to soybeans as he had planted the previous spring—in 1945.

In the coming growing season, 1946, our Nevada Township farmer could look forward to having more help on his farm.  His two grown sons had been away at war in the Pacific Theater.  He and his wife were extremely thankful when the war in the Pacific had ended and the news arrived that both sons would be home in time for Thanksgiving.  Accordingly, Thanksgiving of 1945 was glorious.  Our Nevada Township farmer and his wife could not help noticing how the boys had changed.  They were much more mature.  They were no longer boys.  They each had their own ideas about things.  Our Nevada Township farmer now faced some discontent from his sons regarding the farming operation.  His sons wanted to upgrade the farming operation by getting some new tractors and new farm equipment.  His sons encouraged him to trade in both old tractors on a new post-war tractor with electric starting, electric lights, hydraulics, rubber tires and faster speeds.  Our Nevada Township farmer resisted making any new purchases of arm equipment this year.  Despite the continuing high soybean prices, he was still unsure how crop prices would be maintained now that the war was over.  At the end of the First world war in 1918, there had been a severe economic downturn in the economy that had lasted through 1921.  He thoroughly expected another such economic recession following this most recent world war.  Still, he did, however, have one improvement in mind.

The end of the war now meant that rubber was now available for civilian manufacture.  During the winter of 1945-46, after rubber tires became available, again.  Our Nevada Township farmer sought to convert his 1937 Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 28-44 tractor over to rubber tires.  This tractor was old now and, as a standard tractor, was outdated, but it had been his first tractor and he was somewhat partial to it.  He didn’t really want to part with it.  The Oliver Farm Equipment Company had been offering a conversion to rubber tires as a package deal for the Model 28-44 since 1935.  The cost of this package had been $353.00 plus the cost of labor in 1935.  Now in 1946, the price was higher due to inflation.  This was more than our Nevada Township farmer wished to spend, but he did have another idea.  While he did go to Thill Implement to purchase new rims for rubber tires for the front end of the tractor, he jacked up the rear end of his Model 28-44 tractor and removed the steel wheels from the rear of the tractor and loaded them into the back of his 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck.  He drove the truck with the wheels to the Attlesey Blacksmith Shop in Lyle, Minnesota.  As noted earlier, Harry Attlesey owned this blacksmith shop on the north end of town.  (See the second article in this series of articles “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part II]: Soybeans” contained at the blog on this website.)

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Even though fitted with rubber tires the old Oliver-Hart-Parr Model 28-44 remained a slow tractor–moving at 4.33 mph in road gear.

Over the winter of 1945-1946, however, Harry had been making a good income from cutting the outer steel bands (or “tires”) off of steel wheels of various tractors and welding new open rims for rubber tires onto the centers of those same wheels.  In this way, rubber tires could then be mounted onto the rear tractor wheels.  Harry now did this for the wheels brought to him by our Nevada Township farmer.  He cut the flat-spoke centers out of the steel wheels and welded the centers to the inside of a 28 inch rim which was 12 inches wide.  Each rim was now ready for the mounting of a 12.75 x 28” rubber tire and the corresponding tube. These are the same size of tires that were part of Oliver’s rubber tire upgrade package.  However, the price of cutting down the rear wheels and welding the rims on the centers of those wheels was much less than the Oliver package deal, because he did not have to purchase the new hubs and centers for the rear wheels.  Once the rear wheels with rubber tires were mounted again back on the tractor, the old Model 28-44 tractor surely did ride smooth.  However, the smooth ride seemed to accentuate the extremely slow speeds of the Model 28-44.  Top speed was still only 4.33 miles per hour.

Our Nevada Township farmer had also had the steel rear wheels on his 1935 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tricycle style tractor cut down and had 38” rims welded on these cut-down centers.  He then mounted 10.00 by 38” rubber tires mounted on the rear of this tractor.  Once again, the ride on the new rubber tires was smooth, but extremely slow.  The top speed of the 18-27 was 4.15 mph.

While the purchase of the “standard” or “four-wheel” style Model 28-44 had allowed our Nevada Township farmer to reduce the number of horses on his farm, the Model 28-44 could not be used for the cultivation of the row crops—corn and soybeans.  Only the purchase of the tricycle-style Model 18-27 in 1943, finally allowed him to totally mechanize his farming operation.  The tricycle style Model 18-27 had been specifically designed for the cultivation of row crops.

However, both of these tractors were “pre-war” tractors and were not fitted with adequate speeds, electric start or hydraulics like the modern post-war tractors that were now being produced by various farm equipment companies.  As his sons continued to agitate about getting a more modern tractor, our Nevada Township farmer began to feel that perhaps he should get another tractor.  He might purchase a new tractor at Thill Implement in Rose Creek, Minnesota (1940 pop. 261).  To hold the price down on a new or used tractor, he might trade the old Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tractor in on the purchase of another tractor.  However, with both sons and himself able to start the field work this coming spring, he knew that he would need a third tractor.

As the winter wore on he began to ponder his need for a third tractor.  As a result, he began to attend the winter auctions again.  Sure enough he found an auction bill that offered a 1941 Oliver Model 70 for sale.  When it was introduced in 1935, the Model 70 had been a very modern looking and streamlined tractor, complete with sheet metal side-curtains covering the engine. However, in 1937, the Model 70 was re-styled to become even more streamlined looking.  The Model 70 at the auction was one of these new “late-styled” Model 70s with a rounded yellow grill with a red nose strip down the center of the grill.

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Extremely colorful in its own right, the “late styled” Oliver 70 tractor was even more colorful when the Oliver mounted two-row cultivator was attached to the tractor.

At the auction, our Nevada Township farmer observed that the Model 70 was fitted with factory-installed rubber tires front and rear, had the optional electrical lights and an electrical starter.  The tractor also had a six-speed transmission with a road gear of 13.44 miles per hour.  He felt that his sons would really enjoy this tractor.  This tractor was as just as good as a new tractor.  It contained many of the same features his sons had been wanting in a new tractor.  However, many other people at the auction also saw the tractor as the equivalent of a new tractor, the price of the tractor was bid up and up.  It was unbelievable.  Considering the high prices that these “used” tractors were now demanding at auction, a person might as well purchase a new tractor.  Nonetheless, compelled by his desire to keep his sons happy so that they might stay on the farm, our Nevada Township farmer stayed in the bidding.  In the end, despite the high price, he became the owner of the tractor.  Now it was time to settle up with the bank clerking the auction.

The current bank in Lyle, Minnesota is in the same building and location as the old Farmers State Bank.
The current bank in Lyle, Minnesota is in the same building and location as the old Farmers State Bank.

The Farmers State Bank of Lyle was clerking the auction.  Indeed 29 year-old Gwenith Gislason, clerk at the Farmers State Bank; and, incidentally, daughter of Alfred Perl Garantz owner of the bank, was present at the auction representing the bank.  Although Gwenith lived in Austin with her husband, C.J. Gislason, she continued to work at her father’s bank in Lyle.  (In a few years, following her parent’s retirement and their move to Pinellas, Florida, Gwenith would take over the reins of ownership of the bank in place of her father.)  The Farmers State Bank in Lyle was the bank at which our Nevada Township farmer did his banking.  He knew Gwenith and her father.  Our Nevada Township farmer was learning that Gwenith was starting to speak with the authority of her father on the bank’s behalf.  Still he preferred dealing with her father, a male who was more closely his own age and, indeed, was older than himself.

In situations like this, Gwenith recognized the problem and graciously deferred to her father and told our Nevada Township farmer that she would okay the financial arrangements concluded at the sale and let our Nevada Township farmer talk with her father at the bank the next time he was in Lyle.  She knew as much about our Nevada Township farmer’s financial situation as did her father—probably more.  She knew her father would no doubt agree with her decision to okay the sale on the spot and would no doubt approve of her charade of deferring to him in this instance.

Accordingly, on these casual arrangements, our Nevada Township farmer settled up with the bank at the auction and went home to his farm.  His sons were excited about the prospect of working with a “new” modern tractor.  The next day, he took his two sons and drove back to the site of the auction.  One of the sons was assigned the task of driving the Oliver 70 back home.  February of 1946 had been colder than usual and this day was no exception.  Although the roads had been cleared of snow there were still large snow drifts in the ditch and on the fields of the farms along the way back to their home farm.  Thus, it promised to be a cold 12-mile ride along back roads to bring the tractor back home.  Even at the top speed of almost 13½ mph the trip would still take almost an hour.  Still his sons argued over who would have the privilege of driving the tractor back to the farm.  This argument was resolved by a flip of a coin.  The eldest son won the toss of the coin and drove the tractor home.

After the cold month of February, March of 1946 was incredibly warm with temperatures up into the 60’s for a good deal of the month and even up into the 70’s during the last full week of the month.  “April showers” are proverbially expected to about “bring May flowers.”  However,owH in April of 1946 showers were a precious commodity.  Indeed the showers were almost non-existent throughout the month of April.  Due to the warm weather and the lack of rain, field work began early that year.  Now with three tractors engaging in the field work that spring, our Nevada Township farmer was able to get all the crops in the ground early that year.  However, his dreams of continuing to work with both of his sons on the farm, was becoming endangered.

Over the winter months, of 1945-1946, the older of his two sons had been leaving the farm on many Friday and Saturday evenings and returning home late at night.  When he did so, our Nevada Township farmer would comment to his wife that their son was “on the prowl” for a woman.  His wife would disagree and contend that their son was only out with his high school friends.  She had a soft spot in her heart for the eldest son and she was in denial about anything that would mean changes in the family.

When the Second World War ended, many families traded in their pre-war cars on the purchase of newer post-war automobiles. Here is a 1941 Chevrolet four-door that our Nevada Township farmer and his wife traded in on a 1947 Chevrolet Sedan.i
When the Second World War ended, many families traded in their pre-war cars on the purchase of newer post-war automobiles. Here is a 1941 Chevrolet four-door that our Nevada Township farmer and his wife traded in on a 1947 Chevrolet Sedan.i

 

In actual fact, the eldest son had been trying to get back together with his buddies that he had known before the war.  He wanted to recapture some of what he had missed during the time he was in the armed forces.  Accordingly, he dressed up in a white shirt and slacks, slipped on his penny-loafer shoes and put on a winter coat and hat and borrowed the family’s new 1946 Chevrolet Sedan to head out to Cresco, Iowa.  Our Nevada Township farmer and his wife had traded in their old 1941 Chevrolet Sedan in to Usem Chevrolet in Austin, Minnesota (1940 pop. 18,307) on this new car.  This new Chevrolet was so new that it still had that “new car smell.”  New as it was, however, the car had been fitted with most one important option for a farm car.  A trailer hitch protruded from the rear bumper and contained a simple hole, through which a drawbar pin could be inserted while hauling a farm wagon to town.

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A 1947 Chevrolet four-door sedan, like the one purchased by our Nevada Township farmer and his wife.

Currently, the eldest son was pursuing one of his fondest memories from before the war.  He was going roller skating in the large roller skating rink in Osage, Iowa.  This was one of the entertainments he had missed the most while he was in the armed forces.

Today the site of the old Cresco roller skating rink is occupied by a fire department building.
Today the site of the old Cresco roller skating rink is occupied by a fire department building.

With the large roller rink and the movie theater, Osage had long been an entertainment hub for the area.  On any Friday or Saturday night, the downtown area of Osage would fill up with cars as young people from all across northern Iowa and southern Minnesota would gather in Osage to go to the roller rink or to see the latest movie that was playing in the Osage movie theater.   Since his return to the community, he had also engaged in his old hobby of looking at the license plates of Iowa cars and note which county, the car was from.  Every Iowa license plate began with one or two digits on the left side of the plate.  These digits identified the county in which the car had been registered.  There were 99 counties in Iowa and the digits on the license plates identified the counties in alphabetical order. Lyle, Minnesota was located right on the state line and so there had always been plenty of Iowa cars around to “identify” as he grew up.  Most commonly there were cars with “66” on the left side of their license plates.  This was Mitchell County located directly across the Iowa border from the town of Lyle and Mower County in Minnesota.  Mitchell County was referred to as “66 County Iowa.”  Neighboring Howard County to the east was “45 County Iowa.”  Cerro Gordo County to the southwest was 17 County and Worth County to the west was 98 County.  Minnesota also had a designation on their license plates.  However, the first digit on the Minnesota license plates referred to the one of the nine U.S. Congressional Districts the car hailed from in Minnesota.  Therefore, identifying Minnesota license plates was just not as much fun as identifying Iowa license plates.  The congressional districts were so large that the eldest son had rarely seen cars from other areas of Minnesota other than 1st Congressional District (where Nevada Township and Mower County were located) with just a sprinkling of cars from the neighboring 2nd Congressional District.  These were the districts that lay along the Iowa border in Minnesota.  Iowa provided a much more varied selection of cars.  Both Minnesota and Iowa required cars to have license plates on both the front and rear bumpers.  Consequently, the eldest son found himself “identifying” Iowa cars among the oncoming traffic in the twilight as he drove down the paved U.S. 218 highway on his way toward Osage.

Once in Osage, the eldest son tried to find parking on State Street in Osage, which was the main street running east and west through town.  When he could not find parking on State Street, due to the glut of cars in Osage on this particular night, he tried 7th Street both north and south of State Street.  The roller rink was located just west of the intersection of State and 7th Street.  He found parking on south 7th Street.  South 7th Street led off into the residential area of Osage and was not as well lit as the commercial area of State Street and north 7th Street.  Nonetheless, he parked the car and walked to the roller rink and paid his 50¢ admission at the door.  Then he went over to the skate rental desk and told them his shoe size and rented skates of that size for another 25¢.  He sat down and took off his favorite “penny loafers” and slipped into the black high top roller skates and pulled on the laces to tighten the skates around his ankles.  He skated over to the skate rental desk and turned in his penny loafers and received a claim check for the shoes.

Then, he started to skate out onto the rink.  Old memories flowed back as he made his way around the floor.  It did not take long to get back into the swing of skating.  He soon found that he could move easily with the music.  The music was played by an electric organ and amplified by speakers around the rink.  Currently, everyone was skating in a counter-clockwise pattern around the skating rink.  He knew that sometime during the night, about half way until closing time the pattern would be reversed and everyone would be required to skate in a clockwise direction for the balance of the evening.

On his first few visits to the roller rink, he had been attempting to re-capture old times with his male buddies from before the war.  However from the first, he realized that things were not the same as they had been before the war.  Many of his old friends from high school were now married and had their own lives.  So he had begun just going to Osage alone and had been asking girls to skate with around the floor.  At the roller skating rink, over the winter, he met a particular girl from Charles City, Iowa.  He had asked her for a skate around the rink to one song.  That song ended too soon.  So he asked if she wanted another turn around the large rink.  She agreed.  At the conclusion of a couple of more songs, they went to the refreshment stand and he ordered two hot dogs and two Cokes for them to eat.  She asked him if he would prefer a Cherry-Coke with the hot dogs.  He didn’t know what that drink was, but based on her suggestion he was willing to try something new.  So they sat for a while and conversed while they drank their Cherry Cokes and ate their hot dogs.  It seemed so easy to converse with her.  He enjoyed her company.  After eating, they skated some more.  Soon the announcement was made for all skaters to reverse direction.  The eldest son could not believe that half the night had passed already.  Without really knowing it, they had spent most of the night together.

1941 Ford Super Delux Fordor Sedan
A 1940 Ford Super Delux Tudor Sedan

After the last song had been played and the music ceased, he walked her to her car parked on State Street a couple of blocks from the skating rink.  It was her father’s 1940 Ford Tudor Sedan with a license plate indicating that the car was from “34 County Iowa”—Floyd County.  His only prior experience around girls had been in high school at Lyle High School.  Since the war, this part of his life seemed to be part of the distant past.  This girl seemed to be more serious about life than the girls he had known in high school.  Indeed, she was a woman not a “girl.”  She liked to talk about serious things not just conversational chit-chat.  She even seemed serious about roller skating.  Rather than renting skates at the skating rink, she carried her own pair of roller skates to the rink in a little suit case which was specially made for them.  She liked roller skating enough and went to the rink at Osage often enough that she had concluded that she would save money by having her own pair of roller skates rather than renting skates every time—especially now.  Since the end of the war prices were getting ridiculously high.  Renting skates used to be cheaper during the war—now it was a whole 25¢.

He had a good time, but he did not think that the relationship would grow more serious.  He just felt that it was a good friendship.  Nonetheless, when they did on reach her car on that first night of skating, he did inquire whether she would be back at the Osage skating rink next Saturday night and she assured him that she would.

Thus, their friendship went on like this from week to week throughout the winter of 1945-1946.  Early on, the eldest son knew that he could not continue to dominate the family’s new 1946 Chevrolet on the weekends.  Consequently, he made a deal with the Usem Chevrolet dealership in Austin, Minnesota for a used 1939 “pre-war” Oldsmobile Model 80 2-door Business Coupe, which had been sitting on the dealership’s used car lot.  Our Nevada Township farmer had always purchased his cars from the Usem dealership—so it was natural that this was the first place that his eldest son would turn when seeking an automobile.  Our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son liked the looks of this Model 80 Business Coupe—especially the long narrow hood covering the engine.  The hood was long for a reason.  Underneath the hood was an “in-line” eight cylinder engine.  The “straight eight” engine was standard equipment in all Model 80 Oldsmobile, also standard equipment for the Model 80 was the semi-automatic “Safety” transmission.  Oldsmobile had introduced the “Safety” semi-automatic transmission in 1937.  The salesman at Usem told him that only few of these Model 80 Coupes had been made in 1939.  Indeed, although Oldsmobile had made 158,560 cars in the 1939 calendar year—enough to put the company in seventh among all automobile manufacturers for that year—the company had made only 738 Model 80 Business Coupes in 1939.

1939 Oldsmobile Business Coupe
A 1939 “straight eight,” cylinder Oldsmobile Business Coupe like the one purchased by the eldest son of our Nevada Township farmer.

The salesman at the Usem dealership noted that the “safety transmission” had been improved and made a fully automatic transmission in 1940.  This fully automatic transmission was called the “HydraMatic” transmission and was introduced by the General Motors Company into the Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac cars in 1940.  The salesman commented that most new General Motors (G. M.) innovations were introduced first in the Oldsmobile line of cars before they introduced in the other lines of General Motors cars.  The salesman also advised that it was always wise “to avoid buying a car in the first year of a new innovation.”  It was better to wait a year or two after the innovation had been introduced “to allow the ’bugs’ of the new innovation were worked out.”  In this regard, he noted that by 1939, all the bugs in the Oldsmobile safety automatic transmission had been worked out.  Accordingly, this particular Business Coupe was an especially good deal.

This Business Coupe was still fitted with running boards along both sides of vehicle.  Running boards had ceased being standard equipment on Oldsmobiles in 1939.  However running boards had continued to be optional equipment.  Obviously, the first owner of this car had preferred the option of running boards.

Lacking a rear seat the Oldsmobile Business Coupe was designed for only two people.  This particular Business Coup had been used by a traveling salesman.  The Business Coupe was ideal for traveling salesmen.  With its large straight-8 engine, its large 17 gallon gasoline tank, its automatic transmission and its “wide” 6.50 x 16 inch tires, the Oldsmobile Model 80 Business rode comfortably over long distances.  Additionally, there was ample room behind the seat and in the trunk to hold a great deal of merchandise.  This was the type of car that gave Oldsmobile the image of “the Old Man’s dependable work horse.”  Thus, Oldsmobiles were sometimes referred to as “your father’s Oldsmobile.”

In 1939, the new the Model 80 Business Coupe had sold for $920.00.  Now, the seven year-old car was being offered for a price of $300.00.  The car had a lot of miles on it, which accounted for the relatively cheap price.  To buy the car, our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son used some of the money he had received in his last paycheck from the Navy to make a down payment on the car.  Then he obtained a loan for the balance from “Mrs. Gisleson” at the Farmers State Bank in Lyle.  In making these arrangements, the eldest son found that everybody was so anxious to help him out, because he was a returning veteran.

The eldest son had never owned a car before the war.  So this was his first car.  When he arrived at home, he carefully washed all the dust of the dirt roads off the car.  It was the beginning of a life-long love of Oldsmobiles.  Consequently, on his first trip to Osage with the Oldsmobile, he was anxious to show his new girl friend the car and take her for a ride.  She obliged and drove around a little in the Oldsmobile before they went to the movie theater.  Movies played at Osage’s theater usually six months or more after they were initially released.  Accordingly, many of the movies they were seeing in late 1945 were movies that had been released during the war.  On this night they saw Spencer Tracy in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, which had first been released on November 15, 1944.  She liked it and thought the movie informative about the war.  He did not much like it.  Probably, because he had been too close to the war to appreciate a war movie.  On another weekend they saw Pan Americana (1945) which had been released on March 22, 1945.  They both liked this movie.  They also saw Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh (1945) released July 14, 1945.  They both also liked this comedy movie.   They also saw State Fair (1945) released on August 30. 1945.  They both liked this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about the Iowa State Fair.

Back on the farm in Nevada Township in the spring of 1946, field work began earlier than usual due to favorable weather conditions.   The entire month of March was much warmer than normal with temperatures, almost reaching 80ºF in the last week of the month.  Oats were sown into the ground in April and the seedbed was prepared for the corn.  It looked like the corn and soybeans might be planted in May.  However a late season snow storm on the second weekend in May dropped 3 inches of heavy wet snow on the ground, but the temperatures barely got below 30ºF and in the days that followed temperatures reached up to 70ºF.  Thus, the snow lasted for no more than a day before it was all melted.  By the end of May the temperatures were unseasonably warm–85ºF.  Consequently, the temperatures of the soil kept on warming almost in spite of the late season snow.  Accordingly, both the corn and the soybeans were planted before the end of May.

As he had planned in the early spring, our Nevada Township farmer planted the same amount of acreage to soybeans in 1946 as he had in 1945.  Many of his neighbors did the same.  As a result, the total number of acres planted to soybeans in Mower County in 1946 remained the same as it had been the year before.  Although soybean prices had continued at high levels since the end of the war, he was still unsure about the future of this new crop during the post-war era.  His eldest son kept going to Osage nearly every weekend.  The eldest son worked hard during the week to leave time on the weekends for socializing with his new female friend.  He worked in the field during the week and on Saturday but still took his 1939 Oldsmobile south to Osage on Friday or Saturday night every weekend.  Our Nevada Township farmer commented on his energy.

June 1946 proved to be a wet month with a large rain of 1½ to 2 inches each week for the entire month and another 1½ inch rain in the first week of July for good measure.  Barely would the ground dry out and cultivation of the corn and soybeans get started again before another rain would force our Nevada Township farmer and his sons from the fields.  Even with both the Oliver/Hart-Parr 18-27 (dual wheel) and the Oliver Model 70 cultivating in the fields the cultivation of the corn and soybeans occupied most of the summer up until mid-July.  By that time the corn was too tall to be cultivated again and the soybeans were beginning to flower.  Any additional cultivation at this point would do more harm than good for the crops.

Right side view of the mounted cultivator for the Oliver Row Crop Model 70 tractor.
Right side view of the mounted cultivator for the Oliver Row Crop Model 70 tractor.

Following the heavy rain in early-July there was no rain at all until the end of August 1946.  This allowed our Nevada Township farmer and his sons to put up hay, and get the oats windrowed in anticipation of the arrival of their neighbor with his Oliver Model 10 Grainmaster combine to once again do the custom combining of their oat crop.

Also the weather remained bright and shiny for the Mower County Fair which was held from August 5 until August 11, 1946.   As usual the 4-H Exhibits dominated the first two days of the fair.  The Future Farmers of America or FFA Exhibits dominated the second two days of the Fair.  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer took his prize registered purebred Suffolk sheep to the Fair in Austin on Friday afternoon for the last two days of the Fair which was devoted to the “open class” exhibits.  Attendance at the Fair was down from the previous year.  This was a reflection of polio scare that was gripping the public that summer.  Indeed some county fairs, like the 1946 Freeborn County Fair in neighboring Albert Lea, Minnesota to the west and the 1946 Fillmore County Fair in Preston, Minnesota to the east, had been canceled altogether out of fear of the polio contagion.  Indeed, our Nevada Township farmer would not have to worry about going to the Minnesota State Fair this year since he had already heard over the radio that the 1946 State Fair was being cancelled because of the polio scare.  Accordingly, the Mower County Fair would be the only real opportunity he would have to sell some of his purebred ewes this year.

Despite reduced attendance due to the "polio scare" the 1946 Mower County Fair finished in the "black" financially as reported by Fair Borad memger, P. J. Holland in the Austin Herald newspaper.
Despite reduced attendance due to the “polio scare” the 1946 Mower County Fair finished in the “black” financially as reported by Fair Borad memger, P. J. Holland in the Austin Herald newspaper.

By the end of August, 1946, there still had been no rain.  This late in the growing season, however, no rain was needed as the crops in the field were ripening anyway.  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer was looking forward to a good harvest with dry crops and dry ground for the tractors and machinery to drive on.  Anticipating a good harvest in the fall, our Nevada Township farmer was again thinking about how to modernize his farming operation.  Late in August, our Nevada Township farmer noticed an auction sale bill in the Austin Daily Herald which contained a one-row corn picker.  He thought he should attend this auction and see how much the corn picker would bring at auction.  All during the war years, he had relied on custom corn picking to get his corn harvested.  Before the war, one of his neighbors had obtained a one-row corn picker made by the Wood Brothers Company of Des Moines Iowa.  This was the farmer that our Nevada Township farmer hired each year to pick his corn.  However, our Nevada Township farmer wanted to be free to do his own picking of the corn on his farm without having to wait on his neighbor to get done with his other customers.

With this thought in mind, our Nevada Township farmer attended the auction.  The corn picker turned out to be an Oliver No. 3 Corn Master corn picker.  The picker was not that old.  Consequently, the price of this corn picker soon rose to nearly the price of a new corn picker.  The end of the war had not brought enough new machinery out on the market to lower the price of used machinery at auction.  Nonetheless, our Nevada Township farmer stayed in the bidding on the corn picker and in the end became the new owner of the No. 3 Corn Master corn picker.  The price was high, but he comforted himself that the ability to pick his own corn on his own schedule would be worth the price of the corn picker.  The price of corn remained high at $1.97 as a average for the whole month of August, 1946.  The weather remained dry and it looked like a good harvest season ahead.

However, during the first week of September it seemed as though the skies opened up and dumped out rain—as a 2½ inch rain fell in the first week of September, This rain was followed by a succession of heavy rains of two ¾ inch rains on consecutive nights, followed by a 1 inch rain on the third night.  Rains continued steadily until Thanksgiving creating difficulty in harvesting the corn and soybeans.  Paradoxically, the 1946 growing season had yielded a good crop because of the sufficient amounts of rain all summer.  The first killing frosts of the season occurred in early October.  Then the rain had stopped.  This allowed the crops to dry down nicely for harvest.  However, the rains started up again and continued periodically through most of November.  At this point the crops were like money sitting in the field.  It should have been an easy matter to simply collect the money—to get the crop out of the field and safely into the shed.  However, these late season rains were making it difficult to get this money out of the field.  Tractors were, continually, getting stuck as his neighbor with the Model 10 Grain Master combine struggled to pull the large combine through the mud of the soybean fields.  Outside of a 2 inch snow which fell late in November and did not last for more than a day, there was no snow until the middle of December.  As soon as the soybeans were harvested, our Nevada Township farmer and his sons struggled to get the corn in the crib.  Because he now owned his own corn picker, he and his sons were able to get the corn safely harvested and in the corn crib before the snows came.

The corn crop across Mower County yielded 40 bushels, which was about 12% less yield per acre then usual.  This loss was almost entirely due to the difficult harvesting conditions in the fall of 1946.  However, soybeans proved to be the best surprise of the post-war era for American farmers.  Demand for plastics during the war had been so strong that soybean production had established a new nationwide record every year following 1941.  Surprisingly, even with the return of peace, and the loss of military contracts for plastics, the supply of soybeans still could not keep up with the growing new peacetime demand for plastics.  As the soybean harvest of 1946 started to come into the market in the late fall of 1946, it looked like another bumper crop of soybeans.  (Indeed nationwide soybean crop figures would reveal that the 1946 soybean crop would set another record, as 203,395,000 bushels came onto the soybean market.)

Just like the previous year, our Nevada Township farmer had made arrangements to have his soybeans combined by his neighbor with the Model 10 Grainmaster combine.  Just like the prior year, he had begun to worry that the soybeans would suffer losses in the field before he could get the soybeans harvested.  (See the second article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment Part II: Soybeans” contained at this website.)  Our Nevada Township farmer still felt the insecurity of having profit and loss on his crop hanging on someone else’s schedule.  This year a great deal rode on getting his soybean crop out of the field and into the shed.  The bumper crop of soybeans that was being harvested nationally should have depressed the price.  However, despite this new record harvest, the price of soybeans still continued to rise dramatically—reaching a phenomenal $3.14 per bushel in November of 1946.  So the “money” that was sitting in the soybean field, un-harvested, was substantially more than in previous years.

Right side view of Oliver Model 10 Grain Master combine
A right side view of the Oliver Model No. 10 combine.

Luckily our Nevada Township farmer’s neighbor soon arrived on the farm with the Model 10 combine and our Nevada Township farmer was able to get his soybeans out of the field.  Our Nevada Township farmer did not waste any time on hauling the soybeans from the field straight to the Hunting elevator in Lyle, Minnesota, where he sold the entire crop at the highest price he had ever seen for soybeans.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer added a great deal to his annual income for 1946, solely because of the soybean crop.  The soybeans more than made up for any losses he had suffered in the corn crop and for the losses he had suffered because of his limited chance to advertise and sell his purebred Suffolk sheep due to the cancellation of the Minnesota State Fair.  Thus, diversification of his farming operation had proved itself once again in 1946.

Over the summer of 1946, our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son had gotten to know the family of his girl friend.  During the 4th of July she had invited him down to Charles City, Iowa to a family reunion at her parents house.  This was his first visit to her parents.  He got the distinct impression that they were looking him over as a future son-in-law.  He thought this was humorous because it did not fit their relationship at all.  However, he had struck up a good relationship with her father.  Her father was an employee at the Oliver Company tractor factory located in right there in Charles City.  It was fun to hear about the production of tractors, like the Model 70 that was being employed on the farm back in Nevada Township.  Her father had a hobby of woodworking.  He did this work in the basement of the house on the weekends and on holidays from work.  Indeed, he had made some of the furniture and cabinetry in their family home.

In October of 1946, the eldest son reciprocated and in invited his girl friend up to Lyle for the Lyle High School homecoming game held on October 11, 1946.  Lyle was playing Lime Springs for the homecoming game.  The game itself was an exciting football game.  The Lyle Lions eventually won the game by a score of 20 to 18.  However, the eldest son was somewhat distracted from the game by the great number of his old high school classmates who were attending the game and who made a point coming over to see him.  He had fun and reminisced about the good times they had in high school.  He was glad to see that she got along well with everybody she met.  Her outgoing personality made him feel proud to introduce her to his high school classmates.  She seemed at home with any group of people.  Once again, he felt a little awkward, because most people they met assumed that they were soon to be married.  Their relationship was just not that type of relationship.

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The victory of the Lyle High School football team over the Lime Springs, Iowa football team in Lyle’s 1946 Homecoming is reported in the Austin Herald daily newspaper.

Now that the field work on the farm was done for the year, they began to see each other more regularly again meeting in Osage, Iowa.  Sometime before Thanksgiving of 1946, she obtained a job as a bookkeeper for the Gilles Amusement Company in Osage.  The Gilles Amusement Company was owned by William and Theresa (Seibert) Gilles.  Their place of business was located in Osage, only about two blocks from the roller skating rink.  The Gilles Company marketed Wurlitzer wall boxes.  These wall boxes were usually located on the wall at tables in restaurants.  These Wurlitzer wall boxes were connected with a large Wurlitzer juke box which was centrally located in the restaurant.  The wall boxes contained a coin slot and lists of popular songs.  Patrons in the restaurant could simply drop a nickel in the slot of the wall box at their table and press the right keys indexing their favorite song and the Wurlitzer jukebox would begin playing that song.

To facilitate her new job, the eldest son’s new girl friend had moved out her parents’ home and had obtained a room in a boarding house in Osage.  She also had purchased her own car—rather she purchased the 1940 Ford Deluxe Tudor Sedan that had been her parent’s car.  Her parents purchased one of the new 1947 Ford Super Deluxe Fordor Model 73B Sedans from the Charles City Motor Company the local Ford dealership.  The new 1947 Fords were introduced in the fall of 1946 and this new car was one of the first that had been delivered to the dealership.

His new girl friend bubbled over with enthusiasm, when she told the eldest son about her new job.  Working at the Gilles Amusement Company, she had become familiar with the Billboard magazine.  This magazine tried to cover all events in the entertainment industry in the nation—including recent movies and all live shows at state and county fairs across the nation.  Mr. Gilles subscribed to this magazine and, indeed, advertised his Wurlitzer wall boxes in that magazine.  She found that Billboard magazine was fascinating and looked forward to each new issue which arrived in the mail at the workplace.  Mr. Gilles, often, did not have time to read the latest Billboard and encouraged her to read this magazine and tell him anything new that was in the magazine.

Also during the short period of time that she had been living in Osage she had already made some new friends.  One of her closest new friends was a young woman that worked as the stenographer for the Osage theater.  Another of her new friends was a woman that worked as a salesperson at the local music store.  Their employment in the local “entertainment industry” brought them together with a common interest.

She and the eldest son of our Nevada Township farmer continued roller skating on the weekends.  They also continued to see movies at the Osage theater.  In the early in 1945, back during her senior year in high school while the eldest son was away in the Pacific, she had seen the movie Janie, which had been released on September 2, 1944.  This was a movie about the adventures of Janie Conway, a small town “bobbie soxer.”   Joyce Reynolds starred as Janie Conway, the “bobbie soxer.”   She had enjoyed the move a great deal and identified with the character of Janie Conway.  Now, because of her new job, she heard that a  sequel to that movie had just made.  The sequel was called Janie Gets Married which had been released on June 22, 1946.  She wanted very much to see the sequel.  During the fall of 1946, she stayed in regular contact with her friend—the stenographer at the local theater, just to find out when the sequel would be coming to Osage.

Over Thanksgiving our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son was able to bring his girl friend to Nevada Township to meet his parents.  It was a good time.  The Thanksgiving dinner was tremendous success with turkey, cranberries, home-grown Blue Hubbard squash, home-grown mashed potatoes and giblet gravy—Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.  Thanksgiving was an anniversary of sorts.  Both sons had been home for one whole year.  With the sale of the soybeans having been so successful his father split the profits with his two sons and gave them each a nice big check during Thanksgiving.  He promised that more would come their way when he sold some Suffolk ewes in December and more money when they shelled the corn in February or March of 1947.

With the crops all harvested, our Nevada Township farmer considered his position.  He was starting to feel secure that soybeans could be a major cash crop that could be relied on even in peacetime.  However, he still felt that he needed to control the harvest.  Accordingly, in the winter of 1946-1947, our Nevada Township farmer began to think about using some of the money he had made from the 1946 soybean crop to modernizing his farming operation, once again.  If he could obtain his own combine, he would no longer have to depend on the schedule of hired combines to get his soybean crop harvested.

He was aware that, following the introduction of the small Allis-Chalmers Model 60 All Crop Harvester in 1929 (See the article on this blog entitled “Navy bean farming in Michigan Part III,” contained at this website.), a number of other farm equipment companies, e.g. John Deere, Massey Harris, and Case had introduced their own small combines.  Of course all of these combines had been unavailable during the war.  Now, however, these small combine were all becoming available again.  Furthermore he had, recently, heard that the Oliver Farm Equipment Company was introducing its own small combine—the Model 15 Grainmaster combine.

Oliver Model 15 Grain Master combine 3
The low profile of the Oliver Model No. 15 was a vast improvement over the high profile of previous Oliver combines, like the Model No. 10 combine which would require storage in a tall building with a tall doorway, whereas, the Model No. 15 combine could be stored in a smaller building with a shorter doorway.

During a visit to Thill Implement in Rose Creek in February of 1947, he had seen one of these had one of the new Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster combines in the inventory of the dealership.  Like the previous Grainmaster combines, this new Model 15 was being produced at the old Nichols and Shepherd Company Thresher Works in South Bend, Indiana.  (This Thresher Works was now designated as South Bend No. 1, to differentiate it from South Bend No. 2, the new Oliver Company engine plant.  This new engine plant was built complete with a new foundry and molding works for making the cast-iron blocks of the new Oliver engines.)

The Model 15 Grainmaster was one of the new small “straight through” style of combines that were becoming popular in the post-war era.  The Grainmaster Model 15 had a six-foot cutterbar/feeder and a full-width cylinder positioned directly behind the feeder.  The grain crop was harvested and taken directly into the combine, where it was threshed.  The grain did not have to travel through any 90º turns on its convoluted way through the combining process, as it did with the older style combines like his neighbor’s Model 10 Grainmaster.  Because of this straight thru design, the forward motion of the combine would dump the straw back onto the ground in almost exactly the same location where it had been before the whole process had begun.  Because of this simplicity, the straight-through style combines were more efficient and saved more grain than older style combines.

The salesman at Thill Implement noted that this particular Model 15 combine was one of the new power take-off versions of the Model 15 Grainmaster.  The salesman informed our Nevada Township farmer that, initially, the Model 15 combine had been offered only with its own four cylinder—an engine supplied to Oliver by the Continental Motors Company of Muskegon Michigan.   Fitted with a four-cylinder Continental engine, the Model 15 Grainmaster had a suggested retail price of $1,800.  However, the new power take-off version of the Model 15 carried a suggested retail price of only $1,360.  The particular Model 15 combine that our Nevada Township farmer saw at Thill Implement was also mounted on rubber tires.  These rubber tires added to the modern appearance of the Model 15 Grainmaster.

Our Nevada Township farmer thought of how having a combine of his own would free him from the dependence on all custom combining operations.  He would be able to harvest the soybeans (and his oats) when the crop was at the proper degree of dryness rather than have to wait for his name to work its way to the top of the list of customers for his neighbor’s custom combining operation.  Our Nevada Township farmer had other reasons for liking the Model 15 combine.  One of these reasons was the fact that the Model 15 was a combine with a “low profile.”  Unlike his neighbor’s Model 10 Grainmaster combine, the grain tank on the Model 15 did not depend on gravity to empty its contents into a wagon or grain truck.  Rather the Model 15 was fitted with a special “auger style” tank unloading elevator.  This power unloading elevator, allowed the designers of the Model 15 combine to position the 20-bushel grain tank much lower to the ground.  Consequently, the overall height of the Model 15 combine was greatly reduced from the earlier Model 10 Grainmaster combine.  Because of its low profile, our Nevada Township farmer would not have to build a special shed on his farm simply to store the Model 15.  It would be easy to store this new small combine on his farm.  Accordingly, he signed a sales agreement to purchase an Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster combine.  The sales agreement with Thill Impliment also included the purchase of a new Innes Company windrow pickup attachment.

The new Model 15 combine would not only be used for the soybean crop in the  late autumn, but would also be used to harvest his oat crop in mid-summer.  Accordingly, there was a need for a windrow pickup attachment for the combine.  Unlike the oats and wheat “out west” on the Great Plains, oats in the Midwest could not be harvested as a “standing crop.”  Midwestern states received far more rain, on average, than the western states of the Great Plains.  Accordingly, under normal conditions more grasses and weeds (green material) tended to grow up in the oat fields of the Midwest.  Combining the oats or wheat while standing would allow the “green material” to pass into the combine where the green material would tend wrap around the threshing cylinder of combine, thus, preventing efficient threshing.  The solution to this problem was to cut he grain and all the green material a day or so before combining.  This would allow the green material to dry up completely under the hot summer sun.  Once completely dry and “brown” the formerly “green” weeds and grass would no longer tend to wrap around the cylinder, but rather it would be crushed by the cylinder and then, pass harmlessly through the combine and exit the rear of the combine with the straw.

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Like our Nevada Township farmer, Howard Hanks, from Fillmore County, Minnesota (maternal grandfather of the current author) converted his grain binder into a windrowing machine.

Therefore, in the Midwest, farmers cut their oats and folded the oats into a narrow “windrow.”  Windrowing of the oat would begin before the oat crop was entirely ripened.  The oats would lie in narrow windrow on top of the stubble of the oat field and finish drying.  This last stage of drying in the windrow under the hot summer sum was called “sweating.”    Lying on top of the stubble allowed air to get under the windrow for a thorough and quick drying process.  Windrowing the oats would actually speed up the process of sweating.

To combine the windrowed oat crop, farmers in the Midwest needed to fit their combines with “windrow pickups.”  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer needed a windrow pickup for his new Model 15 combine.  Oliver made their own standard equipment Oliver-built windrow pickup attachment for the Model 15 combine.  However, the Thill Implement salesman related that instead of fitting the Model 15 combine with the standard equipment pickup attachment made for the Oliver Model 15 combine, the dealership now advised farmers to fit their new combines with a pickup attachment made by the Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa.  (An article on the Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa was published in the May/June 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and is now posted on the blog section of this website.)  The salesman at Thill Implement related that the Innes Company was a company devoted entirely to the production of their own patented pickup attachment which could be mounted on many modern combines.  The Innes pickup attachment was preferred by the Thill dealership rather than the standard equipment Oliver windrow pickup, because the Innes pickup was not as susceptible to the problem of “wrapping.”

An Oliver combine exhibited at the
An Oliver combine exhibited at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show with an Innes Company windrow pickup attached.

The standard equipment windrow pickup made by the Oliver Farm Equipment Company had a series of revolving teeth which poked through a “stationary comb.”  As the combine moved ahead along the windrow, the rotating teeth would actually lift the windrow up and over the pickup and into the feeder of the combine.  Sometimes the teeth would pull some of the crop under the stationary comb where the crop would become wrapped around the axle of the pickup to which the teeth were attached.  As the combine worked through out the day, more crop might be pulled under the stationary comb until the pickup became jammed and would not work properly.  The farmer would then have to stop the combine and get down off the tractor and clean the wrapped crop out of the pickup.

A closeup of the Innes Company windrow pickup attached to an Oliver combine.
A closeup of the Innes Company windrow pickup attached to an Oliver combine.

The teeth on the Innes pickup protruded from a cylinder.  In operation, the whole cylinder of the Innes pickup revolved—not just the teeth.  Accordingly, there was no stationary “comb” which could catch the crop and start a wrapping problem.    Our Nevada Township farmer was familiar with the wrapping problem of windrowed grain crops from watching his neighbor stopping, in the field, to un-plug the pickup of his Model 10 Grainmaster combine.  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer consented to inclusion of the Innes pickup attachment as a substitute for the Oliver pickup attachment.  He felt that he was now set to take full advantage of oat harvest and  soybean harvest  in 1947.

Over the winter of 1946-1947, our Nevada Township farmer had been disappointed in the sale of his registered purebred Suffolk ewes.  Ever since, 1943, sheep prices at the Hormel meat packing plant, in Austin, Minnesota, had been declining.  Accordingly, farmers had been reducing the size of their flocks of sheep on their farms.  The number of sheep in Mower County had fallen steadily since 1944.  Whereas, in 1945, there had been 17,200 head of sheep in Mower County, one year later in 1946 there were now only 15,000.  (Figures for 1947 would reflect that in the coming year sheep numbers in Mower County would decline still further to 13,600 head.)  No wonder he could not sell any of his prize ewes.  Everywhere, farmers were cutting back on the size of their flocks of sheep.  The reduction in sales of ewes meant that our Nevada Township farmer did have much money to share with his sons.

Additionally, the sale of the 1946 corn crop also proved to be a disappointment.  As always, our Nevada Township farmer allowed the ear corn to dry in the corn crib on his farm all winter long.  Now in late-February of 1947, our Nevada Township farmer made arrangements with Ray Jacobson to shell his corn.  The winter of 1946-1947 had been a mild winter with snow accumulating to about 6 inches which lasted until mid-February, 1947.  The unseasonably warm temperatures of mid-February melted the remaining snow.  Accordingly, Ray Jacobson arrived on the farm one day in late February with his Minneapolis-Moline “Shellmaster” corn sheller mounted on the back of a 1941 Ford “Cab Over Engine” (C.O.E.) Model 1 ½-ton truck with a 134 inch wheelbase.  This corn sheller had also been bought through the Thill Implement dealership of Rose Creek and had been mounted on this Ford truck.  As noted in an earlier article in this series, Thill Implement not only owned an Oliver franchise, but also owned a franchise from the Minneapolis-Moline Company to sell Minneapolis-Moline farm equipment.  Indeed the major reason that John Peter Thill had obtained a Minneapolis-Moline franchise was because he wanted to sell the corn shellers that Minneapolis-Moline made.

Once the truck and sheller were positioned outside the alleyway of the double corn crib, the various sections of the “drag” line were connected to each other and extended the full length of the alleyway of the corn crib.  When the bottom of the cribs were opened, dried ear corn would begin to flow out into the drag which would transport the corn to the sheller.  The sheller itself was powered by the 239 c.i. flat-head V-8 engine in the truck.  Developing 95 hp. this engine was sufficient to power the sheller.  Ray make sure the transmission lever in the truck was in neutral.  Then he would depress the foot clutch and engage the lever directing the power of the truck engine to the sheller.  Then he would slowly release the foot clutch and the sheller came to life.  Then Ray depressed the foot throttle until the cylinder on the sheller was turning at the correct operating speed of 800 rpm. to 815 rpm.  Once he reached this speed he reach over on the dash board of the truck to lock throttle at that speed.

To shell out the entire double corn crib took all day with a break at noon time for dinner when they all went to the house to eat the large meal .  As the ear corn in both sides was shelled out, our Nevada Township farmer stored away enough shelled corn in the granary on the farm to feed the chickens and pigs for an entire year.  Depending on the current price and what he expected the future price to be, our Nevada Township farmer would either sell the rest to the Hunting elevator uptown in Lyle or he might save back more shelled corn to store in the grain bins over the alleyway of his corn crib.  This shelled might be sold at a later date when the price of corn might be higher.  This year he was carefully watching the price of corn.

Last July (of 1946) corn prices had reached a phenomenal $2.17 per bushel.  However, since that time the price had fallen to $1.35 per bushel as an average for the month of January, 1947.  Our Nevada Township farmer thought this decline in the price of corn was part of the long expected decline in all farm prices caused by the end of the war.  He expected that the price of corn would continue to decline in the long-run.  However, February of 1947 revealed a slight rise in prices to $1.49 per bushel.  Thus, our Nevada Township farmer made up his mind to take advantage of this momentary upswing in the price of corn to sell all the corn he could spare just as soon as it was shelled.  Expecting that prices would fall even more over the long term, our Nevada Township farmer felt lucky to catch this temporary increase in price.  However, the price was still not as good as he might have expected and, once again, our Nevada Township farmer did not have as much money to share with his sons as he had expected.  However, he felt sure his sons would recognize that the soybean harvest money had covered for the corn and the sheep.  However, big changes were happening in the mind of his eldest son which would affect his plans.

 

Oliver Farming in Mower County, Minnesota (Part II): Soybeans

Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota (Part II): Soybeans

by

Brian Wayne Wells

 

A young soy-bean plant
A young soy-bean plant

As noted previously, Mower County in Minnesota is located on the border of Minnesota and Iowa.  (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising.”)  One of the middle townships in western Mower County is Nevada Township.  (Ibid.)  Also as previously noted, in 1941 Nevada Township was the home of a particular farmer, who worked a 160-acre diversified a farm with his wife and their two sons.  The typical diversified farm was a farming operation that developed income from a number of different sources, crops, (like corn), along with animals (perhaps raising and selling hogs, raising a flock of laying hens for eggs and/or milking cows to sell the milk).  The idea of diversification was that if one of the products raised on the farm was in a price slump the other products raised on the farm might rescue the owner of the farm by providing some income to allow the family to survive the price slump.

Additionally, as previously noted, in 1942, our Nevada Township farmer added a new product to his diversified farming operation.  In 1942, the United States of America was in its first year of involvement in the world war.  Both of his sons were now away from the farm serving in the Pacific theater in the war.  He was back to handling the farm alone just as he had done when his boys were children.  Farm prices had risen across the board, but the war also created some new opportunities for the American farmer.  Raising sheep for meat had been one of those opportunities.  The price of mutton and lamb had risen in 1941 as the Britain began to buy United States lamb and mutton to replace the product they could no longer get from Australia.  This sudden rise in sheep prices encouraged our Nevada Township farmer to obtain a small flock of Suffolk sheep for his own farming operation.  As sheep prices continued to rise because of the the war and United States government buying of lamb to support its armed forces which were stationed around the world, other farmers sought to obtain or expand their own flocks of sheep.  Our Nevada Township farmer found that he could make more money by registering some of his best ewe lambs and best young rams with the National Suffolk Sheep Association and selling them to other farmers for breeding stock, rather than taking them to directly to market.  Whereas, in 1943, our Nevada Township farmer could make $6.80 per hundred weight (about $9.00 lamb on a 130 pound (lbs.) lamb going to Hormel’s meat market in Austin) he could make three times that amount by holding back the ewe lambs which had the best breed characteristics and selling them as breeding stock to other farmers.

Breeders were always trying to improve the breed characteristics of their flocks.  Toward this end breeders might purchase good quality purebred ewes to improve the breed characteristics of their flock.  However, by purchasing a single purebred ram, sheep farmers knew that they could influence half the genes of their flock, because a single ram would be the sire (father) of all the lambs born to the flock.  Accordingly, breeders would pay even more for a young ram than they would for individual ewes.  Thus, organized ram sales became popular as an annual event.  Usually these rams sales were held in early June each year.  One of the nation’s foremost ram sales was the Midwest Stud Ram Sale held in Omaha, Nebraska.  Our Nevada Township farmer drove his 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck to Omaha with a few sheep to sell.

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The 1939 3/4 ton Chevrolet truck of the JD Master series

He had purchased the Chevy truck from Usem Chevrolet in nearby Austin, Minnesota (1940 pop. 18,306).  Usem’s was a full-line dealership offering cars from all five divisions of the General Motors Company and both Chevrolet and GMC trucks.  The dealership had been founded by Edward G. and Edith Usem.  Born in Ukraine in Russia in 1907, Edward had immigrated to the United States with his parents and settled in Austin, Minnesota in the early 20th Century.  Edward had grown up in Austin and been involved in the car business since the 1920s.

Originally, the truck was fitted with a light stake bed for hauling cargo.  Almost immediately, our Nevada Township farmer took the truck to the Harry Attlesey blacksmith shop in Lyle, Minnesota (1940 pop. 513), for a new heavier bed to be installed on the truck.  Harry D. and Isabel (Webber) Attlesey owned this blacksmith shop on the north end of Lyle on U.S. #218.  Harry Attlesey had operated this blacksmith shop since moving to town in 1932.  Harry Attlesey designed and built a tight grain box bed for the new ¾ ton Chevy truck that replaced the loose-fitting stake-bed that on the Model JD ¾ truck.  Indeed the new bed on the back of the truck was not just a grain box.  It also had a series of heavy racks that mounted on top of the sides of the grain box.  These racks were tall enough to allow our Nevada Township farmer to safely haul livestock, even cattle and horses, in the bed of the truck.

This truck was just the thing for making the trip to Omaha.  Sales of the best young purebred rams and ewes was, he felt, maximized and fully diversified the profit that he received from his flock of sheep.  As noted previously, the profits that he had received from his flock of sheep had allowed him to purchase a used 1935 tricycle-style Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 18-27 tractor at an auction in February of 1943.

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The Oliver Model 18-27 Row Crop (Dual Wheels) tractor was manufactured at the Oliver Equipment company’s Tractor Works factory in Charles City, Iowa from 1931 until 1937.

Only in 1944 did the price of lamb decline.  This decline in the sheep market was the result of the army’s decision in mid-1944 to drop the unpopular “Mutton Stew and Vegetables” unit from the C-ration menu and replace it with the “Beef Stew and Vegetables” unit.  (See the C-ration entry under Wikipedia on the Internet.)  The effect of this decline in the price of sheep was felt immediately as farmers, reduced the number of sheep on their farm or sold off their flocks entirely.

In 1945, the number of sheep across the whole state of Minnesota stood at 995,000 head.  In Mower County the sheep population was 17,500 head in 1945.  The number of sheep in neighboring Fillmore County, to the east of Mower County, stood at 30,500 head.  In 1946, the number of sheep in the whole state of Minnesota the number of sheep fell to 846,000 head as the total number of sheep in Mower County fell to 15,000 head and fell to 26,000 head in Fillmore County.  In the post-war years the population of sheep in Minnesota continued to decline and hit a bottom in 1950 with only 571,000 sheep in the entire state of Minnesota, 10,300 head in Mower County and 18,400 head in Fillmore County.

However, as the war progressed, another farm product was continuing to increase in importance—the soybean.  Our Nevada Township farmer started to hear about soybeans as a profitable farm product over WCCO radio out if Minneapolis.  Research into the soybean had been going on since the early 1900s.  This research discovered a great uses for the simple soybean.  (See the unpublished article, called “Soybean Farming with a Farmall H in Butternut Valley Township”  written by Brian Wayne Wells regarding soybean processing in Mankato, Minnesota.  This article can be seen on this website.)  However, a real economic market for soybeans had never been found until the recent World War.  Now soybeans were used to make plastics which were used in the cowlings and wind screens of the thousands of aircraft that were being turned out by American industry for the war effort.  In 1940, nation-wide production of the soybeans was limited to just 78,045,000 bushels.  However, by 1943, that production figure had grown to 190,133,000 bushels.  Right here in Mower County, Minnesota, our Nevada, Township farmer had seen his neighbors increase their soybean acreage from 17,800 acres in 1941 to 38,000 acres in 1944.

Farmers were not reducing the number of acres they devoted to corn.  Indeed, the number of acres of corn planted in Mower County rose from 88,100 in 1941 to 121,000 acres in 1944.  Where were all these extra arable acres coming from?  To be sure, farmers were now placing in production land they had previously considered unprofitable land.  It was part of the national patriotic drive to plant crops from “fence-row to fence-row” to help the war effort.  However, it was also true that farmers were raising less hay and oats than they used to raise.  In Mower County, farmers devoted 100,300 acres to oats, in 1942 oat acreage in the county fell to 89,000 acres in 1942 and fell still further to 61,800 acres in 1944.  Similarly, the acreage devoted to hay fell from 87,100 acres in 1940 to 54,900 acres in 1943.  Both hay and oats are raised as animal food on the average Midwestern farm—a primary food for horses.  Consequently, the reduction of acreage allotted to hay was the result of farmers mechanizing the power source in their farming operations and reducing the number of horses on their farms.  Of course, farmers still needed some hay and oats for the other livestock they raised on their farms, but clearly, Mower County farmers were growing less hay and oats and turning to soybeans as a replacement crop on their farms.

Our Nevada Township farmer had watched soybean production in Mower County set new historical records of production each year from 1941 until 1943 without diversifying into the production of soybeans.  His mind had been already occupied with his current diversification—into sheep raising.  Sheep raising was the bird in the hand.  The promise behind the raising of soybeans was the two birds in the bush.  Our Nevada Township farmer felt in the spring of 1944 that he should clasp closely onto the bird in the hand and neglect the two in the bush.  However, throughout 1944, the price of soybeans continued its slow steady to climb upwards, reaching $2.05 per bushel as a monthly average for each of the months of October, November and December 1944.  So large was the demand for soybeans that, no glut on the market was created when another nationwide record—192,121,000 bushels of soybeans came onto the market in late 1944.  Indeed, this large supply of soybeans did not even dent the high prices that soybeans were bringing.

The high price of soybeans in 1944, finally, caused our Nevada Township farmer to change his mind.  He decided to plant soybeans on his farm in the spring of 1945.  Many of his neighbors reached the same decision.  Accordingly, in the spring of 1945 Mower County farmers planted a record 51,500 acres in soybeans—up from 38,000 acres in 1944.  This was an increase of 35.5% in soybean acreage in just one year.

Like corn, soybeans was a “row crop.”  Soybeans would be planted in rows 40 inches apart, just like corn.  Back in the winter of 1940-1941, our Nevada Township farmer had purchased a new Oliver-Superior No. 9B tractor-drawn corn planter to replace his old Oliver Superior Model No. 5 horse-drawn corn planter which was getting completely worn out.  He had purchased the new No. 9B corn planter from Thill Implement, the local Oliver Farm Eauipment dealership located in Rose Creek, Minnesota, (1940 pop. 261.)  This turned out to be a fortunate turn of events for two reasons.  First, since the United States’ entry into the World War as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, any new farm machinery had been impossible to get due to the wartime manufacturing restrictions.  Secondly, although our Nevada Township farmer had purchased the Model 9B corn planter to plant corn, this planter could with very little adjustment be converted over to the planting of soybeans.  Should he now decide to go into raising soybeans, he could use this new planter to continue planting his corn in the same wire check 40 inch row format as he had been doing with his old No. 5 and he could also use the same planter to drill his soybeans in 40 inch rows.

Oliver corn planter
The Model 9 Oliver-Superior corn planter could be easily be converted from “check planting” of corn to “sowing” soybeans in rows.

Ever since he had obtained his first tractor in February of 1940—a used 1937 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 28-44 tractor “3-5 plow tractor”—our Nevada Township farmer had been busy shortening the tongues on a lot of his horse-drawn farm equipment so that he could use the tractor doing as much of the field work on his farm as possible.  (See the first article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Part I: Purebred Suffolk Sheep Raising” published on this website.)  Accordingly, he had purchased the new Model 9-B planter with the shortened tractor hitch rather than the longer horse-drawn hitch.  Now with minimal adjustments he could convert his No. 9B corn planter from a corn planter which would wire check corn in a 40 inch by 40 inch grid across the field to a “drill” which could plant (or drill) soybeans in 40 inch rows.

One of these minimal adjustments was to swap the corn planter plates for the bottom of the seed containers to soybean plates.  These soybean plates would allow the planting of soybeans in a continuous stream in the rows rather than “check” planting in hills within the rows, like corn.  The soybean plants did not have to be spread 40 inches apart in “hills” within the rows like corn.  Thus, he would not have to stretch the check wire across the length of the field when drilling soybeans as he did when he “wire-check” planted his corn.  Instead, soybeans were “drilled” into the rows.  Rather than releasing seeds into the open trench only when the planting units were “tripped,” he could simply adjust the No. 9 planter so that reach planting unit on the No. 9 planter would “sow” a continuous stream soybeans into the small trenches that were opened by the two furrow openers on the planter.  In this way the seeds and later the soybean plants might be only four inches apart within the row.

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The Oliver-Superior Model 9D planter. With the proper planting plates at the bottom of each cylindrical seed box the Model 9D could be made to sow two rows of soybeans each time across the field.

Our Nevada Township farmer needed to purchase a new pair of planter plates for the No. 9B planter.  He did not, currently, have the planter plates that would allow the No. 9 planter to drill soybeans.  Back in 1941, he did not have any idea that he would be using the Model 9B planter for anything other than planting corn, so he had obtained only corn plates when he had purchased the new planter.  The planter plates were circular cast-iron plates that were placed at the bottom of the two cylindrical seed “boxes” or seed containers on the No. 9 planter.  On planting day, the seed boxes were filled with seed.  As the planter moved across the field the furrow openers at the front of each planting unit on the No. 9 planter would open a trench in the ground about 2 inches deep.  The wheels on the planter would power a shaft connecting both planting units on the No. 9 planter.  This shaft would turn the planter plate at the bottom of each seed box.  As they revolved, the slots on the edge of the planter plate would select individual seeds from the seed box and drop them in a tube which led to the lower part of each planting unit.  There the seeds would be released into the small trench that had been opened by the furrow openers.  Corn plates selected individual seeds at a rate that would allow only three seeds to be selected for every 40 inches of progress the No. 9 made as it moved across the field.  Because soybeans were planted only 4 inches apart, soybean plates would need to supply 10 soybean seeds for the same 40 inches of progress that the planter moved across the field.  The plates needed to turn faster and gather more seed.  Thus, a different style of planter plate was needed for the No. 9 planter for use in soybeans.

The building in Rose Creek, Minnesota that housed the "Thill Implement Dealership."
The building in Rose Creek, Minnesota that housed the “Thill Implement Dealership.”

Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer made a trip to the Thill Implement dealership in Rose Creek, Minnesota to purchase these new plates.  He made this trip early in the year.  Ever since United States’ involvement in the war, he had learned that nothing should be taken for granted.  Nothing was predictable.  Simple parts like new plates for a planter may have to be ordered.  This would take time.  He wanted all his equipment ready when the field work started.  He could not afford delays while he waited on parts.  Besides in March of 1945, he and his wife were anxious to find a reason (any reason) to get off the farm for a little while.

The winter of 1944-1945 had been basically snowless until a series of snow storms in mid-January, 1945 combined to deposit about 4-to-8 inches of snow on the ground.  Cold temperatures which persisted mid-until March of 1945 would not allow the snow to melt.  Thus, chores like the daily hauling the manure to the field had become cold, laborious jobs even using one of the tractors.  (In addition to the 1937 Model 28-44 standard tractor, our Nevada Township farmer had obtained a 1935 tricycle-style Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 18-28 tricycle-style tractor in late February of 1943.  [See the prior article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Part I: Purebred Suffolk Sheep Raising” published on this website.]  It was the Model 18-28 tricycle-style “row crop” tractor that allowed our Nevada Township farmer to mechanize every field task on his farm and eliminate the need for horses on his farm.)

Fighting the snow and trying to keep up with the chores on his farm all winter had given our Nevada Township farmer and his wife a bad case of “cabin fever.”  Accordingly, when the weather became unseasonably warm in late March, 1945, and the snow had melted, our Nevada Township farmer and his wife were more than willing to leave the farm for a short while.  They got into their old 1941 Chevrolet sedan and drove the 12 miles north to visit his local Oliver Farm Equipment dealership—Thill Implement  of Rose Creek, Minnesota.  Rose Creek (1940, pop. 261) was located in center of Windom Township.  Windom Township was the township located immediately adjacent to Nevada Township’s northern border.

The Thill Implement dealership had been originally founded by John Peter and Marie (Lindsay) Thill in 1938.  Born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 17, 1895, John Peter, at the age of seven-years of age, had moved with his parents, Nicholas and Margaret Thill, in 1903, to a farm located in Windom Township about three (3) miles north of Rose Creek.  Growing up on this farm, John Peter had met Marie Lindsay.  In 1916, they had fallen in love and were married.  They started a family on January 1, 1918 with the birth of Robert Lindsay Thill.  In 1921, a daughter, Dorothy Thill was born to the couple and, finally, in 1925, a second son, John (Jack) Thill Jr, was born.

John Peter and Marie established their own farming operation and operated the farm through the hardest years of the Great Depression and when the economy started to recover in 1938, John thought he saw an opportunity to gain some extra income by starting a farm tractor dealership in the town of Rose Creek.  Mechanical power on farms was in its infancy, but tractors were already replacing horses on farms at a furious rate.  It already seemed that tractor power was the wave of the future.  Perceiving a large demand for Minneapolis-Moline corn shellers, John Peter Thill obtained a franchise from the Minneapolis-Moline Company of Hopkins, Minnesota.  However, John Peter soon obtained second franchise from the Oliver Farm Equipment Company of Charles City, Iowa, because he had been very impressed by the easy draft of Oliver plows.

Thill Implement in Rose Creek obtained a franchise to sell Minneapolis-Moline corn shellers as well as the entire line of Oliver farm equipment.
Thill Implement in Rose Creek obtained a franchise to sell Minneapolis-Moline corn shellers as well as the entire line of Oliver farm equipment.

In its first year in business, Thill Implement had no building for its dealership.  Thus, Thill Implement dealership began as a few new tractors parked under a under a shade tree in Rose Creek.  Only in 1939 was John Peter able to obtain an old grocery store building in Rose Creek, and convert it to a dealership building.  At the same time as he operated the dealership, John Peter Thill also continued his farming operation.  It was this farm that caused a close relationship to arise between Thill Implement and the Oliver Farm Equipment Company.

The Oliver Farm Equipment Company had been formed in a merger of four companies in 1929–the Hart-Parr Tractor Company of Charles City, Iowa, the American Seeding Company of Richmond, Indiana, the Oliver Chilled Plow Works of South Bend, Indiana and the Nichols and Shepard Company of Battle Creek, Michigan.  Since 1929, more companies had been purchased by and merged into the new Oliver Company.  Thus, by 1939, the Oliver Company was a large sprawling corporation with factories spread all across the nation.

Among the oldest and most distinguished of these companies under the Oliver corporate umbrella was the Hart-Parr Tractor Company.  The Hart-Parr Company had been the first company to mass produce an internal combustion engine-powered farm tractors starting in 1903.  Following the merger in 1929, the new corporate headquarters for the sprawling Oliver Farm Equipment Company was established in Chicago, Illinois.  However, much of the research and management staff dealing with tractor production remained in Charles City, Iowa, the old home of the Hart-Parr Company.  Indeed much of this staff was composed of former Hart-Parr employees and, whatever isolated tractor manufacturing operations were contained in other companies involved in the merger (Nichols and Shepard for an example) were eventually consolidated in Charles City.

Oliver Tractor Works factory in Charles City in 1948
An Aerial view of the Oliver Farm Tractor Works factory in Charles City, Iowa.

The Charles City plant was located 35 miles south of Rose Creek.  Actually, the driving distance to Charles City was 43 miles because John Peter Thill could drive  6 miles west on County Road #4 to pick up U.S. Highway #218.  But the drive was pleasurable because once having reached U.S. #218 was the remaining drive to Charles City was on a smooth concrete paved road.  The new Thill Implement dealership was fortunate in this close proximity to Charles City, Iowa, because over the years, Thill Implement developed a strong relationship with the managerial staff at the Charles City plant.  The benefits of this relationship flowed both ways.  The Charles City engineering staff found that they could count on John Peter readily agreeing to offer land on his farm on which to test their new Oliver tractors.  John Peter agreed to allow these tractor tests and demonstrations to be conducted on his farm because of the public attention these tests and demonstrations attracted.  This public attention was the best possible advertisement for Thill Implement.

Recent public attention by area farmers was directed toward the demonstrations of “row crop tractors.”  These row crop or tricycle style tractors were specifically designed for cult**ivation  of corn and other row crops.  This was the last remaining field task on the average Midwestern farm that was still done by horses.  The entire line of tractors offered to the farming public by the Hart-Parr Tractor Company had been “standard” or “four-wheel” style tractors.  These standard tractors had wheels set at fixed tread widths.  Thus, the tractors were suited for every farm field job except cultivation of row crops.  However, Hart-Parr had been researching and developing a tricycle-style “row crop” tractor at the time of the merger in 1929.  In 1930, Hart-Parr (now the Oliver Company) introduced their new Oliver /Hart-Parr Row Crop Model 18-27 tractor.  This was the Oliver Farm Equipment Company’s first row crop tractor.  This tractor had adjustable tread width for the rear wheels and a single front wheel.  The front wheel attached to a single bolster, like a child’s tricycle.  This “fifth-wheel” type of steering by means of a single bolster allowed the tricycle–style tractor to turn very sharply in the field while cultivating corn and/or other row crops.

Substantial changes were made to the Model 18-28 tractor and the following year, in 1931, a new improved Oliver Model 18-27 tricycle style tractor replaced the 18-28 Hart-Parr Row Crop tractor.  This new Model 18-27 was designated “dual wheel” to emphasize its most obvious difference from its single-front wheeled predecessor.  The 18-27 (dual wheel) tractor featured differential foot brakes for each rear wheel.  These differential brakes allowed the tractor operator to apply the brake to the appropriate wheel to assist in turning the 180° turns at the end of the rows while cultivating corn and other row crops.  The 18-27 (dual wheel) also featured a full pressure oiling system and a oil filter.  This helped prolong the life of the four-cylinder engine.  The 18-27 (dual wheel) remained in production from 1931 until 1936.  The peak of annual production of the tractor was reached in 1935, when 748 individual Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tractors were turned out at the Charles City plant.  It was one of these 748 tractors that our Nevada Township farmer had purchased as a used tractor in late-February of 1943.  In 1936, the Model 18-27 (dual wheel) row crop tractor was replaced with the Oliver Model 80 row crop tractor.  (When the new four cylinder Model 80 tractor was tested at the University of Nebraska from May 16 through May 26, 1938, using low-octane distillate fuel, the results showed that the Model 80 delivered 23.32 horsepower [hp.] to the drawbar and 35.24 hp. to the belt pulley.  [See C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests: Since 1920 (Motorbooks International Pub.: Oseloa, Wisc., 1985) p. 95.])

The unstyled Model 80 was a new tractor, but it was Oliver’s other new (and smaller) row crop tractor that was to become especially important to Thill Implement and other Oliver dealerships across the Midwestern section of the United States.  In 1935, the Oliver Company, introduced their new, revolutionary and very popular smaller tractor—the Model 70.  The Model 70 was offered in a variety of formats—the “standard” style, the “industrial” style and row crop style.  However, the most common format of Model 70 was the row crop version.  Externally, the Oliver Model 70 was unique among tractors on the market.  The tractor was painted dark green with orange accents and red wheels.  When introduced in 1935, the Model 70 had been “styled” with a sheet metal hood, grill and side curtains covering the engine entirely.  During the initial period of production, the Model 70 was offered to the public equipped with a Waukesha four-cylinder engine.

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The “early styled” Model 70 was the first tractor in the Oliver Company line of farm tractors to by “streamlined” with sheet metal. The early styled Model 70 was produced from 1935 until 1937 and was fitted with a four-cylinder engine manufactured by the Waukesha Motor Company of Waukesha, Wisconsin.

However, in 1937, the Model 70 was further improved and “streamlined.  The streamlining gave the Model 70 an even more sleek appearance.  The new improved Model 70 was offered to the public with optional rubber tires, electric start and electric lights.  However, the must unique feature of the new 1937 Oliver Model 70 was the tractor’s new 6-cylinder engine.  The new 6-cylinder engine featured in the new Oliver Model 70 had been researched and developed by the Oliver Company, itself.  The engine was now in full production at Oliver’s South Bend No. 2 Works in South Bend, Indiana.  When this new six-cylinder Model 70 was tested at the University of Nebraska from August 23 until August 29, 1940, the new 6-cylinder engine in the Model 70 delivered 22.72 horsepower (hp.) to the drawbar and 30.37 hp. to the belt pulley.  (See C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests: Since 1920 [Motorbooks International: Oseola, Wisc., 1985] p. 128.)

From the very first, the row-crop style Model 70 tractor led all other models of Oliver tractors in sales.  The tricycle style row crop version of the Model 70 itself, actually, outsold all the other styles and models of Oliver tractors.  During the first two years of production the 4-cylinder Model 70, Oliver made and sold 684 row crop versions of the Model 70 in 1935 and 8,042 row crop versions in 1936.  When the new 6-cylinder Oliver Model 70 was introduced in 1937, sales of the row crop Model 70 rose to 10,915 Model 70 row crop tractors.  By contrast, only 14 Model 80 tractors were built and sold in 1937.

When the Thill Implement opened in 1938, the national economy was just recovering from the recession of 1937-1938.  This recession had caused a downturn in business nationwide.  This business slowdown also affected the Oliver Farm Equipment Company as the company produced only 780 Model 70 row crop tractors in 1938.  However, Thill Implement was able to sell enough of these popular tractors to weather the recession.  In 1939, with the recession over, the Oliver Company produced 7,860 Model 70 row crop tractors.  Thill Implement supported itself on the back of strong sales of the Model 70 until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor involved the United States in the Second World War.  From that point on production of the Oliver Model 70 dwindled to only 1,070 row crop tractors in 1943.  Not because of any lack of demand for the Model 70, rather the decline in production was caused by the scarcity of raw materials for making the tractor.  All raw products for civilian production were now being severely restricted by the United States government and directed to production for the war effort. Thus, production of tractors and large farm implements by all farm manufacturers was severely curtailed by the war effort.  During the middle of the war, even the manufacture of repair parts were restricted by the war effort and it was hard for farmers to obtain any repair parts from their local dealerships.  Farmers found that even parts for the tractors and farm machinery they already owned were in short supply.

Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer did not know what to expect when he visited Thill Implement in February of 1945.  He did not know whether the corn planter plates he wanted would be in stock or whether he would have to order the parts and then wait on the delivery of the parts some weeks in the future.  However, our Nevada Township farmer was pleasantly surprised to learn that now in the spring of 1945 with the end of the war was in sight, the United States economy had grown to the level that it was able to meet the vast demands of the war and simultaneously meet some of the demands of civilian economy.  Thus, while in the spring of 1945, new Model 70 tractors remained in very short supply, our Nevada Township farmer was assured that Thill Implement had the planter plates in stock.  The salesman behind the repair parts counter at Thill Implement  took no more than a couple of minutes to walk back into the parts bins behind the counter and emerge with two of the particular planter plates for the Oliver-Superior Model 9 planter which he had requested.  The salesman reminded our Nevada Township farmer of another part he would need to convert his corn planter into a soybean drill.  This was a small link that connected between the frame of the planter and the tripping mechanism on the planter.  This link would disable the tripping mechanism so that the shaft turning the soybean plates would operate continuously.  This would allow the soybeans to be drilled in a steady stream along the row rather than being planted in hills planted in the row.

The salesman related that there had been big demand for these soybean plates and the link over the last few weeks.  Because of this demand, Thill Implement had ordered and received a large number of the soybean planter plates and conversion parts for all of the older Oliver-Superior planters.  It seemed that everyone was planting soybeans this year.  Indeed, the salesman reported that he had heard over KATE radio from nearby Albert Lea, Minnesota, (the county seat of neighboring Freeborn County) that preliminary news reports of spring planting in Freeborn County from the Extension Service of the United States Department of Agriculture found that soybean acreage was up by 20% this spring over the year before.  (In Mower County the results would eventually reveal a more staggering figure.  The Mower County Extension Service would report that the number of acres planted in soybeans in Mower County in the spring of 1945 would be up 35.5 % over the previous year.)

Having obtained the proper planter plates for his Model 9 planter, our Nevada Township farmer was ready for the spring field work well before the winter weather warmed sufficiently for him to get into the fields.  Warmer than usual weather in late-March helped dry and warm the soil in his fields.  Thus, spring field work could begin in April, earlier than usual.  The oats were drilled first.  However, this year, our Nevada Township farmer drilled only part of the field in oats.  Since obtaining the Oliver Row Crop Model 18-28 (dual wheel) tractor, two years before, he had totally mechanized the power sources on his farm.  Although he had retained one team of horses on his farm out of a feeling of tradition, he really had no need to employ horses in any aspect of his field operations—including the cultivation of row crops.   Thus, with far fewer horses on his farm he no longer needed a large quantity of oats on the farm as he had done in the past.  Accordingly, the remainder of the oat field was worked up and left unplanted for the time being.  This was the area on the farm where he would plant the soybeans.

Before planting his new crop of soybeans, however, he needed to plant his corn.  Corn was traditionally planted prior to soybeans.  While corn can be planted in ground that is between 50º to 55ºF in temperature, soybeans required soil temperatures of 55ºF to 60ºF in order to prosper.  It turned out that there was no need to worry, this year.  The sunshine of early May, 1945 warmed the ground sufficiently, such that our Nevada Township farmer could start planting his soybeans immediately after he had finished planting his corn in mid-May.

Dramatic world news was broadcast in May of 1945, as Germany surrendered and the war in Europe came to an end.  This was good news, but our Nevada Township farmer and his wife still had their eyes on the war in the Pacific, where both of their sons were serving.  The war in the Pacific was still in progress.  For him and his wife the really big news, they wanted, was to hear that the war in the Pacific had ended.  This would mean the safe return of their two sons.  However, our Nevada Township farmer could not help being anxious over the end of the war.  What would happen to the prices of both corn and soybeans with the return to peace.  In particular, he wondered if it was the wrong time to expand into soybeans—a crop that seemed to be so closely tied to war production.  Still he had already obtained the soybean seed from the Hunting elevator in Lyle, Minnesota.  It was too late to turn back now.  He might as well proceed as planned and accept the risk.

Consequently, after wire-check planting his corn, our Nevada Township farmer unscrewed the thumb screw in the back of both planter seed boxes and tipped the boxes forward.  The cylinder-shaped seed boxes were hinged in the front, which allowed the box to be tipped forward until all the contents of each seed box could be poured out.  This way he removed the seed corn that had been left in the boxes at the conclusion of the corn planting.  Then, he removed the corn seed plate at the bottom of each seed box and replaced the corn plate with the new soybean plate that he purchased at Thill Implement.  Next, he had attached the small metal link he had purchased from Thill Implement which converted the planter into a soybean drill by disabling the tripping mechanism on the planter.

The control lever on the Oliver-Superior two-row corn planter that shifted the planter from planting corn to sowing soybeans
The control lever on the Oliver-Superior two-row corn planter that shifted the planter from planting corn to sowing soybeans

This link held the tripping mechanism in abeyance and allowed seeds to flow down both planter units continuously, rather than being released periodically along the row only when the planting unit was “tripped.”  This way the soybeans would be drilled into the rows rather than planted in hills within the rows like the corn.  Finally, our Nevada Township farmer greased the moving parts of the planter at every location where there was a grease zerk.  Thus, the planter was all ready to go the next morning, when he completed the milking and the other morning chores.

All he needed to do was to climb up into the operator’s seat of the Model 18-28 and drive the tractor and planter to the field.  The long dry spell at the beginning of May had allowed our Nevada Township farmer to get all his corn planted and now it looked as though weather would continue to hold while he planted his soybeans.  Indeed in the back of his mind was a worry that the dry weather spell might portend a dry growing season.

The sacks of soybean seed he had purchased were accompanied by a small packet of “inoculant.”  The inoculant was a black powder which acted as a natural fertilizer for the soybeans, encouraging early sprouting and growth of the soybeans after the seed was in the ground.  On planting day, our Nevada Township farmer poured the seed out of the sacks into his “triple box” wagon.  Then he opened the packet of inoculant and poured the contents of the packet over the pile of soybeans in the wagon.  Then he shoveled the soybeans to mix the inoculant evenly throughout the entire pile of soybean seed.  He hitched the wagon to his 1937 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 28-44 tractor and drove it to the oat field.  The oats, with only a month’s worth of growth so far, appeared like a light green fuzz just visible on the surface of the ground– on the portion of the field that had been drilled in oats, but they had not yet completely covered the ground with green color.  Our Nevada Township farmer parked the wagon and the Model 28-44 tractor at the end of the field on the portion of the field where the new growth of oats were starting to grow.  Then he walked back to the homestead and started up his other tractor—the Oliver Row-Crop Model 18-28 (dual wheel)—and hitched this tractor up to his Oliver/Superior Model 9 corn planter.

Once in the field, he pulled the planter up to the rear of the wagon and loaded each seed box with soybeans.  Then he lined the planter up with the end of the field and released the row marker on the side of the planter.  This row marker was set to make a small mark in the dirt as he moved along.  He would follow this mark with the front wheels of his tractor on his return trip across the end of the field.  In this way he could be sure that the spacing between all the rows remained at 40 inches.  He would drill eight rows of soybeans across the end of the unplanted portion of this field.  These eight “end rows” would allow him room to turn around at the end of the field when cultivating the soybeans.  Before he went very far, however, he dismounted the tractor seat and went around behind the planter and uncovered a portion of the rows he had just planted.  He checked to see if the seeds were actually being correctly planted in the rows.  He found that everything was performing the way it should and the soybeans were being planted about two inches under the surface and the seeds were being placed about 4 inches apart within the rows.

Before making his first trip across the length of the field, our Nevada Township farmer “topped off” each seed box with soybean seed.  He wanted to be sure he could make a full trip across and back without running out of seed.  Additionally, while he was at the far end of the field he wanted to drill eight more end rows across the far end of the field as he had done at this end of the field.  He knew that the seed in each seed box would be used up at a much faster rate than when he had planted his corn.  Then he released the row marker on the side of the planter facing the unplanted portion of the field.  When he returned from the other side of the field he would be using the row marker on the opposite side of the planter.  Then he would fill the seed boxes and proceed again to cross the length of the field.  In this manner he completed the planting of his first soybean crop.

In late-May, after the soybeans had been planted, there were several light rains.  None of the rains, individually, delivered more than ¾ of an inch of rain and taken together all the rains were still insufficient for the crops, especially the corn.

EPSON MFP image
The Oliver Row Crop Model 18-27 with its mounted two-row cultivator worked as well on soybeans as the tractor did on corn.

Cultivation of the corn and soybeans to prevent weeds from competing with the crop for moisture and soil nutrients is important in any year.  However, this year, with less moisture to go around, cultivation of the row crops was even more crucial.  Unlike corn, however, soybeans did not have to be “cross cultivated.”  Our Nevada Township farmer tried to cultivate his corn lengthwise and then cross wise and then re-cultivate lengthwise.  He tried to cultivate the soybeans twice.  Among the periodic rains of mid-June through early-July, none really measured up the good soaking series of rains that were needed to give a boost to the row crops.  All the crops suffered from a lack of rain.  However, the corn seemed to be the hardest hit by the drought conditions.  The individual corn plants began to appear as little spike plants as the leaves of the individual corn plants curled up to preserve moisture under the hot July sun.  The soybeans were somewhat stunted in their growth.  Yet the individual soybean plants seemed to be bearing up better under the dry conditions.

Normally, the soybeans grew to about three feet in height and bushed out to cover completely the 40 inch space between the rows.  This year as the dry season continued the soybeans were not as luxurious as Mower county farmers had seen in the past, yet by late-July of 1945, the soybeans were starting to flower.  Our Nevada Township farmer ceased his cultivation of the soybeans just as flowering of the soybeans began.  Disturbing the soybeans at this stage with further cultivation, risked knocking off a great number of flowers on the individual soybean plants.  Less flowers would mean less seed pods, which would greatly reduce the per-acre yield of the soybean crop.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer stopped cultivation of the soybeans when before flowering started.  From that time on the soybeans were on their own in competing with the weeds.  Only one good rain occurred in August, 1945, as the dry conditions continued throughout the whole month.  By early September of 1945, the soybeans leaves had changed color to brilliant yellow as the crop began to ripen.

September of 1945, brought the long awaited news that the war in the Pacific had ended with the surrender of Japan.  Our Nevada Township farmer’s two sons would soon be heading home.  It was great news.  However, our Nevada township farmer had some trepidation to see what the end of the war would mean for farm crop prices.  Corn prices had already fallen from their wartime high of $1.22 per bushel in May of 1945 to $1.16 per bushel in September of 1945.  Our Nevada Township farmer was pleasantly surprised that prices had not fallen more during that time.  However, he suspected that prices were being buoyed by the prospect that there would be a poor harvest of corn in the fall of 1945 because of the drought during the growing season.  His own corn looked pretty bad.  However, soybean prices, on the other hand fell off by only a nickel from their steady wartime price of $2.10 per bushel in September of 1945 to $2.05 per bushel in October of 1945.  Our Nevada Township farmer noticed that the soybeans appeared in better condition as the harvest neared.

The first killing frost of the season occurred in the last days of September, which caused the leaves on the soybean plants turn brown and then to fall off the plant altogether. With no leaves, the plants were just sticks protruding up out of the ground to a height of about two feet.  Off these sticks were branches of the original plant.  Every branch was heavy with dark brown pods.  Each pod generally held three soybeans.  The dark brown color of the pods indicated that the soybeans were ready for harvesting.  Inside the pods, the soybeans were drying more and more as each day passed during the hot dry summer growing season.  The optimum moisture content for harvesting of soybeans was 14%.  Harvesting soybeans at a higher moisture content would risk mold on the soybeans.  These soybeans were called “rubbery” soybeans because of their rubber-like consistency.  Rubbery soybeans would develop mold and spoil before they could be sold.  Harvesting soybeans at a lower moisture content than 14% would cause a great number of the individual soybeans to split in two during the harvesting process.

Our Nevada Township farmer had no combine of his own to harvest the soybeans, so he hired a neighbor to come over and combine the soybeans for him.  The neighbor had obtained an Oliver Model 10 “Grainmaster” combine prior to the war.  With no combines available during the war, this neighbor had virtually, the only combine in the neighborhood.  The neighbor had almost no competition for the custom combining soybeans around the neighborhood.  Consequently, this neighbor was now kept very busy doing custom combining of soybeans around the neighborhood and he had a long list of customers.  Our Nevada Township farmer would have wait for the combine to arrive on his farm.  This put him in a bind.  He knew that it was necessary that he get as much of his soybean crop harvested before the soybeans dried out to 12% moisture content or less.  At 12% moisture content the mere threshing of the soybeans would cause excessive splitting of the soybeans.  Split soybeans could not be processed as efficiently as whole soybeans.  Consequently, he would be “docked” in the price he received at the Hunting Elevator for his beans if there was an excessive amount of splitting in the crop that he delivered to the elevator.

The danger was that, as he waited for the combine to arrive on his farm, the soybeans could dry out to only 8% to 10% moisture content.  At this level of dryness, soybeans would tend to split in half with any form of rough handling.  So, here he was, stuck waiting for the custom combine to arrive on his farm.  He felt he was losing money on his new crop with every day that passed.

While he waited, our Nevada Township farmer made arrangements to have his corn picked.  As usual, this was done by another neighborhood farmer who had a corn picker who performed custom corn picking in the neighborhood.  There were many such farmers in the neighborhood, who were available for custom corn picking.  Thus, it was much easier to get the corn picked without the long wait.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer was able to harvest his corn and get it in the crib in October before the soybeans were harvested.  As predicted, the corn was a poor crop.  Since 1938, farmers in the area had been using “certified hybrid” seed which was purchased from seed corn dealers rather than some of their own shelled corn to plant in the spring.  The result had been an improvement in the number of corn plants that sprouted from each hill and an increase in the size of the ears that were produced by those corn plants.  This meant an improve yield of bushels per acre in production on the average farm in Mower County.  Consequently, whereas prior to 1938, farmers in Mower County had averaged about 34.1 bushels per acre, in the years from 1938 until last year, 1944, Mower County farmers had averaged 45.4 bushels per acre.  This was the “new norm” and represented a 33.1 % increase in yield per acre or more simply a one-third increase in profits for the average farm because of the use of certified seed corn.

As he counted up the 1945 corn harvest, however, our Nevada Township farmer found that the yield of corn in 1945 was considerably less than normal.  Across Mower County the average yield of corn per acre in 1945, was only 32 bushels per acre.  This was 29.1% less than the new norm yield.  Corn was usually stored in the corn crib on the farm until February of the next year when it had a chance to thoroughly dry in the cold winter air.  Usually in February the corn in the crib would be shelled out and sold to the Hunting Elevator.  Accordingly, the income from corn was usually obtained in February.  Usually, this was one of the big payoffs from his farming operation.  The income derived from corn was used to pay off big annual debts in the farming operation.  This year, our Nevada Township farmer knew that this substantial income received in February would be reduced by about 30%.  That created a big hole in the family finances.  Under usual circumstances, one might expect that the scarcity of corn coming onto the market as a result of the poor harvest, might drive the price of corn up.  In such a case the farmer might be able to recover more income because he would receive more for each bushel of corn he sold, even if he had less than the normal number of bushels to sell to the elevator.  However, in 1945, the reduced demand for corn as the United States armies came home and the fact that the drought conditions was a local phenomenon rather than a nationwide epidemic meant that the price of corn did not rise.  Our Nevada Township farmer was faced with the fact that he would have 30% less crop to sell and he would receive any additional money for that crop on a per bushel basis than he had the previous year.

Finally in November of 1945, the combine arrived on the farm of our Nevada Township farmer.  Our Nevada Township farmer could finally harvest his first soybean crop.  Earlier in November of 1945 the weather had turned colder than usual and the ground had frozen.  Furthermore, an inch and a half of snow fell in the early November.  Luckily, however, the weather warmed enough to allow the soybeans to be harvested by the middle of November.  By this time our Nevada Township farmer’s two sons had made it back to the United States from the war in the Pacific.  They were now back on the farm and were able to help get the crop harvested and hauled straight to the Hunting Elevator.  On top of the problem of dried and split soybeans, our Nevada Township farmer also worried about the timing of his crop coming to the Hunting Elevator.  He was worried that the price of soybeans would fall as more and more of the soybean crop came onto the market across the nation.  WCCO radio out of Minneapolis/St. Paul had reported that the 1945 harvest of soybeans appeared to be a new record harvest.  (This report would later be substantiated by the Department of Agriculture, who would officially report that 193,167,000 bushels of soybeans would be harvested in 1945, setting another new record for the fifth straight year.)  Our Nevada Township farmer worried that the price of soybeans would fall as more of this large harvest came to market.  If the price fell too much, he would have to store the soybeans on the farm to wait for a higher price.  He needed to get as much for the soybeans as he could to offset the losses he expected in February from the sale of his corn.

The Model 10 Grainmaster combine, used by the neighbor, was a large combine, weighing 5,950 pounds.  This combine was really just a portable threshing machine with a ten-foot cutter bar protruding out the right side of the combine.  At ten-feet (120 inches), the cutter bar was wide enough to comfortably harvest three rows of soybeans (planted in 40 or 42 inch rows) with each pass across the field.  This was the configuration of the Model 10 combine in the field.  However, the combine in this configuration was too wide for transport down the road or even through the narrow gates into the fields of the typical post-war farm.  Thus, the cutterbar/feeder was built to be detached from the combine.  Mounted on its own auxiliary transport wheels, the cutterbar/feeder could be towed behind the combine for transporting down the road and through the gates of the individual soybean fields.  This meant that as the neighbor transported the Model 10 combine from farm to farm in the neighborhood, he appeared somewhat as a train moving down the narrow country roads of Nevada Township.

To pull the combine the neighbor used his own 1936 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 70 Row Crop tractor.  This tractor was the early “streamlined” Model 70’s which contained a Waukesha-made four-cylinder engine.  The neighbor had purchased this Model 70 as a used tractor from Thill Implement of Rose Creek.  This particular tractor was fitted rubber tires front and rear, which was a convenient feature for a tractor involved in custom farming.  Model 70 tractors fitted with rubber tires at the factory were usually also fitted with the optional six-speed transmission including a road gear allowing the tractor to cruise along at 13¼ miles per hour (mph).  This speed certainly hastened the tractor’s ability to move from farm to farm as he towed the Model 10 Grainmaster combine around the neighborhood to harvest the soybean crop.  Additionally, rubber tires on the tractor were becoming a necessity.  The steel lugs on steel-wheeled tractors naturally tore up and ruined the surfaces of graded roads.  As a consequence, county and local governments were starting to ban all tractors with steel lugs from operating on the public roads.

When the neighbor pulled into the farm of our Nevada Township farmer with his “long train,” he immediately headed out of the yard and down the lane to the soybean field.  He pulled the long train into the soybean field where, he began to unhooked the cutterbar/feeder from the rear of the combine and moved it around to its operating position on the right side of the combine.  This whole process of setting up the combine was conducted right on top of the soybean plants located near the gate of the field.  Our Nevada Township farmer cringed as he saw the maneuvering around was running down some of the soybean plants.  Disturbing these dried soybean plants allowed some of the dried pods to crack open and the soybeans inside to fall out onto the ground.  This was a waste of the crop that would reduce the per acre yield of the soybean harvest, but it seemed unavoidable.

Once the cutterbar/feeder was attached to its operating position and all the chains, belts and rubberized aprons were back in place, the neighbor started the four-cylinder Continental engine on the Grainmaster combine.  Once the engine was warmed up he engaged the clutch on the combine and everything on the combine can alive and began to work.

The neighbor adjusted the combine header to a height as low to the ground as possible so that the cutter bar would “shave” the ground leaving a stubble of no more than 1½ inches above the surface of the ground.  He wanted to get all the soybean pods into the combine—even the lowest hanging pods, which may only be about 2 inches above the ground.  The frozen ground was actually a help in this attempt to get as close to the ground as possible.  The skids under the cutterbar/feeder would ride along harmlessly on top of the frozen ground.  Had the ground not been frozen, the skids and the cutterbar might have plunged into the soft ground.  Dirt and mud would then have been picked up and gotten into the combine.

Oliver Model 10 Grain Master Combine front view
The Oliver Company Model No. 10 combine with its 5-batt reel mounted over the cutter bar.

Over the cutter bar of the Grainmaster combine was a reel which consisted of five (5) “bats” that were long enough to reach entirely across the cutter bar.  The cylindrical reel rotated a little faster than the anticipated forward speed of the combine.  As the reel turned each of the five bats would sweep down over the cutter bar and bend the soybean plants over the cutter bar as they were being cut.  This would assure that all of the cut beans plants would fall safely onto the header where a series of rubberized canvas aprons (or drapers) would carry the soybean plants across the platform of the header and up the to the feeder where they would then be fed into the cylinder where the actual threshing of the crop took place.  For harvesting soybeans, the neighbor had slowed the speed of the cylinder down from around 1400 revolutions per minute (rpm), the speed used for threshing wheat and/or oats, to a speed of 700 rpm for gentle threshing of the soybeans.  Once threshed the soybeans fell through the grain screens to the grain pan at the bottom of the No. 10 Grainmaster combine.  There an elevator would pickup the soybeans and carry them to the top of the 50 bushel grain tank located at the very top of the combine.  This grain tank was a gravity flow tank.  Therefore the tank needed to be located above the level of wagons or grain truck beds.  As a consequence, the grain tank gave the No. 10 combine a very high profile.  Indeed, the overall height of the combine from the ground to the top of the grain elevator was in excess of 12 feet.  Usually a very high shed with a high door needed to be built to house the No. 10 Grainmaster combine on farm of every farmer that owned one of these tall combines.

Oliver Model 10 Grain Master combine unloading inO
An Oliver Model No. 10 combine unloading its grain tank into a waiting truck with a grain box.

Once in operation in the field, the No. 10 Grainmaster offered unsurpassed efficiency in the threshing and separation of all crops including soybeans.  However, getting the field “open” enough for efficient operation was another matter.  First the end rows of the near end of the field had to be combined.  The neighbor steered the Model 70 tractor so that the front wheels rolled down the pathway between the first two rows nearest the fence.  The left rear wheel of the tractor passed along in the space between the first row and the fence.  During this first pass across the end of the field only the third, four and fifth rows of soybeans were harvested.  The first two rows nearest the fence were not harvested, but rather were straddled by the tractor pulling the combine.  The soybeans in these rows were disturbed which resulted in further losses of soybeans on the ground as the tractor and the hitch of the combine passed over the dried soybean plants.  Once he reached the side of the field with the front end of the tractor almost touching the fence along the side of the field, the neighbor needed to back the tractor and combine up and turn it around so that he proceed the opposite way across the end of the field.  The process backing the large bulky combine around meant that some more soybean plants were run over by the tractor and combine.

On the return trip back across the field, the neighbor was able to harvest the two rows near the fence, the same rows he had driven over on the first turn across the end of the field.  He reached the other side of the field and turned around to harvest the three remaining rows of the end rows on the near end of the field.  Once all the end rows were harvested, our Nevada Township farmer could drive his Model 28-44 Oliver tractor and his double box wagon onto the stubble of the near end of the field.  Before attempting to combine the long lengthwise rows of the soybean field, the neighbor pulled the combine over near the wagon and stopped.  He, then, dismounted his tractor and walked back to the grain bin of the combine and lowered the chute of the combine over into the wagon.  He then raised the lever of the door of the grain tank and all the soybeans began flowing out of the grain tank and dropping into the wagon box.  The neighbor wanted to empty the 50-bushel grain tank before he headed across the length of the soybean field.  Once reaching the far end of the field, the neighbor would harvest the end rows of the far end before returning to the near end again.  He wanted to make sure he started out with an empty grain tank to be sure that he could make it all the way back with out overflowing the grain tank.

As he headed out across the length of the field, he, again, steered the tractor down the first two rows and harvest only the third, fourth and fifth rows from the fence.  After combining the end rows on the far end of the field, the neighbor made his way down the opposite side of the field harvesting the third, fourth and fifth rows from the fence on that side of the field.  With a very full grain tank he made it once again to the near side of the field.  After emptying the grain tank again he reversed his direction around the field and harvested the two rows nearest the fence that he had run over with the tractor on his first lengthwise round of the entire field.  Now with plenty of room to turn around at both ends of the field the neighbor could complete the harvesting of the soybean crop at top efficiency, without running down any more rows of soybeans.  With every return to the near end of the field, the neighbor would empty his grain tank before heading out again on another trip across the field.

Much as he had worried over the price of soybeans, our Nevada Township farmer was pleasantly surprised to find that the price of soybeans had not fallen.  Indeed the price of soybeans in November had risen to $2.10 per bushel.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer hauled his whole soybean crop straight from the field to Hunting elevator in Lyle, Minnesota.  He and his sons were busy hauling the wagon loads of soybeans out of the field with the tractors.  In the yard, the wagon was hitched to his car the soybeans were driven to Lyle.  To prevent the any delays in the harvesting, our Nevada Township farmer also made arrangements with a couple of neighbors with trucks to help haul the crop straight from the field to the Hunting elevator.

Our Nevada Township farmer and his neighbors found that the amount of their soybean crop had been reduced somewhat because of the dry weather conditions during the growing season.  However, this reduction in yield for soybeans was not as serious as it was for corn.  The average per acre yield of soybeans fell to 12 bushels per acre in Mower County as a whole.  This was not as high as the 14 bushels per acre in 1944, nor as high as the 15 bushels per acre county-wide average in 1943.  However, both 1944 and 1943 had been exceptional years for growing soybeans.  In each of those years, Mower County farmers had set a new record for production of soybeans.  Since 1941, the average soybean yield per acre in Mower County had been 13.25 bushels per acre.  Accordingly, despite the dry growing season, the 1945 soybean harvest was only 9.4 % less than the normal harvest.  Clearly, soybeans could sustain dry weather condition better than corn.  This decline in the yield did not prevent Mower County farmers from setting another new record for total production for the third year in a row, with 618,000 bushels of soybeans produced in 1945.

Furthermore, as noted above, when our Nevada Township farmer sold his soybeans he received about $2.10 per bushel for his soybeans.  Thus, the soybean crop largely filled the hole in his yearly budget created by the poor corn harvest.

Thus, soybeans had saved the day on our Nevada Township farmer’s farm.  In 1945, soybeans proved their worth as a cash crop on a diversified farm—a cash crop which could save the family budget when the major cash crop failed.  In his very first year of raising soybeans our Nevada Township farmer had seen the advantage of diversifying his farming operation to include the cash crop of soybeans.  Diversification of his farming operation had worked the way it was supposed to work.

Oliver Farming in Mower County, Minnesota (Part I): Purebred Suffolk Sheep Raising

Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota (Part I):

Suffolk Sheep Raising

by

Brian Wayne Wells

Flock of Suffolk Sheep in Pasture
A flock of Suffolk sheep graze in a pasture

Mower County, Minnesota is located on the southern border of the State of Minnesota, adjacent to the State of Iowa.  In 1941, Mower County was a predominately rural county.  Topographically, Mower County is located in a transition area.  Starting in western Mower County and extending into Freeborn County to the west the land becomes very flat.  However the land in eastern Mower County and extending east into Fillmore County the land becomes increasingly more hilly.  Additionally, the soil itself in the eastern part of Mower County is sandy and is not as rich as the darker humus soil in the western part of the county.

Located in the extreme southwest corner of Mower County was Lyle Township.  Immediately, to the east of Lyle Township was Nevada Township.  In 1941, on one particular farm in Nevada Township, lived a man and his wife and two adult sons.  Our Nevada Township farmer had lived on this farm all his life.  Indeed, his parents had owned and operated this same farm before him.  As he had come of age on the farm, he had gradually taken over more responsibility for the farming operation from his parents.  In 1919, he had married his wife and together they had moved into the same large house with his parents.  In 1920, when his wife had become pregnant with their eldest son, his parents had decided to officially retire and move into Austin, the county seat of Mower County.  Austin (1940 pop. 18,307) was located in the middle of Austin Township, northwest of Nevada Township and straight north of Lyle Township.

Like many farms in the Midwestern United States, the 160-acre farm on which our Nevada Township farmer and his family lived was “diversified farm.”  Diversified farming operations were those farming operations that raised a variety of crops and animals rather than specializing in only one crop or one type of livestock.  Faced with the typical market fluctuations for the various farm commodities, our Nevada Township farmer, like other diversified farmers sought to avoid “putting all his eggs in one basket.”  Rather than growing only one cash crop or raising only one type of livestock on the farm, our Nevada Township farmer raised corn, oats and hay.  And he milked dairy cows raised pigs, and had about 200 laying hens in his chicken house.  In this way, he hoped that if there was a “softness” or decline in the price of one of these commodity markets, the other commodities would help him maintain a near stable cash income for the year.

Traditionally, corn was the main “cash crop” of the farming operation.  However, not all of the corn could be sold for cash.  Some of the corn had to be retained on the farm for animal feed.  First there were the cattle.  In late August, while the corn was still green, a portion of the corn would be chopped and blown into the silo to be fed as “ensilage” to the dairy cows during the winter time.  The rest of the corn was allowed to ripen and the ears of the corn were harvested in October or November each year.

Currently, there was a neighbor that did custom corn picking for many farmers in the neighborhood.  This neighbor had recently purchased a Wood Brothers Company one-row pull-type corn picker which he used to do the “custom picking in the neighborhood.  Our Nevada Township farmer hired this neighbor each year to pick the corn on his farm.

Once the corn was harvested, the ear corn was placed in the corn crib where it was allowed to dry all winter in the cold dry air.  In February or March following the harvest the dried most of the ear corn was shelled.  A portion of the ear corn retained on the farm and was ground in the feed grinder—cob and all—to become feed for the milking cows.  The cobs in the cow feed provided a certain amount of roughage for the cattle.  Our Nevada Township farmer provided an additional scoopful of this ground corn to each lactating cow at each milk time.  This small amount of ground corn fed to the lactating cows twice a day allowed the extra calories that the cows needed to continue supplying milk.  Furthermore, since most of the cows were also pregnant, the additional calories in the ear corn also supported the growing unborn calf the cow was carrying.

Part of the ear corn that was shelled each February or March would be stored in the granary to be used as animal feed on the farm.  A portion of the shelled corn would be ground in a feed grinder and fed to the feeder pigs.  Grinding the shelled corn in a feed grinder allowed the pigs to digest the corn easier and more efficiently.  The concentrated calories in corn quickly brought the feeder pigs up to market weight.  Another portion of the corn retained on the farm each year would be fed to the chickens along with some oats.  The calories in corn and the protein in oats would provide a balanced diet for the chickens and kept their egg laying at a maximum.  Because chickens have gizzards, which can digest very coarse food, both the shelled corn and the oats could be fed to the chickens without grinding or other processing.

Our Nevada Township farmer would blend in some oats when grinding the cow feed.  Oats contained less calories and more protein than corn.  Accordingly, the cow feed was not as rich in calories as was the pig feed.  Our Nevada Township farmer did not want the dairy cattle to become fat—like beef cattle.  He wanted a balanced diet.  The milking cows needed more roughage and protein than they needed concentrated calories.  They did not need to put on a great deal of weight like pigs or beef cattle.

Even after sufficient corn had been retained on the farm for all these animals, a large amount of shelled corn remained.  All of this remaining corn would be sold to the Hunting Company grain elevator in the small village of Lyle, Minnesota (1940 pop. 513), located about 9 miles to the southwest of the farm in neighboring Lyle Township.  This corn supplied a large part of the cash income for his farming operation each year.

When our Nevada Township farmer had taken over control of the farming operation from his parents in 1920, horses provided the power for field operations, exclusively.  Accordingly, in addition to feeding the cows, pigs and chickens on his farm, a great portion of the oats and hay, he raised on the farm fed the horses he used on the farm.  Accordingly, one field on the farm had been set aside for raising hay for the horses and the dairy herd.  Although the horses were used primarily only in the summer, they had to be fed all year long.  Additionally, another field had to be set aside each year for the raising oats for feed for the horses, cattle, pigs and chickens on the farm.

EPSON MFP image
Originally advertised as the Model A 3-5 Plow tractor, the standard four-wheel tractor delivered 28 horsepower (hp.) to the drawbar and 44 hp. to the belt pulley.  Thus, the tractor became known as the Model 28-44.

He had been aware, for some time, that he could increase the efficiency of his farming operation by mechanizing the power source on his farm.  Subsequently in 1940, Our Nevada Township farmer obtained a used 1937 Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 28-44 tractor.  This tractor was also called the “3-5 plow tractor.”  The tractor was a “used” tractor, but was only three (3) years old.  The Model 28-44 certainly was a great improvement to his farming operation.  The tractor performed all the heavy duty field work such as plowing and discing much more quickly than with horses.  Previously, these heavy duty field tasks had required the use of four or six horses harnessed together.  As time went by, our Nevada Township farmer even began using the Model 28-44 for lighter duty field work.  He had shortened the tongue on his Oliver/Superior horse-drawn two-row corn planter so that he could use the tractor to pull the planter across the field in the spring.  Our Nevada Township farmer found that he was able to reduce the number of work horses he kept on the farm.  Soon the only field task, which he not able to perform with his Model 28-44 tractor was the cultivation of corn.  As a “standard” or “four-wheeled” tractor, the Model 28-44 was not configured to be fit with a cultivator.  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer had to retain some of his horses for this single field task—the cultivation of corn.

The Oliver-Hart-Parr standard "four-wheel" tractor
The Oliver-Hart-Parr standard “four-wheel” tractor

Continue reading

The “Larson” Bundle Wagon

                                                The Larson Hayrack/Bundle Wagon

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the March-April 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)

The rear end of the light weight Larson wagon can be seen on theleft in this picture as opposed to the heavier construction of a traditional wood beam bundle wagon in the summer of .
This rear view of the light-weight “Larson” wagon on the left side of the feeder of Ira Whitney’s 28″ Case thresher during the summer of 1942, contrasts markedly with the traditional heavy wood construction of wagon on the right.

Threshing shows are appealing because of the opportunity they offer to step back into the past.  At these shows, most public attention is usually given to the threshing machines being powered by an un-styled tractor of the pre-World War II era as opposed to a styled tractor from the post-war era.  When un-styled tractors are used, amateur photographers can often position themselves away from the crowd and take pictures that look like they could have been taken in the 1930s.  Anything that adds a 1930s touch to a threshing scene will appeal to the public.

Generally, at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show in LeSueur, Minnesota only modern hayracks built for hauling bales have been employed for hauling bundles of grain to the threshers.  These hayracks, with their rubber tires and lack of side supports and front standards, are of a design that definitely date from the post-World War II baled-hay era.  In recent years, one touch that added authenticity to the threshing scene at the LeSueur Show, was the bundle wagon built by Dennis Waskovsky of Faribualt, Minnesota.  The Waskovsky bundle wagon, with its steel wheels, side supports, and front and rear standards, was a definite addition to the show.  Because it was the only authentic bundle wagon at the LeSueur Show, the Waskovsky wagon was moved from thresher to thresher to allow authentic photos to be taken.

Currently, there is a definite need for more “pre-war” style bundle wagons.  To make the matter even more urgent, the Waskovsky wagon was heavily damaged at the 1995 Show when a strong gust of wind picked it up and flipped it over on its top.  Although Dennis Waskovsky is rebuilding the bundle wagon, interest was kindled for the addition of other genuine bundle wagons.  One such bundle wagon which could be built is the “Larson wagon.”

Not much is known about Mr. Larson, the man who designed the wagon.  Indeed, even Mr. Larson’s first name has been lost over the period of time since he was last contacted by members of the Hanks family in 1935.

The Larson wagon had a good reputation in Faribault county and southern Blue Earth County, Minnesota, as being a very strong and dependable hayrack/bundle wagon.  Building a Larson wagon would not only serve to add authenticity to the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show, but would preserve another small part of the history of rural Faribault and Blue Earth Counties.

The story of the Larson wagon first intersects with the family of Fred Marshall Hanks starting in 1919.  Fred Marshall Hanks had farmed his parents’ farm in Verona Township, Faribault County, near Winnebago, Minnesota, since the untimely death of his father on January 11, 1916.  Indeed, he had gradually taken over more and more of the operation of the farm long before that time.  He had married Jeanette More Ogilvie from Pilot Grove Township in Faribault County on October 13, 1889, and together they moved into the Hanks farm house with his parents.  They had a son, Howard Bruce Hanks, on October 7, 1895.  Three other sons would follow: John Stanley, on July 27, 1902; Harlan David, on February 21, 1905; and Kenneth Warner, on December 16, 1908.  The Hanks family operated a diversified farm, like most others in Verona Township, raising oats, wheat, corn, and hay.  The livestock consisted of a milking herd, sheep, hogs, and chickens.  Fred Marshall’s father was a master at woodworking, and put this skill to work in a profitable way, building many of the barns in Verona Township and the surrounding area.  In 1900, the Hanks family purchased the 40-acre Baldwin farm which bordered the Hanks farm to the east and moved the Baldwin barn to the Hanks farm building site where it became the “bull barn.”  The Baldwin house was also moved to the Hanks farm where it became a woodworking shop.

Fred Marshall was not interested in woodworking, as was his father.  His interest was consumed in farming.  He loved farming and was constantly looking for ways to improve his methods of farming.  In 1900, as he began to assume more responsibilities of the farm, Fred Marshall gradually began changing the dairy from a cross-bred herd to a purebred Polled Shorthorn herd, schooling himself on the proper traits to develop in an animal for purebred livestock.  A 1904 advertising card (which still exists in the possession of Fred’s son Harlan Hanks) shows that by 1904 Fred Marshall was not only raising his own stock, but was selling purebred Polled Shorthorn cattle and purebred Duroc hogs to other farmers in the area.  By 1910, his reputation had grown to the point that buyers of purebred cattle and/or purebred hogs showed up on the Hanks farm on a regular basis from across the nation to buy breeding stock.

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By 1910, visitors to the Fred Marshall Hanks farm in rural Winnebago, Minnesota.

One day in 1919, a farmer by the name of Larson, from Frost, Minnesota, arrived on the Hanks farm to buy one of the purebred Polled Shorthorn bulls.  During the conversation, Mr. Larson divulged that he had devised a new design for a horse-drawn hayrack/bundle wagon.  His “Larson” hayracks were made with curved pieces of metal which served as supports for the sides of the hayrack.  These metal supports connected the sides of the hayrack with the floor.

The sides of earlier hayrack/bundle wagon had been supported by 2 x 4 vertical pieces of wood which were attached to the floor of the wagon.  When this design was found to be too flimsy, diagonal pieces of wood were added to the vertical sides, connecting the sides to the floor at two separate locations about a foot from the outside edge, thus making the wagon stronger because of the triangle that was formed by the support with the floor of the wagon.  However, these diagonals interfered with the men working inside the hayrack unloading loose hay or bundles of wheat or oats with a pitchfork.  The solution to this problem, followed by some hayrack designs, was to have the vertical side supports protrude beneath the level of the floor of the hayrack and to connect the triangulation diagonals from the bottoms of the vertical side supports to the underside of the floor of the hayrack.  The bothersome diagonals were then under the floor of the rack.  This was a better design, but still farmers found that the side supports interfered with any work that had to be done under the wagon, such as removing a wheel on the wagon gear to grease the axle.  The metal supports in the Larson-designed hayrack were the key to the design that made the Larson hayrack/bundle wagon unique.  They eliminated the need for any triangulation support either above or beneath the floor of the hayrack.  This made for a much lighter and cleaner designed hayrack.

Based on this design with the metal supports, Mr. Larson made hayracks for use on his own farm.  His neighbors, having seen the benefits of his design, had requested that he build hayracks of the same style for them or that he provide them with the metal supports so that they could build the hayracks themselves.  As a consequence, the Larson design became quite popular around the Frost area of Faribault County.  Continue reading

Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part 2 of 2parts)

Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township (Part 2 of 2 parts):

The 1944 Farmall Model H Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

Fuzzy newly formed seed-pods of the  soy-bean plant
Fuzzy newly formed seed-pods of the soy-bean plant

As noted, previously, Butternut Valley Township is located in the extreme northwestern corner of Blue Earth County, Minnesota.  (See the first article in this series called “Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township [Part 1]” also published in the blog section of this website.)   Also, as previously noted, in 1942 Butternut Valley Township was the home of a particular diversified 160 acre family farming operation.  Our Butternut Valley Township farer and his wife had lived on this farm since they were married in 1919.  As a diversified farming operation, he and his wife milked dairy cows, raised pigs and had a chicken flock.  They sold milk and eggs off the farm for regular income.  Each summer they marketed the pigs they had raised to provide cash income in the summer.  In the fields, they raised oats and hay.  Originally the oats were raised to feed their horses as well as their chickens and the hay was used to feed both the cows and the horses.  Since obtaining a “used” 1929 Farmall Regular tricycle-style tractor in 1937, he had greatly reduced the number of horses his farm.  Thus, he had been able to reduce the number of acres planted to oats and hay each year.  The largest crop on the farm was corn.  Part of the corn crop was cut in August each year, while it was still green.  This corn was then fed into the silo filler and blown into the silo which stood next to the barn.  The silage in the silo would be used all winter to feed the dairy herd.  The remaining corn would be picked in the late autumn and the ears of corn would be stored in the corn crib.  Part of this corn would be shelled and saved to fatten the pigs for market.  The rest of the corn would be sold to provide cash income in the winter.  Consequently, the corn was a cash crop as well as source of animal food.

Since the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December of 1941, a new market for plastics had arisen.  Soybeans was the main raw product used in making plastics.  Accordingly, since 1941,. the market price for soybeans had been soaring.  Because he now planted less acres in hay and oats, our Butternut Valley Township farmer decided to plant that extra acreage to soybeans in the spring of 1942.  The growing season of 1942 was almost perfect.  Both soybeans and corn were bumper crops.  Furthermore, the price of these two farm products rose to high levels.  Consequently, our Butternut Valley Township farmer had one of his best years in terms of farm income.  As a result, he seriously think about upgrading his farming operation by trading the old 1929 Farmall Regular in on the purchase of a new modern farm tractor.

After selling his corn, our Butternut Valley Township farmer was able to pay off all his debts and find that he still had a comfortable balance of funds in the bank.  As a result, he again visited the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership.  He had heard rumors that more Famall H’s with rubber tires were starting to be manufactured, again, due to the fact that more rubber was starting to be released by the government for civilian production.  This time he told the staff at the Fesenmaier dealership to place his name on the list for a rubber-tired Farmall H.  However, he told them he only wanted a Farmall H with rubber tires, electric starting and hydraulics.  He needed the new tractor now more than ever before.

In the spring of 1943, our Butternut Valley Township farmer increased the amount of acreage he planted to soybeans.  He kept waiting for his Farmall H to arrive at the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership.  However, very few Farmall Model H tractors arrived at the dealership in New Ulm, Minnesota in 1943 because the manufacturing capacity of the International Harvester Company was still being dominated by government-military contacts.  By 1943, ⅔ or 66.6% of the Company’s sales contracts were for military hardware.  (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester  p. 71.)  Consequently, production of farm tractors by the IHC declined even more.  Although already greatly curtailed, production of the Farmall Model H fell off by another 6% in 1943 when compared with the previous year.  Rubber pneumatic tires for the Farmall H had been almost totally unavailable since July of 1942.  However, starting in July of 1943 rubber tires for the Farmall H started to become available again on a limited basis.  (Guy Fay and Andy Kraushaar, Farmall Letter Series Tractors [MBI Publishing Co.: Osceola, Wisconsin, 1998] p. 73.)  Thus, the rumors that our Butternut Valley Township farmer had heard in the early spring of 1943, that rubber tires were once again becoming available for Farmall tractors, proved to be a bit premature. Continue reading

Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part I of 2 Parts)

Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township (Part 1 of 2 parts)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

Like corn, soybeans were planted in 40 inch rows and when they mature, soybeans tend to cover the 40 inch space between the rows.
Like corn, soybeans were planted in 40 inch rows and when they mature, the rank growth of a mature crop of soybeans tend to cover the 40 inch space between the rows.

 

Although officially organized May of 1858, settlement in Butternut Valley Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, was still quite new in 1900.  As previously noted, the first settlers in Butternut Valley Township raised wheat.  (See the article called “Case Part II: Steam Engines and Threshers” in the March/April 2006 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Wheat was the predominate crop in Butternut Valley Township and the neighboring townships of Cambria, Judson, Garden City and Lincoln Townships.  However, as the twentieth century progressed wheat production declined as corn replaced wheat on farms.  By 1921, more that 109,778 acres of corn were planted and harvested in the whole of Blue Earth County while wheat acreage had decreased to 43,520 acres for the county as a whole.  With the coming of the Second World War, production of corn continued dominate the agricultural landscape of Blue Earth County reaching 136,900 acres of corn harvested in 1943.  Meanwhile, wheat production in Blue Earth County fell to a miniscule 7,600 acres in 1943.

During the same period of time, other changes were occurring on Blue Earth County farms that were reflected in the crops that were raised in the county.  Acreage allotted to the raising of hay in Blue Earth County fell from 59,505 acres harvested in 1921 to 41,100 acres harvested in 1943.  This reflected the fact that farmers were purchasing more farm tractors and selling off their horses.  Consequently, they no longer needed to feed the horses all year long.  Thus, the average farm could reduced the amount of hay raised each year.  As a result, the average farm in Blue Earth County had acreage that could now be devoted to some other crop.

For a time in the 1920s barley production rose to fill this gap in production acreage on the average farm in Blue Earth County.  In 1921, only 7,134 acres of Blue Earth County’s arable land was planted to barley.  However, in 1927 barley acreage shot up to 12,300 acres.  In 1928 barley acreage in the county doubled to 25,200 acres.  Eventually, the dramatic growth of acreage planted to barley in Blue Earth County reached a total of 33,800 acres in 1938.  However, barley production in Blue Earth County fell as dramatically as it had grown.  By 1943, the acreage devoted to barley in the county fell to only 5,400 acres and in the following year (1944) barley acreage fell to a mere 700 acres in the county.

Coinciding with the decline in the production of in barley was a rise in the production of flax in Blue Earth County.  In 1938 only 2,300 acres of flax had been raised in Blue Earth County.  However, in 1939 flax acreage shot up to 11,900 acres.  Blue Earth County production of flax continued to climb and in 1943, 20,300 acres in the county was planted to flax.  However, in 1944, acreage planted to flax was cut in half—down to only 9,500 acres in the county as a whole.  As suddenly as it had appeared, flax production fell to nothing.  Farmers in Blue Earth County were turning to production of something else apart from wheat, apart from barley and apart from flax.  The crop to which they turned was the lowly soy bean.

Native to the orient, where it was a staple of human consumption, the soybean was introduced in the United States in 1804.  In 1879, two agricultural stations in New Jersey started growing and working with the soybean.  Ten years later, in 1889, several more agricultural experiment stations were actively researching the soybean.  In 1896, famous botanist George Washington Carver, from Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, discovered and refined over 300 by-products derived from the soybean.  The two most important marketable products of soybeans were edible oil and meal.  In 1922, the first soybean processing plant in the United States was opened.

However the soybean lacked a lucrative market for itself or any of its many by-products.  Henry Ford set out, in the 1930s, to develop a market for the soybean.  First he sought to make a bio-fuel from soybeans which would power the growing number of automobiles that were starting to populate the nation.  (Robert Lacey, Ford: The Men and the Machine [Little Brown Co. Pub.: Boston, 1986] p. 231.)  Only later, did he and his Ford Company engineers create a plastic from soybeans that could be used in the Ford car.  (Ibid. p. 233.)  In 1937, Ford built a soybean processing plant right on the grounds of the Ford Company Rouge Works factory located on the banks of the Rouge River in Detroit Michigan.  (Ibid.)  Soon, plastics comprised about two pounds of the weight of every Ford car manufactured.  However, the two pounds of plastics in Ford cars were limited to small parts like insulated casings and knobs and buttons on the interior of the car.  (Ibid.)  This was still did not represent a major market for soybeans and their products.

Despite all this early attention and product research, the potential of soybeans remained unrealized—a promising product without a real market.  Accordingly, soybeans remained a side line venture in agriculture until the Second World War.  With the United States’ sudden entry into the war, there arose a real demand for clear lightweight plastics products—especially, for windshields and cowlings on military aircraft.  Stimulated by military purchases of airplanes fitted with plastic cowlings and windshields, the price of soybeans soared.  Farmers began planting soybeans in a big way.  The farmers of Blue Earth County followed this trend.  In 1941, the last year before the war, only 3,400 acres of the arable land in the whole of Blue Earth County had been planted to soybeans.  However, in 1942, soybean acreage in the county tripled—reaching 11,100 acres.  By 1945, the acreage devoted to soybeans in Blue Earth County would nearly triple again—up 31,000 acres. Continue reading

Egg Raising in Dryden Township in Sibley County Minnesota (Part 2 of Two Parts )

A McCormick-Deering “Little Genius” Plow in Dryden Township (Part II)

 by

Brian Wayne Wells

This article is the second part of a two-part series of articles which was not published in the Belt Pulley magazine.

 

In 1940, as previously noted, a particular farmer and his wife were engaged in diversified farming on a 160 acre farm in Dryden Township in Sibley County, Minnesota.  (See the first article in this series called “A McCormick-Deering ‘Little Genius’ Plow in Dryden Township [Part I]” contained in the January/February 2009 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Also as noted previously, our Dryden Township farmer had used the money received from the unusually large “bumper” corn crop of 1939 to purchase a used 1935 Farmall Model F-20 tractor, a two-row mounted cultivator and a new two-bottom McCormick-Deering “Little Genius” No. 8 plow with 14 inch bottoms from his local International Harvester Company (IHC)  dealership—Thomes Brothers Hardware located  in Arlington, Minnesota (1930 pop. 915).

Since its introduction in 1928, the Little Genius plow had become one of the most popular tractor trailing plows sold in the North America.  The Little Genius plow replaced an earlier McCormick-Deering plow called the “Little Wonder.”  The Little Wonder had proved to be a disappointment to IHC and to farmers that used the plow.  Because of its light construction and because of the lack of clearance under the frame, the Little Wonder had trouble plowing in any kind of soil conditions especially in fields with any trash on the surface of the ground.  The Little Wonder tended to clog up in trashy conditions and never seemed to adequately turn the soil over the way a mold board plow should.  The Little Wonder was such a bad plow that farmers used to say that it was “‘little wonder’ that the plow was able to plow at all.” Continued production of the Little Wonder threatened to permanently ruin the International Harvester Company’s reputation as a plow manufacturer.  Introduction of the “Little Genius” plow turned all of that around, however.  In reaction to the criticism of the Little Wonder plow, the Little Genius plow was designed to be a much heavier plow.  Furthermore, the Little Genius was unmatched in clearance under the frame.  The Little Genius could handle a great deal of trash without clogging.  Additionally, the bottoms of the Little Genius plow were more sharply angled to assure a complete roll over of the soil and to completely bury trash that was lying on the surface of the ground.  Thus, the Little Genius tended to work well in fields with a lot of trash on the surface of the ground. However, the sharp angle of the bottoms of the Little Genius plow meant that the plow had an increased load or draft as the plow was pulled across the field.  Thus, the Little Genius plow needed to be matched to tractors with more horsepower than mold board plows designed with a less angle to their bottoms—such as the Oliver A-series Model 100 Plowmaster.

Our Dryden Township farmer was pleasantly surprised at the low price that Thomes Bros. offered for the purchase of the used 1935 F-20 tractor, the new cultivator and the new Little Genius plow.  So, in the early spring of 1940, he signed the sales agreement with the Thomes Bros. Hardware dealership to purchase the tractor, plow and cultivator.  Our Dryden Township farmer was anxious to get into the fields with the tractor and new plow and so he took immediate delivery of the tractor and plow.  The winter of 1939-1940 was colder than normal with more than the usual amount of snow.  Accordingly, it looked as though, the spring field work would be delayed because of the large amount of snow.     Continue reading

Egg Raising in Dryden Township, Sibley County Minnesota (Part 1)

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

A McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow at Work in

Dryden Township, Sibley County, Minnesota 

(Part 1 of 2 Parts)

 by

Brian Wayne Wells

(This is a new article that was never published in

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            The more a person works at restoration of an old farm tractor or a farm implement the more one begins to ponder the history of that farm implement.  One wonders, who originally purchased the farm implement.  What kind farming operation was the implement used for?   If curiosity is sufficiently aroused the person restoring the tractor or implement may start making telephone calls back to the person who sold the tractor and may start attempting to establish a chain of ownership of the tractor or implement back to the original owner.  However, the process of establishing the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult as time passes and memories fade.  Furthermore, when purchases of tractors and farm implements are made, as many are, at swap meets and/or auctions and when such purchases are made for cash from individuals unknown, the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult to reconstruct.  (Just how difficult it is to start reconstructing the history of a tractor when time passes is described in the two-part series of articles contained in the July/August 2008 and November/December 2008 issues of Belt Pulley magazine which deal with a 1937 Farmall Model F-20 tractor.)  Thus, it is often important to collect history of a particular tractor or implement at the point of sale or at least collect telephone numbers to call back at a later date.

Such pondering over the history of the history of a particular implement was particularly true during the restoration of one particular McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms.  (The actual restoration of this plow is described in the article carried on page 11 of the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine [Vol. 7, No. 5]).  This particular plow was purchased by Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet.  Luckily, Mark Wells had written down the name and address of the seller of the plow–Larry Hiles of rural Arlington, Minnesota.

Contact was established with Larry Hiles in 1995.  Larry Hiles was living in Arlington Township in Sibley County.  The homestead was located just south of the village of Arlington.  This particular Little Genius plow had been discovered by Larry Hiles parked in the grove of trees that formed the wind break for this homestead.  The farm on which the homestead was located had been originally owned by Earl Nagel.  While living on the farm, Earl Nagel was actively engaged in farming the land.  In about 1956, the homestead on the farm was sold to Raymond Kraels, who was a rural mail carrier.  Raymond Kraels was not actively engaged in farming the land.  On July 12, 1974, Delmar and Bonnie Mae (Kopishke) Trebesch rented and moved onto the homestead on the Nagel/Krael farm.  During the years that the Trebesch family lived on the farm, they had a large garden.  The garden was so big that they needed a tractor plow to turn the soil of the garden at the conclusion of each growing season.  Accordingly, sometime after moving onto the farm, Delmar Trebesch purchased a McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow at a local farm auction.  This was the same McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow that was later sold by Larry Hiles to Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet and became known as the “Trebesch plow.”

As described in the article in the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley, cited above, this particular Little Genius plow was fitted with 14 inch bottoms and originally had been a steel wheeled plow fitted with McCormick-Deering’s own “round-spoke” steel wheels.  However, the front wheels on this particular plow had been cut down and rims for rubber tires had been welded onto the round spokes of the front wheels.  As noted in the above-cited article, although the “furrow wheel” on the right side of the plow had been fitted with a rim for a 6.00 x 16 inch rubber tire, the land wheel on the left side of the plow was fitted with a rim for a 4.75 x 19 inch tire.  This seemed a rather odd pairing of tires sizes for the front of the plow.  If a farmer were having the steel wheels of the plow cut down to mount rubber tires on his plow, why would he not make the tires on both sides of the plow the same size?

Before the Second World War very few farm implements were sold from the factory with rubber tires.  Nonetheless, as noted in the 1994 article, the International Harvester Company (IHC) had been offering the Little Genius plow to the farming public with the option of rubber tires as early as the 1930s.  Rubber tires were not a common option on the Little Genius plow in the pre-world War II era.  However, during the “pre-war” era, IHC had a contract with the French and Hecht Company (F.& H.) of Davenport, Iowa, to supply rims for all the rubber-tired equipment sold under the McCormick-Deering name.  Pursuant to this contract, F.& H. supplied their familiar “round spoke” wheel rims to IHC.  When the option of rubber tires were requested on the Little Genius plow, IHC fitted the plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel.

This followed the design pattern of the original steel-wheeled Little Genius plow, in which the land side wheel was bigger in diameter that the furrow wheel. The reason for this wheel configuration was that the land wheel was the wheel connected to the clutch of the plow.  The clutch on the land wheel was the mechanism that lifted the entire plow out of the ground when the trip rope was pulled at the end of the field.  Consequently, it was thought that a larger diameter wheel was needed to provide the traction and leverage necessary to pull the plow out of the ground in some heavy soil conditions where the surface of the ground was slippery.  This was the situation when plowing succulent green vegetation (green fertilizer) into the soil.  The land wheel rolling along on the vegetation could become slippery from the succulent plant life crushed under the land wheel.  Then when the trip rope in pulled the land wheel might slide along the surface of the ground rather than continuing to turn and lifting the plow out of the ground.  Accordingly, it was decided that the land wheel should be larger in diameter so as to provide more leverage when the clutch was engaged to pull the plow out of the ground.  As a result, the steel-wheeled version of the Little Genius plow was fitted with a 30 inch steel wheel on the land wheel side of the plow and a 24 inch steel wheel on the furrow wheel side of the plow.

Thus, when the optional rubber tires were installed on the Little Genius plow at the factory in Canton, Illinois, the plow was fitted with a land wheel and tire of a larger diameter than the furrow wheel of the plow.  During the immediate pre-war era, the 6.00 x 16 inch tire was becoming the most commonly used tire on automobiles.  However, the 4.75 x 19 inch tire was also a well-known and popular size tire, it was the size of tire that was used on the very popular Ford Model A car.  Thus, the configuration of a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel became the standard configuration for Little Genius plows sold with rubber tires before the Second World War.  A 1941 picture of the showroom of the Johnson Bros IHC Dealership of Taylorsville, Illinois bears this out.  In the foreground of the picture is a new rubber-tired version of the Little Genius plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel side of the plow.

During the Second World War hardly any rubber was available for civilian use.  Consequently, IHC reverted to steel wheels on its new farm equipment.  Some time during the Second World War, the contract with F.& H. was terminated and IHC signed another supply contract for rims with the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois.  The wheels provided by the Electric Wheel Company were “disc-type” wheels.  Thus, the “post-war” McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow becomes distinguishable from the “pre-war” Little Genius plow fitted with rubber tires, in that disc-type wheels characterized post-war Little Genius plows and F.& H. round-spoke wheel rims characterized pre-war Little Genius plows fitted with rubber tires.   Thus, when cutting down the steel wheels of the Trebesch plow, someone had done a lot of work to make the plow appear as though it came from the factory as a rubber tired plow during the pre-war era.

By 1974, when Delmar Trebesch ended up being the highest bidder on this particular “Little Genius” plow, the increased size of the average farming operation and the larger equipment used on the average farm had definitely made this two-bottom tractor trailing plow into an “antique” from a bygone era.  However, there was a time when this particular Little Genius plow had been a new object of attention for a particular farmer looking to modernize his farming operation.  Continue reading

Potato Farming in North Dakota with a 1937 Famall F-20 (Part 2)

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Potato Farming in No. Dakota with A 1937 F-20 (Part II)

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the November/December 2008 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

As noted previously, Walsh County, North Dakota borders the Red River of the North in eastern North Dakota.  (See the first article in the series called “Potato Farming in North Dakota [Part I]” contained in the July/August 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Because of its location and its light rich soils, Walsh County traditionally leads all 53 counties of North Dakota in the production of potatoes.  Indeed, some years, Walsh County produces 40% of the North Dakota’s total annual potato crop.  Walsh County is divided into 37 townships.  The townships on the extreme eastern edge of Walsh County that border the Red River are not the leading townships in the county in potato production.  Rather it is the “second range” of townships back from the Red River that are regarded as the best locations for the growing of potatoes.  Among this second tier of townships in Walsh County is Martin Township.

As noted previously, Martin Township was, in 1936, the home of a particular farmer and his wife and two children.  Together they lived on a diversified 160-acre farm on which they raised potatoes as a primary cash crop.  However, they also raised spring wheat, corn, oats and hay.  They also milked a small herd of Holstein dairy cattle.  They had a chicken house full of laying hens and a few hogs in an attempt to diversify the sources of farm income as much as possible.  Consequently, a large portion of the arable land of their farm was taken up by pastureland and crops used as feed for the animals on the farm.  Martin Township was located so far north in the Midwest that the typical growing season was only 110 days long, extending only from an average last frost in the spring on about May  11 until the first killing frost in the fall on about September 11.  Corn which requires a 120-day season, does not, therefore, have enough time to mature in Martin Township.  This far north, corn is not a cash crop and is used as an animal feed on the farm.  Consequently, all the corn, raised by our Martin Township farmer was chopped green and put in the silo to be fed to his dairy herd.  Only wheat and potatoes were sold as cash crops.

As the growing season approached in the Spring of 1937, our Martin Township farmer was reducing the amount of the acreage to be devoted to oats and hay on his farm for the coming year.  The reason for this was that over the winter of 1936-1937 he had purchased a new row crop tractor which would, eventually, replace the horses on his farm.  As noted previously, this new tractor was a Farmall F-20 tractor bearing the Serial Number 71355.  (Ibid.)  He had purchased No. 71355 from the Honsvald Oil Company in Grafton, North Dakota, the county seat of Walsh County.  (Ibid.)

No. 71355 was a tricycle-style tractor with a narrow front end, and factory-installed 5.50 x 16 inch rubber tires mounted on French and Hecht (F. & H.) round-spoke wheels in the front and 11.25 x 24 inch tires also mounted on F. & H. round-spoke tires in the rear.  Because the tractor had been fitted with rubber tires at the International Harvester Farmall Works factory in Rock Island, Illinois, No. 71355 was also fitted with the optional foot brakes and was fitted with the optional 28-tooth high speed road gear.  With the more common 36-inch rubber wheels in the rear, this optional road gear would have delivered a speed of 7.07 miles per hour (m.p.h.) to the tractor.  However, because No. 71355 was fitted with the optional 24-inch wheels in the rear, the speed of the tractor in every gear was reduced by almost 1/3.  Accordingly, the speeds available to No. 71355 through its four speed transmission were 1.575 mph in first gear, 1.925 mph in second gear, 2.275 mph in third gear and 4.666 mph in the optional fourth gear.  Because this range of speeds was painfully slow for cultivation and other light duty field work, our Martin Township farmer had agreed to the installation of a supplemental high-speed transmission to No. 71355, as a part of the original purchase contract.  The particular high-speed supplemental transmission installed by the Honsvald Oil Company to No. 71355 was the Model HT-2033 supplemental transmission manufactured by the Heisler Company of Hudson, Iowa.  (Ibid.)  The Model HT-2033 supplemental transmission added some very important working speeds back to the tractor that had been taken away by the 24 inch wheels.  These were 3.654 mph in high range of first gear, 4.46 mph in high range of second gear, 5.25 mph in high range of third gear.  Additionally, the new Heisler transmission added a road gear of 11.28168 mph to the F-20 for fast transport down the road when needed.  To be able to use No. 71355 for the most important of summer field work tasks, i.e. cultivation of the row crops, our Martin Township farmer had included the purchase of a Model 229 two-row mounted cultivator as part of the same sales contract with Honsvald.  Additionally, as noted previously, the purchase contract with Honsvald Oil Company also included the purchase of a new Model 12 two-row potato digger.

Throughout most of January and early February, 1937, there had been accumulations of ten to twelve inches of snow on the ground.  However, unseasonably warm temperatures in early March melted the snow entirely by the middle of the month.  Now our Martin Township farmer had to wait for the soil to dry out and warm up.

Our Martin Township farmer knew of the old “rule” which stated that potatoes should be planted each year on Good Friday of the Easter holidays.  However, like most such rules, our Martin Township farmer knew that this rule did not apply to the “far north” of the Midwest where Grafton, North Dakota was located.  Most years in Walsh County, the last heavy frost in the spring occurred in early May.  Furthermore, he suspected that the old rule referred to potatoes planted in gardens in “sheltered” areas around the homestead.  He knew that the soil out in the open fields took a little longer to warm up in the spring than did the soil in the protected areas around the house.

April, 1937 was slightly warmer than normal and so was early May.  The last cold night that even approached a killing frost occurred in mid-April.  Furthermore, the gentle rains that occurred throughout April and May helped warm the soil.  These springtime rains dried quickly in the light soil of his farm and did not unduly delay the field work because of wet conditions.  Accordingly, our Martin Township farmer got into the fields in early May of 1937.   He put the bright, red No. 71355 to work preparing seed bed.  Both the spring wheat and oats could germinate in soil as cool as 37°F while seed potatoes required a temperature of 42°F.  Therefore, our Martin Township farmer and his neighbors usually sowed the spring wheat and the oats before planting the potatoes.  By contrast, corn required a soil temperature of 50°F for planting.  Accordingly, corn was planted only after the potatoes.

Cutting the seed potatoes into pieces ready for the potato planter was a job that employed the whole family and it was an ambitious job to be conducted each spring as planting time arrived.  The average potato might weigh 8 to 12 ounces.  After cutting the potatoes into pieces ready for planting, each piece would weigh about 2.5 oz to 3.75 oz.  In the past, potato growers and their families would cut all the potatoes by hand with a knife.  Our Martin Township farmer remembered that even as a small child, he helped his parents with this daunting task of cutting the potatoes for planting.  His mother would admonish him to be careful to leave two or three “eyes” on each piece of potato he cut.  “Don’t make dummies,” she said, referring to potato pieces which had no eyes.  The eyes of the potato were the locations on the potato where the spouts of the new plant would begin to form once the potato was underground.  Leaving two or more eyes on a seed potato piece would be extra insurance that the seed potato piece would still sprout and grow even if one eye failed to sprout.  Our Martin Township farmer’s mother used to joke with him as a child and say that the potato piece needed two eyes to see which way to grow.  Once cut, the seed potato pieces would be placed in a sack.

He remembered that cutting seed potatoes by hand was a long and arduous task in the spring because the family would have to cut enough potatoes to plant 11,600 pieces for every acre of land they intended to plant to potatoes.  This meant the family would have to cut enough pieces to fill as many as 14 sacks of potato sections for each acre of potatoes they wished to plant.  Currently for the 30 acre field that our Martin Township farmer wished to plant to potatoes, he needed 420 sacks full of seed potato pieces.  Cutting this many seed potatoes would have been impossible for the family alone without hiring on extra help.  However, a relatively recent and ingenious invention made in the 1920s by a local boy, greatly reduced the hand labor of cutting the potatoes into sections in the spring.

During the 1920s, Henry French, from rural Grafton, North Dakota, invented a mechanical potato cutter which would cut small potatoes into two pieces and large potatoes into six pieces.  (Lynda Kenney, The Past is Never Far Away: A History of the Red River Valley Potato Industry [Potato Growers Association Press: East Grand Forks, Minn., 1995] p. 123.)  The French potato “sizer and cutter” was a new invention that greatly reduced the amount of time that was taken up cutting potatoes for planting.  French’s potato cutter also “sized” the potatoes for planting with a mechanical potato planter.  Mechanical potato planters worked much more smoothly when the seed potato pieces were cut into relatively uniform chunks.  The French potato sizer and cutter did a good job at creating uniform chunks for planting in the field.

However, the French potato cutter could not assure that every seed potato piece that was produced by the machine would have an eye.  Thus, some “dummies” or “duds” were produced by the automatic cutting process.  These dummies would be placed in the sack with the other seed potato pieces and would be planted even though they would not grow.  When the potatoes would sprout up through the ground there would  be a “gap” or  a blank in the row where the dummy had been planted.  Our Martin Township farmer began to expect and to tolerate these occasional gaps in the rows of growing potatoes.  He surely did not want to go back to hand-cutting the potatoes with a knife, just to eliminate all dummies. Continue reading

Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells