Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota (Part IV):
The Wet Year of 1947
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.