The 1954 Farmall Model Super MTA from South Dakota
Brian Wayne Wells
This article remains under construction. Periodically, new blocks of text will appear in the article and/or current blocks of text will be corrected.
The Farmall M is the very popular tractor that has captured the affection of a great number of the collectors of International Harvester tractors. However, a great number of devotees of the Farmall M, will probably admit that their favorite version of the M is that final iteration of the M series–the Super MTA. This was true in the family of the current author as both he and his brother–Mark Wells have longed since childhood to have a Super MTA of their own. The Wells family did not keep this desire to own a Farmall Super MTA a secret from their friends and aquaintances–including Bill Radil.
Accordingly, when, in December of 2018, Bill Radil of Montgomery, Minnesota decided to sell the Super MTA that he had owned for about eight years, he turned to the Wells family. Bill informed Mark Wells that he offered to give the Wells family the first right of refusal on sale of the tractor. Needless to say, there was no refusal. Rather there was an immediate acceptance of the offer to sell the Farmall Super MTA. Indeed, payment for the tractor was concluded before the end of the month.
Once the sale of the tractor was concluded, the current author instinctively began to research as much of the history of the tractor as he could research. Bill Radil had owned the Super MTA since about 2010. While he did not have a great deal of information about the person who had sold the Super MTA to him, Bill did know the tractor had come from South Dakota.
Because the tractor is a tricycle-style tractor it stands to reason that the tractor must have come from a row crop growing area of South Dakota. The row crop growing area of South Dakota is located in the east part of the state. The western part of South Dakota tends to be too dry and hot in during the summer to grow corn, soybeans and other row crops profitably, This hot and dry climate of the western South Dakota is better suited to the raising of cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley.
Indeed, the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, and, actually, all states down to the Rio Grande River, through which the 100th meridian passes, are divided by the 100th meridian into two major climatic areas. To the west of the 100th meridian the climate tends to be dry and hot in the summer–too hot and dry to be efficient for the raising of row crops like corn, soybeans and editable beans. This makes the most of the area of west of the 100th meridian more suitable for raising for large scale (horizon to horizon) farming of cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley abound. While to the east of the 100th meridian the abundant rain and rich soil tends to be more appropriate for the raising of row crops like corn and soybeans. Indeed, the 100th meridian neatly divides the whole of North America into the row-crop Midwest on the east and the horizon to horizon Great Plains
Actually, in recent times many climate scientists have pointed out that the modern day boundary between the row crop growing area of eastern South Dakota and the drier and hotter wheat growing area of western South Dakota has been moving far east of the 100th meridian because of climate change.
Indeed, the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, and, actually, all states down to the Rio Grande River, through which the 100th meridian passes, are divided by the 100th meridian into two major climatic areas. To the west of the 100th meridian the climate tends to be dry and hot in the summer–too hot and dry to be efficient for the raising of row crops like corn, soybeans and editable beans. This makes the most of the area of west of the 100th meridian more suitable for raising for large scale (horizon to horizon) farming of cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley abound. While to the east of the 100th meridian the abundant rain and rich soil tends to be more appropriate for the raising of row crops like corn and soybeans. Indeed, the 100th meridian neatly divides the whole of North America into the row-crop Midwest on the east and the horizon to horizon Great
Codington County was a typical agricultural community in eastern South Dakota. The United States Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) had reported in their 1940 census that 91.7% of the county land area was taken up by operating farms. There were 1,170 individual operating farms in Codington County the average size of a farm in Codington County was 346.7 acres.
Between, 1941 and 1945, however, World War II had caused substantial changes to farming in Codington County. United States government purchasing of agricultural products to feed the troops in two theaters of war, tended to drive up prices of farm commodities to record high levels. By 1945, although the total land area of the county under operating farms had increased to 95.1%, the number of operating farms in the county had decreased to 1,155 individuals farms. However, the average size of the the individual farm actually increased to 364.1 acres per farm. Obviously, the war had caused a substantial consolidation of farming in Codington County. Farms had been sold and merged with other farming operations resulting in larger individual farms. One might have anticipated that trend toward consolidation would have continued in the post war era. However the 1950, U.S.D.A. agricultural census revealed that the number of individual operating farms in Codington County had the percentage of land area in the county increased slightly to 95.5 %, the number of farms increased to 1,160 farms. Furthermore, the average size of an operating farm in the county in 1950 fell to 360.2acres. These last to facts seem to suggest that the consolidation trend of the war years had been reversed. However, this reversal can probably be explained by the fact that many of the returning veterans of the Second World War were entering farming. Most of these veterans would be taking over their parents home farms. However at least some were starting from scratch and having to purchase their own farms. This would result in a larger number of farms for the period of time immediately following the Second World War.
Just 4 years later, 1954, the percentage of land in Codington County under agricultural production fell to 91.6%. The number of individual farms in Codington County decreased to 1,078 operating farms and the average size of a farm in Codington County had grown to 375.9 acres. The period from 1950 until 1953 was the period of United States involvement in the Korean War. Just as with the Second World War, there was an increase in farm produce commodity prices with the coming of the war. Although the Korean War was actually a military campaign carried out under the United Nations and although many nations sent contingents soldiers to defend South Korea to
The United States had a large contingent of soldiers involved
Although state-wide across South Dakota as a whole there had been a decrease in the number of operating farms from 72,454 farms in the 1940 68,705 farms in 1945 to s the Now in the post-war the the recent war–
Located in the eastern part of South Dakota is Codington County. The population of the county as a whole had been 18,944 in the 1950 census. This was an increase in population of 11.3% from the pre-war, 1940, population figure of 17,014. The United States Department of Agriculture found that in 1940
Along the eastern edge of the county are three (3) townships, running north to south. Of the three the center township is Waverly Township. This township is the home of a particular diversified farming operation of a particular farmer–our Waverly Township farmer.
The county seat and largest City in Codington County is Watertown (1950 pop. 12,699) The population of Watertown had risen 19.6% from the 1940 population of 10,617.
The John Deere Model D bearing the Serial No. 123360: The Ramona Kansas Tractor
Brian Wayne Wells
This article remains under construction. Periodically, new blocks of text will appear in the article and/or current blocks of text will be corrected.
As noted in the article called “Alfred Fulcher and the Cresco Implement Company of Cresco, Iowa” which is included as part of this website and blog, Wells Family Tractors obtained a 1935 “unstyled” John Deere Model D tractor upon the recommendation of Marilyn (Hanks) Wells, mother of the current author. Marilyn Wells had always been intrigued by the Model D because a 1931 version of the tractor had been the first tractor that her father, Howard B. Hanks, grandfather of the current author, had ever owned.
This 1931 two-speed Model D was first purchased by John T. Goff in 1931 from Beske Implement of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota. The story of this 1931 John Deere Model D is contained in an article called “Beske Implement of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota” which is contained in this website and blog. Howard and his wife, Ethel (Buck) Hanks, rented the John T. Goff farm in Mapleton, Minnesota in 1935 and continued to operate the farm until March 1, 1945, when they purchased the “Bagan farm” in Beaver Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota, near LeRoy, Minnesota.
While on the Goff farm Howard Hanks used the 1931 Model D on a near daily basis and came to appreciate power farming. Thus, in 1945, as the Hanks family moved off the Goff farm to take possession of the Bagan farm in Fillmore county, they purchased the 1931 John Deere Model D from John T. Goff and transported the tractor to the Bagan farm near LeRoy, Minnesota.
By 1950, Howard and his oldest son Fred Hanks, were farming the Bagan farm as a partnership. Fred had been pushing to modernize the farm with newer farm machinery. Thus, when Howard and Fred were on Sunday afternoon sightseeing trip in August of 1950, they saw a 1935 three-speed John Deere Model D sitting on the used tractor lot of the John Deere dealership in Cresco, Iowa, they decided to stop and look at the tractor. In the post-World War II era old steel-wheeled, two-speed tractors like the 1931 Model D with its top speed of only 3-1/4 miles per hour, were really becoming obsolete on a modern post-war farm. However, Howard loved the old Model D. While recognizing the shortcomings of the 1931, two-speed Model D, he was favorably disposed toward obtaining this newer version of the same tractor–especially a Model D with rubber tires and a 5 mile an hour top speed. Accordingly, Howard and Fred purchased the 1935 Model D from the Cresco Implement Company in exchange for the 1931 Model D and some additional “boot” money. This 1935 Model continued to be employed on the Bagan (now Hanks) farm until the 1970s, when the tractor was sent to the Francis Mims junk yard.
Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota (Part V):
The Korean War
Brian Wayne Wells
THIS ARTICLE REMAINS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. PERIODICALLY ADDITIONS WILL BE MADE TO THE ARTICLE. WHEN THE ARTICLE IS COMPLETE THIS PARTICULAR MESSAGE WILL DISAPPEAR.
By the spring of 1950, our particular farmer in Nevada Township located in Mower County Minnesota had realized the benefits of his attempts to modernize his farming operation. Ever since the summer of 1947 he had been combining his oats and his soybeans with his own Oliver Model 15, Grain Master combine. This machine meant that he now had control over the harvesting nearly all the crops on his farm. He able to harvest his corn, soybeans and oats on his own farm when they were ripe rather than having to wait on custom harvesters to finally reach his farm. Thus, during the last two bountiful years of 1948 and 1949, our Nevada Township farmer had been able to raise the crops on his farm with maximum efficiency. The proof was in the numbers yields of his two cash crops—soybeans and corn—for those two years. The year 1947 had presented problems for the farmers in Mower County, Minnesota, including our particular farmer in Nevada Township in Mower County. This farmer had been attempting to avoid the pitfalls of occasional falling prices and bad crop years by diversifying his farming operation a number of different products and crops on his farm. First he had added a sheep raising operation to his farm. The he had begun raising soybeans during the recent war. Through diversification our Nevada Township farmer had been able to maintain a relatively steady income despite falling prices for some farm products. When some products fell in price, it was likely that other prices would hold steady or even rise to make up the difference.
Then like a bolt out of the blue, on June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army invaded South Korea which started the Korean War. The United States led a United Nation’s effort to resist this invasion. Soybean prices rose to $2.80 per bushel as an average for the month of June and rose to $2.94 per bushel as an average for the month of July, 1950. Corn prices rose to $1.34 per bushel in August 1950 and $1.35 per bushel in September, 1950. However, most surprising to our Nevada Township farmer, as he listened to the local farm reports on KAAL radio at 1480 kc on the dial, broadcasting out of nearby Austin, Minnesota (1950 pop. 23,100), was the increase in lamb prices at the Hormel meatpacking plant in Austin.
Since 1944, lamb prices had been languishing around the $7.00 or $8.00 per hundred weight (cwt.) range for market lambs. However, in June 1950, the price of lamb rose to $10.40 per cwt. To take advantage of this spike in lamb prices, our Nevada Township farmer was tempted to sell a great deal of his flock to Hormel’s before the spike in prices disappeared. However, he delayed his decision on this matter. When he had begun raising sheep, he had realized that raising sheep for market was one thing, but he could make more money by raising breeding stock for other sheep farmers. Good breeding ewes (female sheep) could bring 6 or 7 times the price of common market sheep if they had been properly registered and had their papers in order. Registered Purebred Rams (male sheep) could bring even more money than ewes. This led him into raising purebred sheep—purebred Suffolk sheep. (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising.”) Soon he was registering his sheep with the National Suffolk Sheep Association (N.S.S.A.) and showing his sheep at fairs like the Mower County Fair in Austin and like the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, Minnesota (1950 pop. 311,349). He had spent many years building his purebred Suffolk flock and was reluctant to sell off all his best ewes to Hormels, if he could make more money raising breeding stock like he used to do during the recent world war.
Perhaps this was not a mere spike in the price of lamb. He had struggled along with his purebred stock during the intervening post-war years, always hoping for better days ahead. This might be the start of the “better days” for his purebred flock. If so he did not want to miss the boat by selling off his whole flock to Hormel’s for a quick profit. So he waited.
In July, the average price for lamb rose to $10.90 per cwt., In August, the price rose again, to $11.10 per cwt. and in September, 1950 the price climbed to $12.60 per cwt. Whether the war or more correctly “police action” in Korea was causing the price of lamb to rise or not, the high price of lamb was no temporary apparition. Our Nevada Township farmer did not, however, understand why the military action in Korea was causing this escalation of the price of lamb. He remembered that something like this price rise had happened in 1940 which had caused him to get into the business of raising sheep in the first place. (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising.”) At that time, the government had purchased lamb to put in military C-rations. That decision, he remembered had turned out to be disastrous. American soldiers during the recent world war had strongly disliked the lamb in the C-rations. As a result the government had ceased buying mutton in 1944 and the price of lamb had languished. Our Nevada Township farmer could not believe that American soldiers, just five years later, had discovered that they now liked lamb in their C-rations.
Our Nevada Township farmer knew that the United States was the primary western super power in the world concerned with the Pacific Ocean affairs, the United States bore the brunt of armed forces resisting the North Korean invasion of South Korea. The United States supplied about 203,000 troops for the Korean War. Still the resistance to the North Korean invasion of South Korea was officially a United Nations effort, involving not just the United States alone. There were smaller military contingents from twenty (20) other nations around the world fighting in Korea. There were 14,200 British troops, 6,150 Canadian troops, 5,460 Turkish troops, 1,390 New Zealand troops, 1,270 Ethiopian troops, 1,260 Greek troops, 1,120 French troops, 1,070 Columbian troops, 900 Belgian troops, 820 Dutch troops, 300 south African troops, 170 Swedish troops, 105 Norwegian troops, 100 Danish troops, 72 Italian troops, 70 Indian troops and 44 troops from Luxembourg.
Most of the public of the United States did not know immediately that the task of supplying food to all the troop contingents in Korea had been centralized and assigned to the United States Army Quartermaster Corps. The Quartermaster Corps purchased the food products they needed from the United States market. Because of the various international contingents fighting in the Korean War, the Quartermaster Corps had to buy a wide variety of food products–including lamb. This buying created a strong demand for farm products and farm prices rose almost immediately after the June, 1950 invasion. Our Nevada Township farmer could not understand why lamb prices rose with all the other farm prices. Surely, lamb was no more popular among the U.S. troops (and probably not much more popular with the Canadians) than it had been during the Second World War (see the first article in this series of articles called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising”). As a result he felt the rise in lamb prices was a temporary spike that would not last long. Only later did he become aware that the palates of many of the international soldiers fighting in Korea preferred lamb as a part of their diet. This meant that Quartermaster Corps needed to purchase substantial amounts of lamb from the United States market. This purchasing by the Quartermaster Corps, our Nevada Township farmer learned, had caused the rise in lamb prices immediately after the North Korean invasion of the south in June of 1950.
Additionally, during the Korean War, the U.S. Army began the policy of serving fresh hot meals to their troops rather than cold C-rations. servingQuartermaster Corp made a conscious effort to supply as many troops as possible with fresh cooked food served in field canteens, rather than relying on C-rations to feed the troops in the field. Consequently, lamb prices in the United States rose dramatically, breaking all previous records. Rising up out of the usual doldrums price range of $7.00 to $8.00 cwt., the market price of lamb shot up to $10.50 cwt. in July of 1950. By December of 1950 the price of lamb had reached $14.80 cwt. and by March of 1951 the price was $18.50 cwt.
The rise in the market price lamb had an immediate effect on our Nevada Township farmer. He noticed that it was much easier to sell his purebred ewes (female sheep). Traditionally, he would show his prize ewes at the Mower County Fair during the first full week in August and again at the Minnesota State Fair which ended on Labor Day in early September. The ribbons he won at these fairs served as advertising for his purebred flock of Suffolk sheep. During and after these fairs, he could expect to sell some of his purebred ewes and bucks or rams (male sheep) as breeding stock to other farmers seeking to improve their flocks. In 1950, he now sold more ewes than he had in any year since 1944. Many farmers, it seemed, wanted to start raising sheep or to increase the size of the small flocks they already had on their farms. This increase in flocks of sheep was reflected in the 1950 Minnesota sheep population figures. To be sure, the 1950 figures reflected another decline of sheep to 571,000 head of sheep. However, this represented only a 1% decline from 1949. The massive decline of sheep populations that had occurred since 1945 had finally reached bottom. Even here in Mower County, the end of the precipitous post-war decline in sheep population was evident as the population of sheep in Mower County declined again in 1950 by only a 2.8% to 10,300 head for the county as a whole. Clearly, better times were ahead for sheep farmers in the Midwest.
The ewes that he sold after the Mower County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair, were not bred ewes. Usually, he released the rams to graze with the ewes even the young ewes after he returned home to the farm from the State Fair following Labor Day in September. Generally, within thirty (30) days all the ewes would be pregnant. In this way, every ewe in the flock would be bred during the months of September and October. Thus, he could expect that most of the new lambs in his flock would be born in the months of March and April of the next year.
Generally, after Christmas, in January each year there would quite a few organized annual “bred ewe” sales held around the Midwest. These auctions were a good chance to sell even more breeding stock. Since the ewes at these sales were already pregnant, the ewes would usually sell for even more money than the un-bred ewes he sold after the fairs. In 1950, however, our Nevada Township farmer was receiving higher prices for his both his pregnant and non-pregnant ewes, than ever before.
This was fortunate, because the summer of 1950 had been a dry growing season. Thus, our Nevada Township farmer suffered a 13% decline in the soybean yield in 1950 in Mower County. The , but the resulting high price he had received for his soybeans had more than made up for the loss of yield. Thus, in 1950 both sheep and soybeans were helpful additions to 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 in the corn yield in 1947.
Ewes that he sold after the Mower County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair, were not bred ewes. Usually, he released the rams to graze with the ewes even the young ewes after50he returned from the State Fair following Labor Day in September. Generally, within thirty (30) days all the ewes would be pregnant. In this way, every ewe in the flock would be bred during the months of September and October. Thus, he could expect that most of the new lambs in his flock would be born in the months of March and April of the next year.
Generally, after Christmas, in January each year there would quite a few organized annual “bred ewe” sales held around the Midwest. These auctions were a good chance to sell even more breeding stock. Since the ewes at these sales were already pregnant, the ewes would usually sell for even more money than the un-bred ewes he sold after the fairs. In 1950, however, our Nevada Township farmer was receiving higher prices for his both his pregnant and non-pregnant ewes, than ever before.
However, there had been a 13% decline in the soybean yield in Mower County, but the high price he had received for his soybeans had 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 in the corn yield in 1947. Our Nevada Township farmer recognized that once again diversification of his farming operation had saved the day. Specifically, diversification into soybeans appeared to be work not only in drought years like 1945, but also in wet years like 1947.
Mower County, Minnesota is located on the southern border of the State of Minnesota, adjacent to the State of Iowa. In 1953, 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 1953, on one particular farm in Nevada Township, lived a man and his wife and one adult son. Our Nevada Township farmer had lived on this farm all his life. Indeed, his parents had owned and operated the 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 1924, he had married his wife and together they had moved into the same large house with his parents. In 1925, when his wife had become pregnant with their son, his parents had decided to officially retire and move into Austin, the county seat of Mower County. Austin (1950 pop. 23,100) 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 operation 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, soybeans, 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.
However, not all of the crops on the farm could be sold for cash. When our Nevada Township farmer had taken over the operation of the farm from his parents, he had used horses, exclusively, for power on the farm. Accordingly, one field on the farm had been set aside for raising hay for the horses and the dairy herd. Another field had to be set aside each year for the raising oats for feed for the horses, cattle, pigs and chickens. Therefore, these crops were not cash crops. These were crops were raised for animal feed only. Corn was, therefore, traditionally the only “cash crop” of the farming operation. However, not all of the corn could be sold.
Some of the mature corn plants were chopped in late August while they were still green 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. This ear corn was stored in the corn crib to dry in the cold winter air. In February the dried ear corn would be shelled. Most of this shelled corn would be sold to the Hunting Company grain elevator in the small village of Lyle, Minnesota (1950 pop. 609), located about 9 miles to the southwest of the farm in neighboring Lyle Township.
However, some of the shelled corn had to retained on the farm as animal feed. A large portion of the shelled corn would be ground 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. 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. A portion of the ear corn retained on the farm was ground in the feed grinder—cob and all—to become feed for the milking cows. Our Nevada Township farmer provided a 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. 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 cobs in the cow feed provided a certain amount of roughage for the cattle. Furthermore, when grinding the ear corn for the cows, our Nevada Township farmer added oats to the ear corn he fed into the grinder. The oats added protein to the cattle’s diet. The milking cows needed the roughage and protein more 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 could be hauled off the farm and sold to the Hunting Company elevator in Lyle. The sale of this remaining 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 1924, 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. Although the horses were used primarily only in the summer, they had to be fed all year long. 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 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 cultivation of corn to control weeds was a task that dominated all his summers from June until the latter part of July. Even now in the post-war era, he was still cultivating corn, one row at a time with his horses and horse-drawn one-row cultivator. Cultivating corn was the most time-consuming activity on farm. Hours, days and weeks of time were spent by our Nevada Township farmer riding the cultivator behind the horses watching the tiny shoots of corn pass between the two horses and slip between the two shields positioned on the cultivator to protect the young plants from being covered up by the dirt that was being stirred up by the shovels of the cultivator. Our Nevada Township farmer vowed each spring to cultivate the entire corn field three times before the middle of July. The first time, the corn was cultivated lengthwise. This cultivation attempted to eliminate the weeds between the rows of corn.
Our Nevada Township farmer used the “check-wire” type of planting when he planted his corn each spring. He stretched a wire across the length of the field. Spaced along the wire at every 40 inches was a button. The wire was attached to a tripping mechanism on the side of the corn planter during every trip across the field. As the planter progressed across the field the wire would slide through the tripping mechanism on the corn planter. As each individual button on the wire, the button would cause the planter to trip and both planting units on the two-row corn planter would plant corn seed at that location in the field. Thus, when finished the entire field was planted in a “grid” of 40 inch rows and the individual corn plants within each row would each be 40 inches apart. This grid allowed the corn to be cultivated cross-wise as well as length-wise.
Thus, the first time over the field with the cultivator, our Nevada Township farmer drove the horses and cultivator lengthwise across the field. The shovels dug out all the weeds in between the rows of corn as the cultivator moved along. However, this grid allowed the corn field to also be cultivated in a crosswise pattern. Cross cultivating allowed the cultivator to dig out all the weeds had not been dug out in the earlier lengthwise cultivation—in particular those weeds which were growing up between the corn plants within the rows. Consequently, in addition to the first time lengthwise cultivation of the corn, our Nevada Township farmer always wanted to complete a second cultivation of the corn in a crosswise pattern. Ideally, the corn should be cultivated a third time. Every spring our Nevada Township farmer pledged to cover the corn three times with the cultivator. However, between the slow progress of cultivating with the horses one row at a time and the rainy days which prevented any field work, his plans were usually went awry. Usually by the end of July the corn was too tall to fit comfortably under the frame of the cultivator and besides the corn was already to the “tasselling” stage. Cultivation at this stage would do more harm than good to the corn. Most years, our Nevada Township farmer found that the corn was already too tall before he had finished third cultivation. Thus, our Nevada Township farmer would be forced to cease cultivation of the corn before he was done with the third cultivation.
For some time, our Nevada Township farmer had been aware that if he owned a tricycle-style tractor, he could mechanize his entire farming operation—including the cultivation of corn. He might then have no need for horses at all on his farm. The elimination of horses from the farm would allow our Nevada Township farmer to decrease the number of acres used for raising oats and hay on the farm. Thus, more of the arable acreage on his farm would be available for cash crops. This meant that he could derive more income for his farming operation.
However, in late 1941, about a year and half after he had purchased the Model 28-44 tractor, The United States found itself thrust into the Second World War. Farm machinery of any kind and especially tractors became extremely difficult to obtain. All farm tractor production was severely restricted as the industrial capacity of the United States was funneled entirely to the war effort. Thus, for the duration of the war our Nevada Township farmer was required to continue using just the machinery he had at the beginning of the war.
The war brought about a great number of changes in the rural farm economy. First and foremost were the high prices that farm commodities fetched during the war. The United States government bought a great deal of food stuffs as the government attempted to feed its armed forces stationed around the world. Large government buying in the agricultural products market raised prices of agricultural products across the spectrum. These higher prices created new opportunities for farmers. One such opportunity arose because of the disruption of trade between Australia and Great Britain.
Britain has traditionally been known as a nation of meat eaters. In the pre-war era (before 1939), the average British citizen ate 109.6 pounds of meat. (From a 1949 document, found on the Internet, called “Australia’s Contribution to the British Diet” by R. H. Heywood.) By comparison, the average citizen of the United States ate 82.9 pounds of red meat in 1938. Like the diet of the average United States citizen, most of the meat eaten by the British was beef. However, unlike the United States, the second meat of choice in the British diet was mutton or lamb, while pork was in third place among meats in the British diet. In the United States, pork was second behind beef in popularity while lamb fell far behind chicken and even fish in popularity. (From a United States Department of Agriculture spread sheet called “Red Meat and Poultry per capita availability in the United States” found on the Internet.) Indeed, citizens of the United States ate twice as much chicken and nearly four times as much fish and shellfish as lamb. (Ibid.)
Time was, when Britain raised nearly all the sheep consumed by its own people. However, following 1900, the increase the number of sheep in Great Britain did not keep up with the growing of the population. (“Australia’s Contribution to the British Diet” by R. H. Heywood found on the Internet.) Consequently, lamb and mutton began to be imported—largely from Australia. By 1940, one third of all mutton consumed in Great Britain was imported. (Ibid.) However, the Japanese conquests of large parts of Southeast Asia and the threats to Australia, had a debilitating effect on Australia’s trade with Great Britain. Additionally, what trade left the shores of Australia safely faced another difficulty. The virtual closure of the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea for the duration of the war meant that Australian shipping no longer had access to the Mediterranean “shortcut” to Britain. Trade destined for Britain had to make its way around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa on its way to Great Britain. This added a great deal to the expense to the price of Australian sheep. The price of sheep in the United States began climbing as early as February of 1938. However, in April of 1941, with the German invasion of the Greek mainland and the island of Crete and the resultant threat on British shipping in the Mediteranean, the price of sheep in the United States rose to $6.40 per hundred weight—a price not seen since 1930. Consequently, a niche opened in the sheep market for the American farmer. The Midwest family farm was now able to compete profitably with Australian sheep producers for a share of the large British market.
In 1941, sheep and lamb production in the United States set a new all-time record of 2.3 billion pounds of meat. (From an April 30, 1942 document called “Meat Animals—Farm Production and Income 1935-1941 found on the Internet.) Despite this drastic increase in production of sheep in the United States of America, no glut appeared in the sheep market which might threaten the price. Indeed the price of mature sheep (mutton) continued on a sharp increase—rising from $3.90 per hundred weight in 1940 to $5.10 per hundred weight in 1941 (a 31% increase in just one year). (Ibid.) Spring lamb prices rose from $8.10 per hundred weight in 1940 to $9.58 per hundred weight in 1941 (a 19% increase in one year). (Ibid.) The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that the sheep raisers saw a 27% increase in their income between 1940 and 1941. (Ibid.) After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which drew the United States into the War, mutton prices remained at high levels as the United States put mutton into several C-ration military field kits. (Many people now allege that putting mutton in military C-rations ruined the market for lamb and mutton for an entire generation of Americans. After the war, returning World War II veterans absolutely refused to buy or eat lamb because of bad memories they retained of the mutton in the military field C-rations they had been forced to eat during the war.)
Favorable market conditions in the sheep market were reported over the radio—like WCCO radio out of the Twin Cities. Our Nevada Township farmer began think hard about acquiring a small flock of ewes. He was not alone. Many farmers in his neighborhood were doing the same thing. Indeed, for one farm family over in a neighboring township—Austin Township—sheep raising was already a major part of their farm income. Earl Eugene and Margaret (Stormer) Subra owned a farm containing only 60-acres in Austin Township. While, the Subra family milked some cows and raise some pigs, they virtually made all their cash income from sheep—pure bred Suffolk sheep. Born in 1913, Earl Subra grew up on the farm of his parents William J. and Bertha (Dennis) Subra located in Austin Township. Raised on his father’s farm, Earl had moved to his own farm. In 1931, he and Margaret Stormer were married. Earl began raising Suffolk sheep prior to 1940. He chose Suffolk sheep because of the characteristics of breed.
The Suffolk breed was born as a result of the cross breeding of Southdown sheep with old Norfolk sheep in England. Suffolks are not “wool” sheep. They grow only a moderate amount of wool. They were a breed of sheep known for their black faces and legs, which were free of wool. Suffolk sheep were raised primarily as “meat” sheep. Suffolk ewes (female sheep) were prolific in the production of offspring and were “good milkers.” Suffolk lambs grew rapidly; they had more edible meat and less fat than other breeds. Suffolks have excellent feed conversion characteristics which means that Suffolks have the capacity to actively graze and rustle for feed even on dry range lands. However, this characteristic also means that when Suffolk lambs are raised on high quality feeds, the breed has one of the fastest growth rates of any breed of sheep. Consequently, Suffolk sheep were rapidly becoming the most common breed in the Midwestern United States. (Paula Simmons & Carol Ekarius, Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep [Storey Publishing: North Adams, Massachusetts, 2001] p. 74.)
Earl Subra noted that Suffolks answered the demands of the market at the current time in 1940. Meat, not wool, was the main product that was in demand in the current market. Suffolks had the quality of lean meat that the market demanded. Furthermore, the short five-month (147-153 day) gestation period plus the rapid growth rate of the individual lambs meant that the farmer could make money faster with Suffolks than with other breed of sheep. Earl Subra knew that, drawn by the chance for making a good profit, many farmers would be attempting enter the sheep market by acquiring flocks of their own for the first time. He also knew that many of these farmers would be choosing Suffolks. Accordingly, in addition to raising and selling lambs to the Hormel meat packing plant in Austin, he felt he could also make a profit selling bucks (male sheep) and ewes (female sheep) to those farmers wanting to start their own flocks. In this way he would be working with the rising tide of farmers entering the sheep market. This, Earl Subra thought, was the way he could make a living out of the new situation that was arising.
However, to sell Suffolks to the farmers wishing to start their new flocks, Earl Subra felt that he needed to have a product that would these farmers would buy. If Suffolk sheep had characteristics that would stand out among other breeds of sheep, then the goal should be to raise Suffolk sheep that would adhere closely to those characteristics and avoid any negative characteristics. Indeed, there already was an organization in devoted to promoting the best characteristics of the Suffolk breed by educating Suffolk breeders. This organization was the National Suffolk Sheep Association (N.S.S.A.) which was headquartered in Michigan and later was headquartered in Columbia, Missouri. N.S.S.A. started a registration process by which purebred Suffolks could be registered with N.S.S.A. N.S.S.A. would mail out a certificate of registration to the owner of the individual registered sheep. In order to qualify for registration, both the sire (father) and dam (mother) must also have their own certificates of registration. Theoretically, then every registered purebred Suffolk could be traced back through a paper trail of registration certificates to the original Suffolk sheep which initially defined the breed. Each certificate of registration would document that the individual sheep was direct descendant of these original Suffolk sheep.
A registration fee was assessed by N.S.S.A. for each and every registration. Farmers therefore tended only to register the best examples of Suffolk sheep in their flocks. Farmers would register only those sheep that were intended to keep as “breeding stock.” Any sheep intended for market would not registered. Usually all those sheep with lesser breed characteristics were sent to market. These sheep might be purebred sheep, but they were non-registered purebreds. Suffolks of unknown origin might look very good as far as breed characteristics, but because no paper trail of registration certificates could be assembled to show how they were connected to the original Suffolks, these sheep could never be registered, no matter how good they looked as far as breed characteristics. These sheep are known as “grade” sheep. The intended result of this registration process was that registered purebreds with their papers in good order would bring more money at any sale of breeding stock than either grade sheep or unregistered purebreds.
The N.S.S.A. sponsored judging shows of registered purebred Suffolk sheep to educate sheep growers on the best characteristics of the Suffolk breed. The N.S.S.A. also promoted the “open class” sheep judging contests at the various state and county fairs around the nation. Usually 4-H and FFA classes were also judged at these county and state fairs. These judging contests were open only to members of the 4-H or FFA. However, the “open class” show, which was open to sheep growers of all ages. Within the open class competition, there were many different sub-divisions according to the breed of sheep. Within each of these breed sub-division, only registered purebred sheep of that particular breed could be entered. These judging competitions and shows were attempts to educate and sharpen the eye of individual breeders as to fine points of the breed. The N.S.S.A. defined and evaluated exact standards as to the ideal Suffolk sheep. Judges at county and state fairs around the nation were provided a “score card” which evaluated the various features of the Suffolk sheep and how many points were to be allowed for each feature. The total number of points was 100 points of which 35 points were set aside for the rear legs alone.
Even prior to 1939, Earl Subra had been working on developing a flock of Suffolk sheep that reflected superiority in any number of individual features. Soon his ewes and rams were winning a number of blue ribbons at the Mower County Fair which was held in the first week of August each year. Earl also began to make a name for himself at the Minnesota State Fair. Soon breeders from outside the Midwest, and even from Canada, were searching him out to purchase rams and ewes from the Subra flock. These other breeders saw traits in the Subra sheep that they wished to include in the blood lines of their own flocks. Consequently, Subra sheep were sold far and wide and Earl Subra became quite famous among Suffolk breeders across the nation.
Accordingly, when our Nevada Township farmer began to think seriously about obtaining a flock of sheep for his own farm, he though of the Subra farm located in the next township to the west. Accordingly, in the fall of 1941, after watching the dramatic increase in the price of sheep over the summer (reaching $7.10 per hundred weight in August of 1941), our Nevada Township farmer purchased eight (8) purebred Suffolk ewes from Earl Subra in September of 1941 and brought them to his farm. He hoped that adding sheep to his farming operation would be another diversification of the farming operation and the farm income. He hoped this diversification would further strengthen his family’s financial position.
When our Nevada Township farmer bought the eight registered ewes, Earl Subra supplied him the corresponding N.S.S.A. registration certificates for each individual sheep. Each registration certificate contained a registration number and was signed by the Suffolk breed secretary—Clare Williams of Michigan. The registration number was matched to a number on a metal tag in the ear of the respective sheep. On the registration certificate, were the registration numbers of both the sire (father) and dam (mother) of the particular sheep. If needed, our Nevada Township farmer could use these sire and dam registration numbers to call the breed secretary and trace the registrations of the sire and dam back in time.
Introducing the ewes to his farm for the first time required that some changes be made to the farm. The farm on which our Nevada Township farmer and his family lived was established in a series of concentric circles, each area fenced off from the next larger circle. The immediate area around the house contained the lawns, the outhouse, dog house and family garden. This was the inner yard. A legal term for this area is “the curtilage.” The next largest encircled area included most of the rest of the building site of the farm, the grove, the orchard and the windbreak running along the north and west sides of the building site. This area was also called the “yard,” but the term was meant to be used in a larger sense than the mere curtilage around the house. The area behind the barn was fenced off from the yard to keep the cows out of the yard. Likewise the areas on either side of the hog house were fenced off to keep the pigs out of the yard and the chicken yard next to the hen house was fenced off to keep the chickens out of the yard. All animals were kept out of the yard except the family dog and any cats from the barn. These animals were actually encouraged to patrol the yard and keep rodents under control. However, the yard was intended to be the main home for the small flock of sheep that he was now acquiring.
One of the benefits of a flock of sheep would be the fact that they would keep the grass and weeds in all area of the yard under control. This would save labor and time that the family had, in the past, spent trying to keep these areas mowed and trimmed. This was one of the advantages that our Nevada Township farmer looked forward to about having sheep on the farm. However, there were also disadvantages. One of the most important disadvantages was that all the fences around the yard had to be improved and reinforced. Sheep were curious and would explore every portion of the area they occupy in order to find vegetation to eat. First, the fence between the yard and the cartilage needed to be made more secure to keep the sheep from invading the cartilage and most importantly out of the family garden. In the garden, the sheep could make quick work of the young succulent plants the family was trying to grow there. The lawns inside the cartilage would continue to be mowed by the family, just as in the past. Likewise the fences around the outside of the yard needed to be strengthened to prevent the sheep from getting into the fields where the farm crops were being raised.
Additionally, our Nevada Township farmer needed to take special precautions to protect the sheep. He installed a gate across the driveway of his farm. This was to keep the sheep from getting out onto the road and being struck by cars and/or trucks. Also he obtained an old baby chick brooder house at an auction in his neighborhood. The old brooder house was in fairly good shape with a shingled roof to repel rain and wooden siding for warmth in the winter and three windows along the back of brooder house to let in light. These windows could be closed in the winter to keep the sheep warm and opened in the summer to let in the cool breezes on summer nights. Our Nevada Township farmer wanted to convert this brooder house into a sheep shed for his farm. The brooder house was mounted on four “six inch by six inch” wooden beams which ran the full length of the small building. These beams acted as skids and allowed the building to be towed along on the ground by a tractor or team of horses. Because the auction had been held not far from his farm, our Nevada Township farmer used his Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 28-44 tractor to drag the little building back to his own farm.
A secure sheep shed was needed to protect the sheep at night. The worst predator for sheep on the typical Midwestern farm is the domesticated dog. With the master and family gone to bed, their pet dog might slip away from his homestead in search of excitement. Dogs will band together at night and chase and attack anything that runs. Sheep habitually seek flight from danger by running every time they are chased. Although thoroughly domesticated as pets, dogs will, nonetheless, refert to their wild nature and join together in packs at night to chase and kill the fleeing sheep. Most times these are pet dogs from neighboring farms. Our Nevada Township farmer knew that owners of these dogs, his own neighbors, will passionately deny that their dog ever leaves their own farm, much less has ever killed any sheep. They just could not believe it about their family pet. The neighbors would continue in their denials even when shown wool caught in their teeth the next morning, following any such attack.
Our Nevada Township farmer surely could not afford to lose one of these expensive purebred ewes due to a dog attack that could have been prevented. Accordingly, the only way to avoid problems with neighborhood dogs was to lock the flock up in a secure sheep shed every night. Thus, locking the sheep in the sheep shed became the last chore that our Nevada Township farmer completed every evening after the milking was done. Although this chore was usually done after dark when the mid-day heat was past, the fall of 1941 was warmer than usual. Consequently, on these warm nights, the sheep resisted going voluntarily into the sheep shed. They preferred sleeping outside on the ground rather than being locked up in the sheep shed. Accordingly, it took a little effort to round them up and get them into the sheep shed.
Our Nevada Township farmer made some improvements to the sheep shed/brooder house by nailing a couple of one inch by four inch boards to the inside frame of the windows. These boards were nailed over the lower portion of each window in the brooder house no higher than the height of an average mature sheep. These boards would prevent the windows from being accidentally broken by sheep moving boisterously about inside their new sheep shed during the night. By protecting these windows from breakage, the windows could be closed in the winter for warmth and opened in the summer to catch the cool summer night breezes.
In one corner of the sheep shed, our Nevada Township farmer fixed a little hay rack to hold a single bale of hay. With the “killing frost” expected any day, our Nevada Township farmer knew that soon he would have to feed the ewes hay to replace the vegetation that would no longer be available to the sheep after the frost. He also built a little frame on the floor of another corner of the sheep shed. This little frame was just the right size for a salt block. On the next trip to Lyle, our Nevada Township farmer reminded himself that he would have to pick up a block of iodized salt at the Hunting elevator.
Since dogs only chased sheep in the night time hours, the arrival of early morning brought safety for the sheep. Accordingly, the sheep could be let out of the sheep shed even before sunrise each morning. Knowing how the sheep disliked being locked up in warm weather, our Nevada township farmer wanted to let the ewes out of the sheep shed as soon as possible in the morning. Accordingly, he made sure that his first chore in the each morning was to walk out to the sheep shed and open the door of the shed to let the sheep out for the day. On his way to the sheep shed, he made his way up the small hill in the back of the house to the windmill. At the based of the windmill, our Nevada Township farmer unlatched and turned the crank connected to one of the four legs of windmill. This crank was connected to a cable which ran up the leg of the tower to the head of the windmill located at the top of the tower. Unlatching the crank and loosening the crank allowed the vane of the windmill to swing loose and bring the wind wheel of the windmill around to face the direction of the wind. Then the wind wheel began to turn and draw water up out of the ground. Ordinarily, the water would be drawn up to a pipe that lead to an underground cistern. Because this cistern was buried underground on the small hill, this cistern was actually at a higher level than the house and the barn on the farm. Accordingly water could flow by means of gravity through an underground pipe down to the house and through another underground pipe to the barn. Being underground the cistern was protected from freezing in the winter. Therefore, the cistern and gravity provided “running water to both the house and the barn on the farm. However, by turning a valve at the base of the pump jack, water could be diverted from flowing to the underground cistern and would be pulled by the windmill to the top of the pump jack where the water would flow out the pump jack and fill a tub that was sitting on top of the ground outside wooden fence that surrounded the base of the windmill. This tub was the watering tank for the sheep.
Sheep needed fresh water available to them at all times. Fresh water was important to sheep for a number of reasons. Unlike cattle who can drink water of a wide variety of temperatures, sheep need water of 50°F in order to stay cool during hot weather. Water also aided the transportation of nutrients around the body of the sheep and aided in the removal of waste matter from the body. Additionally, water was required for some of the chemical reactions that were occurring inside the bodies of the sheep and water helped keep the cells of the bodies of the sheep hydrated and healthy. The water now pouring out of the pump jack was of the correct temperature and came from a well that was around 300 feet deep and, thus, was fresh and free of any unhealthy bacteria that might be found in surface water. After being locked up all night, the sheep came out of the shed in the morning and headed straight for their water tank. Throughout the day they would find their way back to their water tank for another long drink.
After drinking water, the sheep would begin grazing. Because they were exclusively planter eaters, the sheep would have to graze most of the day just to gather enough grass and plant life to sustain them. The stomach or rumen of the individual sheep was divided into chambers or individual stomachs. The rumen is designed to allow the sheep their graze for a couple of hours until their first stomach was full. Then, they would lie down for about an hour to “chew their cud.” During this process the “cud” or partially digested material in the first stomach would be regurgitated a mouthful at a time back up into the mouth for re-chewing. After the cud had been sufficiently re-chewed, the cud would be re-swallowed into the second (regular stomach) and make its way through the regular digestive tract of the sheep. Mouthful by mouthful the cuds would be chewed, until the first stomach was empty.
Cattle have the same type of digestive, however, sheep are much more efficient than cattle. Any weed seeds that are ingested by cattle will pass through the entire digestive tract and will be discarded on the ground with the manure. After the manure, has dried out and been incorporated into the soil, the individual weed seed may start growing again. However, individual weed seeds will not survive the digestive system of the average sheep. Accordingly, weeds that depend on seeds for propagation will not survive in any sheep yard like weeds in a cow pasture. Only those plants that propagate from growth of the roots will survive in a sheep yard.
The Suffolk ewes grazed the outer yard and the grove and kept the grass and weeds under control much more efficiently than our Nevada Township farmer could ever have done the lawn mower or the scythe, even if he had had the time to do that chore. They even ate the grass and weeds down around the old abandoned machinery that was parked in the grove. Evidence of the sheep’s recent grazing location could be seen in the little round marble-sized balls of fresh sheep manure, that could be seen around the yard. Our Nevada Township farmer always felt that these little “marbles” of dung were neater and less messy than the “cowpies” of cattle. Additionally, sheep manure was more valuable than cow manure. Indeed, sheep manure, was richer in soil nutrients than any other manure on the farm. Sheep manure has almost twice the nitrogen content of horse manure and more than twice the nitrogen found in cow manure. Accordingly, when he cleaned out the sheep shed once a year, our Nevada Township farmer spread the sheep manure on the garden rather than taking it to the fields with the barn manure.
Nonetheless, having sheep in the outer yard took some adjustment of the family’s daily habits. In the past, they might leave the granary door open as they moved back and forth from granary to the chicken house carrying pails of oats to feed the chickens every morning. Now they had to be aware that the sheep were constantly watching for an opportunity for a chance to steal into the granary to get a few mouthfuls of shelled corn. The family had to remember to close the granary door every time they made the short trip to the chicken house with pails of oats and corn for the chickens. In the past the various gates to the inner yard might be left open for the better part of the day. Not any longer. The sheep seemed intent on taking any opportunity to invade the inner yard. Having done so, they would not content themselves with eating the grass on the lawn, which might have been acceptable. Instead, the sheep would head straight to the “salad bar”—the family garden— where they could eat all the tender young tops of the carrots or the rows of young, green lettuce plants or the English pea plants or the bean plants. In a very short time the sheep could destroy the family garden. Indeed, they were hesitant to leave even under threat of a family member running to the garden with a stick in hand or the rapid approach of the family dog, sent to “sic ‘em.” They would watch the approach of the threat with one eye cocked toward the approaching threat. Their bodies would be leaning toward the gate like a sprinter ready to start a race but still they would continue to eat as fast as they could to get every last mouthful before they were forced to run for the gate as fast as they could go. Everywhere the family went in the yard, un-noticed eyes of the sheep were watching for any opportunity to pass through an open door or open gate into some forbidden area. Once these patterns of behavior were adopted by the family members, the sheep began to find their niche on the farm.
Keeping the outer yard clear of weeds and overgrown plant life was just one of the benefits of the sheep, but our Nevada Township farmer also wanted to earn cash income from the sheep. Although sheep have wool which can be sold as a product on the market, this did not amount to much in Suffolk sheep. Suffolk sheep had only a moderate amount of wool. They were primarily “meat sheep” not “wool sheep.” The most money could be made from the sheep by the sale of their lambs. Lambs which are fed a supplement of rolled oats and corn could reach market weight in as little as five months. To be ready for the market in August or September, 1942, the lambs would have to be born in early spring—March or April of 1942—rather than in the late spring—May or June of 1942. Lambs born in March and April would have the advantage of not having to contend with flies and other insect pests during their early life, as would lambs born in May and June. From breeding until lambing, ewes have a five month gestation (pregnancy) period. Thus, in order to have lambs in March, the ewes would our Nevada Township farmer needed to allow a ram to graze with the ewes as early as early as October in 1941.
Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota (Part V):
The Introduction of the Fleetline Tractors
Brian Wayne Wells
The 1947 growing season had been a curious year for the farmers of Mower County, including one particular farmer from Nevada Township in Mower County. The season had started very badly. The constant rains in the spring and early summer had drowned the crops during the crucial early part of their growth. However, the rains had ceased abruptly in mid July and the remainder of the growing season had experienced near perfect weather for the maturing and ripening of the crops. The result had been that both the soybeans and corn had both suffered losses in yield per acre. (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]: The Wet Year” contained in the blog at this website.) However, while there had been a 13.3% decline in the yield of soybeans in Mower County, Minnesota in 1947, the loss in yield in corn was less. There had been only a 9.7% decline in corn yield in Mower County because of the drowning wet weather in the spring and early summer of 1947. Clearly, corn could handle an excess of moisture in the early part of its development better than soybeans could. To our Nevada Township farmer the harvest of 1947 seemed to prove again the value of crop diversification on the small farm.
Because the reduction of yields in both corn and soybeans were shared by farmers all across the Midwest, the price of both crops rose. Last fall, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son had been able to get all his soybeans harvested and safely sold to the Hunting elevator in nearby Lyle, Minnesota (1940 pop. 513) for the near record price of $3.44 per bushel. This was best price our Nevada Township farmer had ever received for his soybeans. Thus, the soybeans had helped him keep the family income at the same level as the previous year despite the losses in yield of his two cash crops. Additionally, he had been able to get all his corn in the shed last fall (1947) was still drying in the large double corn crib.
Over the winter of 1947-1948 corn prices had risen and in January of 1948, corn had established a new all-time record high price of $2.60 per bushel. However, as the corn on farm all across the Midwest began to be shelled out and make its way to the market in February of 1948 the price had fallen to $1.90 per bushel. Our Nevada Township farmer was unable to make arrangements with any neighborhood custom corn shellers to shell his corn while his corn was at its peak.
Not until March of 1948 was he able to make arrangements with Ray Jacobson of Lodi Township to shell his ear corn. This delay turned out to be fortunate, however, as corn prices started to climb again in March. By the time that Ray Jacobson showed up in his yard on the scheduled shelling day, the price of corn had risen back up to $2.11 per bushel.
Ray Jacobson drove into the yard of our Nevada township farmer with his Minneapolis-Moline Model E corn sheller mounted on the back of his 1941 Ford C.O.E. (cab over engine) style 1-½ truck. He turned the truck around and backed up to the corn crib. He and the crew of neighbors that had volunteered to help out on this shelling day started to unlimber the sheller so that the long dragline extended down the alleyway of the corncrib. The cob elevator of the sheller was extended out in one direction and a farm wagon was placed under the end of the elevator to catch all the cobs that would be emitted by the sheller. The large blower tube was swung around in another direction and aimed at the manure spreader which had been stationed in the location to catch as much as possible of the husks that were going to blown out of the tube during the shelling operation. The shelled corn elevator was swung out in another direction and positioned over the Oliver/Birdsill wagon. Morning milking time, throughout the neighborhood was over and the last of the neighbors forming the shelling crew showed up.
Once set up, the big Minneapolis-Moline Model E sheller did its work in an efficient manner. It took only one day to shell out both sides of the large double corn crib. Although the amount of 1947 crop was smaller than in a normal year, the overall farm income did not suffer too much from a regular year because that smaller crop sold at a much higher price than normal. Thus, our Nevada Township farmer was able to make some improvements in his farming operation.
Winter was the time that our Nevada Township farmer usually planned for the year ahead and developed plans for improving his farming operation. This year he had been thinking about trading in his old 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck on the purchase of a newer and heavier truck. A new truck would allow him to haul larger loads shelled corn to the elevator and haul more cattle, pigs and sheep when necessary. However, the prices of all new cars and trucks had escalated a great deal since the end of the war.
When he and his wife had purchased their new 1946 Chevrolet Stylemaster Town Sedan at the end of the model year in the fall of 1946. Usually, the end of the model year was a good time to buy cars. The dealerships wanted rid of the cars from the old year to make room for the cars from the new model year that were starting to arrive. However, our Nevada Township farmer was still shocked by suggested retail price of the car–$1,072.00.
Naturally, he negotiated a price for the four-door car with the sales staff at Usem Chevrolet in Austin, so the price was lower than the suggested retail price, and then, of course, he traded in his old family car, the 1941 Chevrolet in on the new car. Still the “boot money” the money that he had put up after figuring in the allowance Usem would deduct for his trade in, still seemed like a great deal of money. However, in the year since he had purchased the car, the price of the same Chevrolet 4-door Sedan had risen sharply—13% in just one year. Furthermore, in the fall of 1947 the new 1948 Chevrolets were out and the suggested retail price of the same model of car had risen another 9.2%. Over the same period of time, the prices of trucks had also increased in price sharply. A new Chevrolet 1/2-ton pickup now cost $1,100.00, up 9% from the previous year and the suggested retail price of a new Chevrolet 1 ½ ton truck with dual wheels in rear, like the one he and his second son were looking at, was now $1,500.00. Clearly, his income had not increased by 13% over the last year or 22% over the last two years.
Even though there had been no recession since 1945, he feared that the anticipated recession had merely been delayed and not avoided altogether. Consequently, he tended to think the family should save as much money as possible in anticipation that the post-war recession had merely been delayed rather than avoided altogether. Accordingly, he told his he told his second son that they may have to get by for another year with the old ¾ ton Chevy truck.
Our Nevada Township farmer was not alone in thinking this way. Across the nation, many consumers were delaying their purchases of “big ticket” items like cars and trucks. The largest single cause of inflation was the huge rise in consumer spending in 1946 and 1947. Consumer spending is most powerful force in the economy. Consumers have bills that they must pay and necessities like food and clothing they must purchase. However, over and above those bills and necessities, there is a portion of their income that is called “discretionary income.” Discretionary income powers the economy. Nearly all advertising in newspapers, magazines and over the radio is aimed at this discretionary income. Discretionary income is either saved or spent, depending on the “mood” of the consumer. If the consumer is fearful of the future, the consumer will tend to save their discretionary income. If confident about the future, te consumer will tend to spend more of their discretionary income. Under relatively normal circumstances, during the years prior to United States involvement in the Second World War, consumers spent upwards of 90% of their discretionary income. For example, in 1938, consumers spent 96% of their discretionary income in 1939 that figure fell to 94% and in 1940 the figure fell to 93%. This was, however the normal range in which consumer spending acted.
Watching this figure closely for any sign of either slowing in the economy or “overheating” in the economy is the Federal Reserve Board. The Federal Reserve Board had been created in 1913 to protect the economy from excessive swings in the economy that could lead to a major economic dislocation like the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Under ordinary circumstances, if the economy was deflating and the money supply in circulation was contracting, the Federal Reserve would purchase government securities to lower interest rates and to stimulate the economy. By purchasing government securities, the Federal Reserve would place more money in circulation and serve to spur the economy into growing again. However, on the other hand if the economy were becoming “over heated” with too much money in circulation, inflation became the major problem and the Federal Reserve was expected to act by selling some of the government securities they held. This would take money out of the economy and raise interest rates and, hopefully, slow down an over heating economy.
Whereas, lowering interest rates was always popular with investors, the public, and with politicians of the political party in power at the time, the raising of interest rates was always unpopular with investors, the consuming public, and politicians in the government. Consequently, actions taken by the Federal Reserve in slowing down an overheating economy has sometimes been compared to “taking away the punch bowl just when the party is getting rolling.” Nonetheless, this is just the type of action that was called for in 1946 to prevent the economy from entering into an inflation spiral. However, the Federal Reserve did not act in 1946 to slow the economy. Indeed, the Federal Reserve was hamstrung from acting because of political concerns.
Originally, the Federal Reserve had been envisioned as an agency which, although part of the government, was expected to function independently from the government and independently of political pressure from the government—especially political pressure from the President and the Treasury Department. In 1946, Marriner Eccles was serving as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Marriner Eccles had been serving as Chairman since President Franklin Roosevelt had appointed him as Chairman in 1934. Prior to the Second World War, the Federal Reserve functioned largely in an independent manner—ever so much the way it was supposed to function. However, during the years prior to the Second World War the economy was working hard to shake off the effects of the worst economic calamity in United States history—the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Therefore, the actions of the Federal Reserve were limited to providing stimulus to the economy. All these actions were popular with the President and with the public.
Then the United States was forced into the Second World War by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Government spending, and government debt, rose to new unprecedented levels, as the nation fought the war in two theaters—Europe and the Pacific. The interest on this debt was expensive enough for the government. However, if the Federal Reserve were allowed to raise interest rates generally, the yearly budgets of the United States government would be even more burdened with deficits, requiring the government to borrow even more money just to pay for the yearly interest on the ever rising debt. Accordingly, in 1942, the Federal Reserve bowed to public pressure and made an agreement with the Roosevelt Administration to keep interest rates low for the duration of the war. The government instituted price and wage controls and other economic restrictions which were intended to “keep the lid on” the expected inflation.
Marriner Eccles agreed with this policy for the duration of the war. As he did so, he knew that the Federal Reserve was surrendering its independence, but he felt this was the only course that the Federal Reserve could take. This agreement was regarded as the “patriotic thing to do” in order to help the war effort. Indeed, to do otherwise, might be regarded as unpatriotic in the extreme.
Every effort in the United States was bent toward the war effort. Raw materials ordinarily used for production of consumer goods were now channeled into military production for the war effort. In 1941, consumers spent only 86% of their discretionary income. During the years of 1942. 1943 and 1944, consumer spending of their discretionary income fell to only 75%. 74% and 73% respectively. This reduced discretionary spending was not voluntary on the part of the consumers. The reduced consumer spending reflected the absolute lack of consumer goods available during the war. A tremendous pent up demand for consumer goods was building up over the course of the war. Electricity had been present in the cities and small towns of the United States for some time, and since its creation in 1935, the Rural Electrification Administration (R.E.A.) had rapidly been stringing wires across rural America to bring the convenience of electricity to the farms of the United States. Farm families were anxious to purchase modern clothes washers with electric motors, electric milking machines, modern electric and gas cooking stoves and other modern conveniences that the new electric service to the farm promised. However, purchases of these goods had to be put off. Consumers in rural America had no choice but to make due with their wood stoves, wringer-type clothes washers because modern electric stoves and washers were still not available. Industry in the United States was producing everything for the war effort, there was nothing left for the production of consumer goods.
However, once the war ended and the wartime restrictions on the economy were lifted, the pent up consumer demand was suddenly released. In 1945, spending of discretionary income rose to 79% and in 1946 that spending shot up to 89% and the average for 1947 was just short of 95%. Consumers were saving only 5% of their discretionary income in 1947. Industrial manufacturers of consumer goods desperately tried to re-tool from wartime production back to civilian consumer production. Still they were not able to keep up with the huge increase in demand that had been released. Accordingly, prices began to rise due to pure inflation. During the first six months of 1946, the annualized rate of inflation had averaged 2.80%. However, in July of 1946, prices of consumer goods exploded. The rate of inflation nearly tripled in just one month—from an annualized rate of 3.31% in June of 1946 up to an annualized rate of 9.39% in July of 1946 and the inflation rate kept on climbing. During the last six months of 1946, inflation averaged 14.07% on an annualized basis. The annualized rate of inflation for first six months of 1947 was 18.61%. Clearly, the economy was headed for a collision unless something was done.
The Federal Reserve Board had seen the trouble coming. Once the war was over in September of 1945 and the price and wage controls had been removed and well before the inflationary spiral had actually begun, the Federal Reserve recognized that they must raise interest rates in order to ward off an inflationary spiral. Any action taken by the Federal Reserve might take weeks or months before the effect of the action would be felt in the economy. Minutes of the October 17, 1945 meeting of the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee meeting reflect that even this early, the Federal Reserve had expressed concern that interest rates should be raised immediately. However, the Secretary of the Treasury, Fred Vinson, had asked the Federal Reserve to hold off on raising interest rates until the government had paid off much of the war debt at the lower interest rates now in effect. Once more, the Federal Reserve was being asked to do the patriotic thing and once more the Federal Reserve agreed. The Federal Reserve kept on buying government bonds in order to keep the interest rates low. Even as the inflation spiral had begun in full force in mid-1946, the Federal Reserve, pursuant directives passed at its June 10, 1946 meeting, was still buying government securities as if further stimulus to the economy was needed. From January 1946 until November of 1947, purchasing by the Federal Reserve kept the bank prime interest rate was kept at the low level of 1.5%.
Prior to December of 1947, this bank prime lending rate, the rate at which the Federal Reserve loaned money to banks, was not an officially published figure. Still it was a figure that the Federal Reserve used to control the money in circulation in the economy at any one time. However, in December of 1947, the Federal Reserve officially established this rate as the “Prime Lending Rate” and began publishing the figure. From this point on the Prime Lending Rate became an official index on which banks could base loans and mortgages they made to the public. Furthermore, citizens began to watch the rise and fall in the Prime Lending Rate to get an idea about how cheap or expensive loans were going to be in the future.
During that same month of December, 1947, the Federal Reserve, finally, began to sell government bonds on the market sufficient to raise the Prime Lending Rate to 1.75%. The effect of this selling by the Federal Reserve was felt almost immediately. The economy slowed as loans became slightly more expensive and slightly harder to obtain. As a result inflation was slowed. The inflation rate for December of 1947 was 8.84% on an annualized basis—down from the 18.61% annualized inflation rate of the first six months of the year. Nonetheless, even this 8.84% inflation rate continued to scare consumers out of the market place.
Our Nevada Township farmer’s second son was disappointed to hear that they would not be getting a new truck in 1948. Nonetheless, following his experiences with the family’s old steel-wheeled wagon during the soybean harvest in the fall of 1947 (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]: The Wet Year” contained in the blog at this website.) the second son, was determined to make one small but important improvement to the old farm wagon they used around the farm. As noted earlier, this wagon was an old wooden straight sided Birdsell Company wagon box. (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]: The Wet Year” contained in the blog at this website.) Together with the old 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck, this wagon, usually hitched to the family car was the main method by which our Nevada Township farmer and his second son got their cash crops (shelled corn and soybeans) to market at the Hunting elevator up town in Lyle, Minnesota. Also as noted earlier, this wagon had been upgraded by replacing the old horse-drawn wagon gear with a fifth-wheel style of steering with a new Oliver-Electric wagon gear with automotive style steering. Despite this upgrade, the wagon remained a steel-wheeled wagon which was intended to be driven at slower horse-drawn speeds. Accordingly, trips to town with the wagon took quite a long time, as the second son knew first hand. After his experiences pulling the wagon loaded with soybeans to town with his own 1941 Buick Super Sedan, the second son was anxious to make an improvement in this old wagon.
At the time the new Oliver-Electric wagon gear had been purchased from Thill Implement in Rose Creek, Minnesota (1940 pop. 261), the second son remembered that an option of hubs and modern disc type wheels had been available for the new wagon gear. Rubber tires could be mounted on these disc type rims and, thus, the wagon could become a smoother running wagon without the expense of buying another entirely new wagon gear. Rubber tires on the wagon would allow the wagon to be towed down the roads to town at a faster speed than on steel wheels.
Thus, over the winter of 1947-1948, the second son had taken it upon himself to find out that new wheel hubs and modern disc-type wheel rims were available at Thill Implement for this same Oliver-Electric wagon gear. He purchased these hubs and the matching 16 inch rims at Thill Implement in Rose Creek, Minnesota. Now all he needed to do was to find some 16 inch rubber tires which could be mounted on the new disc rims. The second son found out that his older brother, the eldest son of our Nevada Township farmer, was in the process of buying a couple of new tires for his 1939 Model 80 Oldsmobile Business Coupe. Additionally, ever since returning from his honeymoon during the summer of 1947 he wanted to replace the worse two tires on his wife’s 1940 Ford Tudor Sedan. Both of these cars had 16 inch tires. Accordingly, the second son requested that his older brother save the old tires from both cars so that the old tires could be used on the wagon and other equipment around the farm. When the second son got the old tires, he found that although they were “bald” (with very little tread showing on the surface of the tire), there were no cords showing on the tires. He felt these tires would work well on the farm wagon. The tires from the 1939 Oldsmobile were 6.50 x 16 inch tires and were slightly wider than the 6.00 x 16 inch tires from the 1940 Ford. Accordingly, the second son mounted the slightly wider 6.50 x 16 inch tires in the rear of the wagon and mounted the narrower tires in the front of the wagon. Getting one of the wagons on the farm up and running on rubber tires, was one of those small improvements that in made a big difference in making harvest easier on the farm.
Now with the approach of the spring of 1948, our Nevada Township farmer looked forward to the new growing season. The winter of 1947-1948 had been a “closed” winter—with a great deal of snow on the ground all winter. Four inches of snow had fallen on the eve of Thanksgiving in 1947 and the snows had continued all winter long. Rarely was there less than 4 inches of snow on the ground all winter long. However, in the very warm summer-like weather of March of 1948, the snows had melted. To our Nevada Township farmer it seemed that there might be an early start to spring in 1948. It seemed like a bright new beginning to the new growing season. Twelve (12) miles north of his farm in Nevada Township, in the small town of Rose Creek, Minnesota (1940 pop. 261) it also seemed like a new beginning at the Thill Implement dealership.
In April of 1948, the long-awaited new line of Oliver Row Crop tractors were delivered to the Thill Implement dealership. The Oliver Company had previously announced to the public of the introduction of Oliver Row Crop tractors. This new line of Oliver farm tractors was called was called the “Fleetline.” In the spring of 1948, there were, still, only two models of the new Fleetline which were currently available for the public to see in person. These two models were the new Model 88–which was the new 6-cylinder powered improved replacement for the old Oliver Model 80 tractor–and the new improved Model 77–which was to replace the venerable old Model 70.
The return of unexpectedly cold weather during the first days of April delayed our Nevada Township farmer and his second son from any thoughts of getting an early start on field work. So they decided to go to Thill Implement to get a look at the new tractors. Our Nevada Township farmer had heard all about the Model 88 from his first son, who had been involved in the field testing of the various prototypes of the Model 88 ever since he had started working for the Oliver Company. During the field testing of the Fleetline prototypes, the first son did not know what the model designations of the new Fleetline tractors would be. He knew only that the prototypes were to replace the current Model 80 and the Model 70 tractors. His first son had told our Nevada Township farmer that the prototype that had become the Model 88 was, actually, an entirely new tractor that the Oliver had been working on since before the recent war. The new Row Crop 88 had actually been placed into production in 1947, but only 351 tractors had been produced in 1947. In 1948, the Oliver Company would produce 2,947 Model 88 tractors.
Despite the fact that his first son had worked on the field testing the prototype of what would become the Row Crop Model 88 on the Thill farm in Windom Township in the same neighborhood as his home farm, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son had never before seen the Model 88. This visit to Thill Implement in Rose Creek was the first time that our Nevada Township farmer and his second son had ever seen the Oliver Row Crop 88 up close and in person. The rear wheels were fitted with the largest and widest rubber tires that our Nevada Township farmer had ever seen—38 inch tires like the rear tires on his Model 70 at home, but these tires were 13 inches wide! The Oliver 70 at home had taller 40 inch tires but they were only 11 inches wide! The suggested retail price of the Model 88 was $2,810.00. The high price made our Nevada Township farmer cringe—almost $3,000 for a farm tractor. He felt that this large expensive tractor would not pay for itself efficiently on his farm. It was a tractor made for work on a larger farm than his.
Many farmers at visiting Thill Implement in those cold days of early April 1948 felt the same way. Thus, the new lower-priced Oliver Model 77 tractor might have appealed more to the farmers present at Thill Implement. However, nobody could purchase a Model 77 on that day. While Thill Implement did have a Model 77 Row Crop on display, it was for display purposes only. Our Nevada Township farmer was informed by the sales staff at Thill Implement that the extensive retooling of the Oliver Tractor Works in Charles City, Iowa for the full production of the Model 77 was not yet complete.
Across the nation, the Row Crop 88 tractor created a good deal of excitement among farmers, but those same farmers tended to look more favorably on the Oliver Row Crop 77 than to the larger Row Crop 88. In the production years to come, the Row Crop 77 would to outsell the Row Crop 88 until 1952, when the larger-sized Oliver 88 would finally pass up the Row Crop 77 in sales.
The new Model 77 was intended to replace the popular 6-cylinder Model 70 tractor. The Model 70 had been in production since 1935 as Oliver’s first 6-cylinder tractor and their first “streamlined” tractor. When the Oliver 70 first appeared in public in 1935 the tractor had a “complete suit” of sheet metal—hood, grille and even side curtains to completely cover the engine. The Model 70 was far and away the Oliver Company’s most popular selling tractor, but, whereas the Oliver Row Crop 70 delivered 22.72 hp. to the drawbar and 28.46 hp. to the belt pulley, with the new 6-cylinder Waukesha/Oliver 193.3 cubic inch that powered the new Model 77, the Model 77 was now a full three (3) plow tractor delivering 32.89 hp to the drawbar and 37.17 hp. to the belt pulley. Over the years, sales of the Model 70 tractor proved that tractor to be the most popular all tractors in the Oliver full line of tractors.
However, the problem was that the new Oliver Row Crop 77 was not yet in full production–only 240 Row Crop 77 tractors were manufactured at Charles City, Iowa in 1948. Not until 1949 would production of the Row Crop 77 hit full stride when 7,659 would roll off the assembly line at the Charles City Oliver plant. One of these new 1949 Oliver 77 Row Crop tractors was purchased by Earl Jacobson of rural LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752). Earl Jacobson worked a farm located 1 ½ miles northeast of LeRoy which had originally been owned and operated by his parents—John G. and Edna (Johnson) Jacobson . Earl had been negotiating with Cease and Oksanen, the International Harvester dealership in LeRoy over a new Farmall M in 1949. However, he had become frustrated with the unwillingness of the sales staff at Cease and Oksansen to negotiate a price for the Farmall M that he could afford. He began to feel that the Cease and Oksanen dealership was a little too confident that the sale could be made on the dealership’s terms if the dealership just dug in its heels. Finally, Earl got up and walked out of the dealership and drove the 25 miles up the paved highway–Minnesota Route 56–to Thill Implement in Rose Creek. There he quickly made a deal on a new for a new Oliver 77 Row Crop. This particular Row Crop 77 was fitted with the optional Hydra-Lectric hydraulic system which was a new feature on Oliver tractors in 1949. Earl traded in the old pre-war John Deere A that had originally been purchased by his father, in to Thill Implement on the new Oliver 77 Row Crop.
In the years since the war, Earl Jacobson had purchased a John Deere PTO-driven field forage harvester or corn chopper. He had built up quite a custom silo filling business around the neighborhood using the old John Deere A and the John Deere field harvester. He intended on continuing this business with his new tractor. With a top speed of 11 ½ mph., the Oliver 77 Row Crop could certainly tow the field chopper and his forage wagons from farm to farm around the neighborhood faster than his old pre-war John Deere A tractor with its top speed of 5 ¼ mph.
Higher road speeds was one of the main reasons that Earl was seeking a modern, faster post-war tractor. Accordingly, when Thill Implement was finished with their dealer prep on the tractor, Earl insisted on driving the tractor to back to his farm, himself, rather than have Thill Implement deliver the tractor. Passing through LeRoy on his way home, Earl made sure to drive out of his way to go down Main Street and straight past the Cease and Oksanen dealership, so that the sales staff at the dealership could see that some farmers would go elsewhere to purchase tractors if the dealership would not negotiate on a realistic price.
To fill in the gap in tractor production caused by the delayed production of the 77 Row Crop, the Oliver Company kept the Row Crop 70 tractor in production, turning out 5,026 Row Crop 70 tractors in 1948. The new Fleetline series of Oliver Row Crop tractors would be completed only in the fall of 1948 with the introduction of the third Row Crop tractor—the Model 66. The Model 66 was intended as a replacement for the old Model 60 which was currently in production. Powered by a four-cylinder engine, the new Model 66 tractor was a full 2-plow tractor which delivered 21 hp. to the drawbar and 25 hp. to the belt pulley.
Once again to fill in the gap created by the delay in production of the new Model 66, 4,874 Model 60 tractors would be produced in 1948.
There was another Oliver tractor in production in 1948. This was the “standard” or “four wheel” Model 90 tractor. As a standard tractor with a non-adjustable wide front end, the Model 90 was not part of the “Fleetline” series of Row Crop tractors. It was a large standard tractor intended for work on the Great Plains of the western United States.
Indeed the Model 90 was not even made at the Tractor Works in Charles City, Iowa where all other Oliver tractors were made. The Model 90 was actually being made in Oliver’s South Bend #2 plant located on Walnut Street in South Bend, Indiana. Nonetheless, the Model 90 was scheduled to receive the same styling treatment that the Fleetline Row Crop tractors were undergoing. However this change had also been postponed.
Pre-production testing of all the tractors, especially the ones made in Charles City, Iowa, (1940 pop. 8,681) was conducted by a field research team of experts employed by the Oliver Company and based in Charles City. Now in April of 1948, as he thought back, it was hard for our Nevada Township farmer’s eldest son to believe that he had been working at Oliver for an entire year, already. Much had happened since he had returned home to the United States from his service in Pacific during the late world war. Last June, 1947, he had been married to a girl he had been dating since late 1945. Following their honeymoon to the Lake Okiboji region of northwest Iowa, he and his wife settled down in their apartment in Charles City.
Over the last few months, however, both he and his wife had begun to appreciate how small and cramped for space the apartment actually was. Accordingly, they had begun looking for a house to purchase. With her job in Osage and his job at the Tractor Works, they felt they could afford a house, especially in light of the fact that the eldest son was eligible for a low interest and zero down payment loan through the G.I. Bill of Rights. The G.I. Bill was open to all returning veterans of the world war and offered a real solution to the problems of education and housing that faced the returning veterans. The only problem facing the eldest son was finding a house in Charles City to purchase. With all the retuning veterans and with all the new hiring that was taking place at the Oliver Company Tractor Works, the population in Charles City was growing by leaps and bounds. Census figures would reflect that between 1940 and 1950 the population of Charles City would grow by a staggering 18.8%. This rapid growth created a considerable shortage of housing in Charles City as it was in other towns across the nation. The construction industry could not keep pace with the need for new housing. As a result, the eldest son and his wife were finding that the prices of new houses were climbing to extraordinary levels.
Rising housing prices was one of the causes of a slight rise in the inflation rate again in July of 1948. Inflation reached 10% in July of 1948. Accordingly, at their August 1, 1948 meeting the Federal Reserve Board directed their staff to start selling enough government bonds to raise the prime lending rate to 2.00%. This decision may have been a mistake, because by November of 1948 the economy had slid into a recession. Consumers were already leaving the market and their spending fell to 92% of their discretionary income. This meant that consumers were reducing their spending and were actually saving more of their discretionary income. This should have indicated to the Federal Reserve Board that inflation (or overspending by consumers) was not the main problem. Rather, the reduction of consumer spending, meant that a business slow down was already occurring. Based on the reduced consumer purchasing, corporations across the United States began cut back or delay production. One example close at hand was the decision made at the Oliver Farm Equipment Company to delay the introduction and production of some their new Fleetline tractors.
Meanwhile, our Nevada Township farmer and his neighbors had experienced a nearly perfect growing season in 1948. The warm weather of May 1948, with only 2.23 inches of rain for the whole month, had allowed the crops to be planted and spout in good order. Once the seeds were in the ground, the abundant rains (5.51 inches) returned in June of 1948 and allowed the crops to flourish. The oats in the field of our Nevada Township Farmer exhibited rank growth and were almost four feet tall. Without the heavy rains in July (.87 inches for the whole month of July), the oat crop as it began to ripen and surely looked to our Nevada Township Farmer like a record bumper crop of oats, even as the crop stood in the field.
Unfortunately, it looked as though the oats would ripen and need to be combined right during the Mower County Fair was to be held during the first week of August ( August 2-8, 1947). The Mower County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair held on the ten days prior to Labor Day (August 28-September 6, 1948) were two of the few opportunities that our Nevada Township farmer had to show his Purebred Suffolk sheep, build his “brand” among sheep farmers. Building his brand would mean income all year long as sheep farmers preferred to come to his farm to purchase Purebred Suffolk sheep rather than go to any other sheep seller. He might even sell a few ewes at the Fair itself. Of course, he needed only the last two or three days of the Fair. “Open Class” judging of sheep was scheduled only for 7th and 8th of August, but our Nevada Township farmer and his second son and his wife would need a third day–the 6th of August as a day of preparation for the Fair. Luckily, a rain front moved in and it looked like rain which would keep our Nevada Township farmer from being able to combine his oats. Thus, the family decided to risk going to the Fair. However, although there was a small rain on the 7th of August the rest of the time during the open class judging at the Fair were clear. As the family was coming home from the Fair on Monday the 9th of August, the rains started and continued through Tuesday the 10th of August. This rain deposited between an 1½ and 2 inches of rain on his oats which were still standing in the field.
The oat crop was almost over ripe, when our Nevada Township farmer hitched the Model 70 tractor to the old grain binder which had been converted into a windrower. He maneuvered the tractor and windrower into the oat field so that he could pull the windrower around the field in a counter-clockwise fashion. On the first round he was driving the Oliver 70 tractor and the combine over the oats nearest fence all the way around the field. On this first round, the windrow was deposited into the standing oats in the area nearest the fence in the oat field. On the second counter-clockwise round of the oat field with the windrower, the windrower deposited the windrow on the stubble of the first round. Here, propped up off the ground on the stubble, the dry summer air would surround the windrowed oats, even getting underneath the windrow. Thus, the windowed oats would dry and further ripen, just as bundled oats used to dry and ripen in a shock, when our Nevada Township Farmer used to thresh his oats with a stationary thresher. Our Nevada Township Farmer continued windrowing the oats in concentric rounds in the counter-clockwise direction, until the entire field was windrowed. Then he turned his attention to the standing oats nearest the fence around the field. He raised the cutter bar of the old binder enough to avoid the windrow that had been deposited in this patch of standing oats in his first round of the field. He proceeded to drive the tractor and windrower/binder over to that remaining band of standing oats which was against fence. To windrow this last band of standing oats near the fence our Nevada Township farmer turned the tractor around to proceed in clockwise direction around the field. Thus, the cutter bar on the windrower/binder would be on the correct side of the tractor to cut the band of oats right up to the fence all the way around the field. The old converted binder would then spill the new windrow on the stubble next to the windrow created on his second round of the field earlier in the morning.
He then pulled the windrower back up to the homestead and backed it into the shed. He, then, hitched the Model 70 tractor to the Oliver Model 15 Grainmaster combine. He was in a hurry to get the combine into the field and harvest the oats before any more rains came. This combine was being used for only the second season of its life. However, the combine still had the reel mounted on the feeder of the combine above the empty sickle bar. The sickle, itself had been removed from the sickle bar following the soybean harvest last fall. The sickle was then painted with some old waste crankcase oil left over from an oil change of one of the tractors and the sickle was hung on the wall in the lean-to where the combine was stored. If he had time, he would do the same for the sickle in the cutter bar of the old binder/windrower that he had just put away for the year. However, was quite busy now and would remove the sickle from the old binder/windrower later on. He promised, himself, that he would do so in a day or two when he found the necessary time. He did not want rust to start forming on the sharp edges of the sickle, before he could cover the sickle with oil.
The reel and the sickle bar on the combine were used only for standing crops like soybeans. Now, however, a combine windrow pickup was needed to harvest the oat crop which was had already cut and laid in windrows. Accordingly, after removing the reel our Nevda Township farmer positioned the Innes Company pickup over the sickle bar empty sickle bar and bolted the flanges on the Innes windrower onto the sickle bar on the combine feeder. Next he attached the drive belt for the Innes pickup to the appropriate pulley on the combine and he was ready to go.
Then, he connected the power take off (PTO) coupler of the combine to the PTO shaft on the rear of the Oliver Model 70 tractor and drove the tractor pulling the Model 15 Grainmaster combine out to the newly windrowed field of oats. His son followed driving the old 1937 Oliver 28-44 towing the Birdsill wagon box mounted on the Oliver-Electric wagon gear which now sported the rubber tires mounted on the new disc-style wheels that the second son had, himself, purchased and mounted the on the Oliver-Electric wagon gear. Our Nevada Township farmer maneuvered the Oliver 70 tractor and Grainmaster around to line the feeder of the tractor up with the third windrow from the fence. He pushed in the foot clutch with his left foot and reached ahead under the steering wheel with his right hand for the belt pulley and PTO shaft control lever. This lever engaged the PTO shaft and when our Nevada Township farmer slowly lifted his left foot off of the foot clutch, the Grainmaster combine slowly started to come alive.
Slowly running at first the cylinder started to gather speed, our Nevada Township farmer opened the throttle of the Oliver 70 tractor the recommended cylinder speed of between 1000 and 1400 RPM. was obtained. Once he was sure that everything was operating correctly on the combine and the Innes pickup was running at the proper speed, our Nevada Township farmer depressed the foot clutch again and shifted into first gear and slowly released the foot clutch. Then pulled the throttle on the Model 70 to full open again to assure that the cylinder speed stayed at it recommended speed for combining oats. The tractor moved slowly forward and the Innes pickup began gobbling up the windrow ahead of the feeder.
As the combine picked up the third windrow and threshed the oats in the third windrow from the edge of the field, our Nevada Township farmer tried to steer the front wheels of the Model 70 as close to the right side of the windrow so that the windrow would pass harmlessly under the left rear axle housing of the Model 70 without being run over or even touched by the front wheels or the left rear wheel of the tractor or the left wheel of the combine. The oats were threshed so fast in the Model 15 Grainmaster combine that the threshed oat straw was deposited directly on the ground in the same location that the straw had occupied prior to being picked up by the combine.
Our Nevada Township farmer did notice that their was rather thick flow of grain flowing into the grain tank, but he was quite surprised when, about half way around the field, he, by chance, happened to turn around and saw that the pile of grain in the 20 bushel grain tank was visible from the tractor operator’s seat. He had to stop and signal his second son to drive the wagon down to where he was located with the combine so that they could unload the 20 bushel grain tank into the wagon and allow the combine to continue around the field. When, the second son arrived with the wagon, he pulled up alongside the grain tank on the combine. Our Nevada Township farmer pulled the grain unloading elevator out from its stored position to allow the spout to hang over the wagon. Then, he went back up to the levers on the hitch of the combine and disengaged the gear case throw-out control lever located on the combine hitch behind the tractor operator seat. This effectively turned off all power to the combine and at the same time engaged the power only grain unloading elevator. Then, when the PTO of the Oliver 70 was engaged the oats of the combine grain tank began flowing out of the spout of the grain unloading elevator and flowed into the Birdsill wagon box. In a short time the grain tank was emptied.
Our Nevada Township farmer engaged the throw-out clutch and transferred the power from the grain unloading elevator back to the combine as a whole. Our Nevada Township farmer was able to resume combining, but not for long. He saw a large clump of grain in the windrow and pushed in the foot clutch of the tractor. This should have stopped all forward motion of the tractor and combine. However the backlash from the large cylinder on the No. 15 Grainmaster, spinning at 1000 to 1400 RPM came back up through the PTO shaft of the combine to the transmission of the tractor pushed the tractor and combine forward right into the clump. Our Nevada Township farmer watched helplessly as the clump went over the Innes windrow pickup and rode the canvas belt up the feeder and right into the cylinder where it clogged the cylinder and stopped all operation of the combine. Now our Nevada Township farmer had no choice. He disengaged the PTO shaft of the combine and took the tractor out of gear and idled down the throttle of the tractor.
He then dismounted the tractor picked up a pipe wrench out of the tool box of the Oliver Model 70 tractor and walked around to the right side of the combine. Here he clamped the pipe wrench to the axle of the cylinder and turned the cylinder backwards to free the large clump of un-threshed grain and straw caught between the cylinder and the concave of the combine. Now he could reach into the feeder and pull the mass of straw and un-threshed oats out of the cylinder and spread it out on the canvas belt in a thin layer which would allow the grain to go back into the combine to be threshed when he restarted the combine. He had to spread the un-threshed straw and grain out very thin. The combine would not immediate return to the operating speed of 1000-1400 RPM. It would take time for the combine to reach it operating speed. Then, he returned to the tractor seat and opened up the throttle and engaged the PTO shaft control lever and let out the foot clutch. All the grain went into the cylinder in a normal way and was threshed.
Our Nevada Township farmer resumed combining down the windrow. However as he approached the corn of the field he saw another large clump in the windrow right at the corner. This clump had been formed when the windrower has turned the corner while making the windrows. This time our Nevada Township farmer stopped the tractor and combine well ahead of the clump and dismounted the tractor and walked ahead to the clump at the corner and spread the clump out along the windrow to smooth out the clump. He felt that he was constantly wasting his time in the field either by spreading out large clumps in the windrow or by un-plugging the combine cylinder of large clumps in the cylinder when he failed to stop soon enough and the clump made its way up into the combine. It certainly slowed down the harvest in 1948, but the trouble he was having was another indication that the oat crop was going to be a bumper crop.
Our Nevada Township farmer eventually did finish combining his oats. He recognized that this oat crop was a good big crop but the crop turned out to be much bigger than any year since he could remember. The average yield of oats in Mower County in 1948 proved to be 49 bushels per acre. This was a new record for Mower County, breaking the old record of 46 bushels per acre set in 1940. According to the radio, the bumper crop was also being enjoyed by the whole nation. Last June (1947) the introduction of the Marshall Plan had raised the price of oats from its average post-war price range of between 70 and 80 cents per bushel to $1.18 per bushel in December of 1947 and to $1.27 in January of the present year (1948). However, even the Marshall Plan could not keep the price of oats from sliding to 86 cents a bushel in July and dropping even further to 68 cents a bushel in August–when the market was deluged by the glut of oats from the harvest.
He heard these prices from the Chicago Board of Trade as reported over WCCO out of Minneapolis over the radio in the barn during the morning milking chores. More importantly he heard the most up-to-date prices after a morning of trading over the local KAUS radio station out of Austin, Minnesota. He heard these important noon-time prices on the radio over dinner in the house every day. He had always thought that hearing some good prices on the radio at noon might allow him or his son time enough to load up the wagon or the truck with shelled corn or soybeans and take it to town and catch the high price at the Hunting elevator before the end of the trading day. However, reality was more mundane–just like last year (1947)–the soybeans were sold right out of the field because the price was unusually high right during the fall harvest. Corn was sold only when arrangements could be made for the sheller to show up on his farm. Luckily, last February (1948), a small seasonal rise in the price of con had occurred just as the corn was being shelled. So that shelled corn went directly to the Hunting elevator, saving back only that portion of the shelled corn that our Nevada Township farmer would need to use as feed for the animals on the farm in the year ahead. Still his wife appreciated the fact that he could always be counted on to arrive at the house directly at noon everyday in time to wash up and sit down to hear the beginning of the market report beginning just after noon on KAUS. She used to joke, that if it were not for the market report at noon, she would not know where he was at during the noon hour.
Our Nevada Township farmer knew that oat prices did not really affect his income because he did not sell oats. He used all of his oats as feed for the animals on the farm. However, he was afraid of what a bumper crop of oats might foretell about corn and soybeans—his two cash crops. A nationwide bumper crop in those two commodities would also have the same disastrous effect on the market price of both of those commodities. Unlike the oats, he depended on these two crops for a major portion of his farm income. He knew that a similar glut of those crops coming to market in the coming fall and winter might put a real dent in his income. He was extremely apprehensive about the future of his income for the next year. Nor was he alone in worrying about his financial future. By the fall of 1948, the slow down in consumer spending and business activity, was starting to have a major effect on be felt on the economy. With fewer buyers in the consumer market, the gross domestic product of the United States fell off by 1.7% and unemployment rose. Talk of the recession had the effect convincing even more consumers to delay spending.
The troublesome year of 1948 was also presidential election year. History had shown that fear and apprehension about the economy usually led voters to turn against the political party in control of the White House. Upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the Vice President–Harry Truman Democrat of Missouri—had become President of the United States. Everybody expected that this would be only a short term arrangement. With the public so worryied about the future of the economy, it was expected by all that the Republican candidate, Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York would surely be elected on November 2, 1948. Not only was the economic mood of the country working against Truman, but the Democratic Party was split—not once but twice. At the National Democratic Party Convention held in Philadelphia on July 12 through July 14, 1948, Hubert Humphrey, the young mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, gave a strong speech in favor of an civil rights plank of the Democratic platform.
The civil rights plank was opposed by the southern segregationists, who pressed for a more moderate plank. Animated by Humphrey’s speech in favor of the more radical plank, the convention voted for the more radical civil rights plank by a narrow margin. As a result many southern delegates walked out of the convention.
The southern segregationist Democrats that had split off from the Democratic Party over Truman’s support for the radical civil rights plank over the Truman’s support of the Fair Employment Practices Act, rallied to a “Dixiecrat” candidate of their own–South Carolina Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond.
Other Democrats left the party and rallied round Henry Wallace who had been Secretary of Agriculture in the Franklin Roosevelt Administration. Wallace was running as the Progressive candidate for the newly re-vitalized Progressive (Bull Moose) Party of President Theodore Roosevelt. The Progressives were upset with Truman his foreign policy which they saw as aggressively leading to a “cold war” with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had been an ally of the United States, Britain, and France in the recent world war. During the war the Soviet Union purchased a great deal of manufactured goods and agricultural crops from the United States.
Progressives, many of whom were farmers, did not want to see this advantageous trading relationship end. Some farmers saw the exclusion of the Soviet Union from trade with the United States as a needless restriction of the income they could derive from trade with all the Allies rather than just the non-communist allies. Thus, they could not understand why the Truman administration seemed intent on provoking a “cold war” with the Soviet Union. (More of this discussion of progressive farmers supporting a wide ranging trading relationship with the whole world including the Soviet Union is contained in the article called “Farming with a COOP Tractor [Part I] : The National Farmers Union.” This article is published on this website.)
Given the impossibility of President Truman’s chances of re-election, nobody could understand why he so-feverously crisscrossed the nation aboard a train giving speeches at every little whistle stop along the way. The Republicans had taken over control of the Senate and House of Representatives in the 1946 Congressional elections and everyone expected that the Republicans would once again dominate the 1948 campaign. No one gave the incumbent president any chance against the Republican candidate—Governor Thomas Dewey of New York. Still President Truman continued to speak from the rear platform of the small passenger train at every small stop on his “whistle stop” tour of the United States. Indeed, the most picturesque feature of the 1948 campaign was the “whistle stop” train tour of the entire United States conducted by President Truman. Truman’s whistle stop campaign brought him through Minnesota in October—stopping at St. Paul and Duluth on October 13th and Mankato, Waseca, Rochester and Winona on October 14th. During his whistle stop tour, Harry Truman blamed the Republicans and the “do nothing Congress” for the inflation in the economy and for not doing anything aid the ordinary farmers and the middle class. As the whistle stop tour continued, the crowds began to respond to Truman’s rhetoric. “Giv ‘em hell, Harry” became a typical response from the enthusiastic crowds at the whistle stops.
Everybody expected that when all the returns were counted, Thomas Dewey would be the next President. Indeed, even before any of the polling places had closed on election day, the staff of the Chicago Daily Tribune wrote out their story of the 1948 presidential election for the front page of their newspaper and sent the paper to press. The headline on the front page of their front page of their Wednesday, November 3, 1948 newspaper read “Dewey Defeats Truman” in huge letters across the top of the front page. then the staff of the Daily Tribune went home to bed. No one gave the incumbent president any chance against the Republican candidate—Governor Thomas Dewey of New York.
As the early election returns began to be reported over the radio, the public saw that Harry Truman actually had a lead over Thomas Dewey. The public listened intently to their radios for the first sign of the inevitable swing to Dewey. NBC political reporter and commentator, H. V. Kaltenborn announced with confidence that Thomas Dewey was on his way to victory despite the early returns. “Wait until the late returns,” Kaltenborn said and he kept on saying all evening despite the fact that the Harry Truman hung on to his narrow lead all evening. Kaltenborn was basing his opinion on the expected Republican tide from the strong Republican state of California.
However, when all California votes were finally counted in the early morning of November 3, 1948. It was found that Harry Truman had unexpectedly carried the large state of California by the narrow margin of 47.6% to Dewey’s 46.1% of the statewide vote. Truman had carried the urban and suburban areas around San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles as had been expected. However, what had been unexpected was the fact that Truman captured the vote of the agricultural Central Valley part of the state. The farmers of the Central Valley of California had voted for Truman and swung the whole state away from its traditional Republican moorings.
Harry Truman carried his campaign for re-election to all rural areas of the nation. He seemed to instinctively feel that he was able to persuade farmers and other voters in rural areas to vote for him. Indeed, 57.2% of voters in Minnesota supported Truman as opposed to 39.9% of voters that supported Dewey. Statewide, Hubert Humphrey was winning a race for the Minnesota’s United States Senate against incumbent Republican Joseph Ball. Humphrey collected 10,070 votes or 64.8% of the total vote in Mower County, Minnesota against 5,473 votes or 35.2% of the total Mower County vote for Joesph Ball. Right in Nevada Township, Humphrey collected 113 votes as opposed to 97 votes for Joseph Ball. So like his immediate neighbors, our Nevada Township farmer may have voted for Humphrey and Truman also.
The counting of election returns continued into early Wednesday morning. Finally at about 4:00 AM on November 3, 1948, the radio public heard that Harry Truman had actually been re-elected as President of the United States. Even H.V. Kaltenborn, finally had to admit that Truman had won the election that morning. It was the most surprising outcome of any Presidential election in United States’ history and would remain the most surprising election since that time until the election of 2016 when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States .
Later, Wednesday morning, on his way, back to the White House from Kansas City, Truman addressed a small crowd from the rear of his train at the Union station in St. Louis, Missouri. Relishing the moment, he held up his copy of the morning’s Chicago Daily Tribune with the mistaken headline–“Dewey Defeats Truman”–for the enjoyment of the crowd.
In the weeks and months after the election, political analysts tried to explain how the election could have the way it did. Indeed, the current author has been interested in and has studied the 1948 presidential election since he was in high school and still has not arrived at a real conclusive rationale as to how Thomas Dewey could have lost this particular election with all the economic problems that the nation was facing in November of 1948 plus the fact that the Democratic Party was not only split into two parts but actually split into three partsbut by two splits.
After the election, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son still had decent weather until the first week in December when the temperatures began to get really cold. All signs seemed to indicate to our Nevada Township farmer that both his corn and soybean crops were both going to be a bumper crops. Nor did it seem that the good crops limited to the south eastern Minnesota. There were predictions of bumper crop yields from all across the nation which our Nevada Township farmer heard on the farm reports on the radio. As our Nevada Township farmer heard these reports he began to fear that there would be a glut of soybeans on the market in the fall of 1948. This glut, he knew, could have the effect of reducing the market price for soybeans. Soybean prices, which had reached a high of $4.13 in January, 1948 had already fallen off. In June the price was $3.90 per bushel. In July it was $3.66, in August $2.91and in September $2.45. In absolute terms these prices were not bad prices. During the war, he considered $2.10 per bushel to be a very good price, but considering the rate of inflation over the last three years since the war on the goods that he had to buy, he felt that the price per bushel, adjusted for inflation, was more like a “pre-war” price in terms of its current “buying power.” Furthermore, the fact that he saw no sign that the slide in the price of soybeans would halt or even become slower its decline made our Nevada Township farmer still more anxious about the future.
The weather had been cooling down as one might expect in October of 1948. The first killing frost,” with temperatures reaching down to 25°F (Fahrenheit) occurred on a night in the middle of October. Following the killing frost, there occurred suddenly in the last week of October, an “Indian summer.” Temperatures headed back up to highs of above 70°F, that reminded people of the summer weather that had just passed. The Indian summer weather remained until the start of November, 1948. Temperatures for the month of November were generally in the normal range of high 40s during the day and the low 40s at night. This presented a long period of ideal weather for our Nevada Township and his neighbors to get both the soybean and corn crops out of the field. Only a 1” (inch) rain in the first week of November marred the harvest season weather and kept the tractors out of the out of the fields for a couple of days.
Despite the fact that the 1948 soybean crop was clearly a bumper crop, the soybean harvest did not present near the problems of clogging of the Model No. 15 Harvestmaster combine as had occurred with the oat harvest in the previous August. As noted above, our Nevada Township farmer planted his soybeans in rows 40 inches apart. Typically, soybeans are harvested only two rows at a time. Thus, ripe soybean plants entered the feeder and the cylinder of the little Harvestmaster combine in a much reduced volume than the six feet of plant material which had been windrowed by the old 6-foot grain binder which our Nevada Township farmer had used for a windrower of the oat crop back in August.
Furthermore, as noted in the prior article in this series called “Oliver Farming in Mower County (Part IV): The Wet Year,” preparation of the combine for the soybean harvest included exchanging the small pulley on the cylinder shaft with the larger pulley on the main drive shaft of the combine. Turning these two pulleys around had the effect of slowing the combine cylinder down to the range of 440 r.p.m. to 850 r.p.m. a desirable range for combining soybeans as opposed to the combining of oats or wheat. Additionally, the Innes Company windrow pickup was removed from the feeder of the Model 15 combine. The pickup was placed on a couple of old saw horses and waste crankcase oil from an old oil change on one of the vehicles on the farm was painted on the large round housing of the Innes pickup. As he painted the oil on the housing, our Nevada Township farmer paid attention to getting oil down int,o the slits in the housing from which the teeth of the pickup protruded. This he hoped would lubricate the mechanism that was hidden from view inside the cylindrical housing of the pickup, that caused the teeth to protrude and withdraw as the cylinder turned.
Then, our Nevada Township farmer took the sickle for the combine cutter bar down from the nail hooks on the wall where it had been places after the soybean harvest last year. He then slid the sickle into cutter bar on the combine. Then he placed the reel on the combine feeder and attached the reel to the chain that powered it when the combine was operating.
The whole of the soybean harvest seemed to be a blur of activity. Our Nevada Township farmer stayed in the field as his second son drove either their¾ ton truck with a wagon hitched to the rear of the truck both filled with soybeans to the Hunting elevator or he was driving the family automobile with a wagon full of soybeans to the elevator. During the harvest it was a race to get the crop to the Hunting Elevator before the price fell any more. Nonetheless, our Nevada Township farmer was able to get his crop to the elevator so as to take advantage of the $2.35 per bushel November price.
As he put the little Model No. 15 Grainmaster back in storage, our Nevada Township farmer congratulated himself once again on the purchase of the little Oliver combine. With his own combine, he no longer had to wait on his neighbor to arrive on his farm to get the soybean crop harvested. He credited the little combine with the fact that he had won the race to the Hunting Elevator and had obtained the price he had for his soybeans. If he were still having his neighbor “custom” combine his soybeans, he would probably still be waiting for the combine to show up on his farm. Later in the winter, as he saw the price of soybeans drop to $2.23 per bushel, he felt even sure that his decision to purchase the combine in 1947 had been a good decision.
Immediately, following the soybean harvest, our Nevada Township farmer moved to the corn harvest. The new all-time record high price for corn of $1.96 had been set only rather recently—in July of 1946. However, throughout 1947 three new record high prices in the corn market were established in the same year. In July of 1947 the price was $2.01 per bushel, in August the price rose to $2.19 per bushel and in September of 1947 the price was $2.23 per bushel. Last January (1948) the price of corn set yet another all-time record at $2.46 per bushel.
Our Nevada Township farmer suspected that these high prices were caused by a combination of the fact of a poor harvest in some areas of the United States in 1947. Indeed, as noted in the previous article (called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]: The Wet Year) in this series of articles, Mower County had suffered a tremendously wet spring and early summer in 1947. The rains had delayed the planting of the crops in the first place in 1947 and then had retarded the growth of the crops in the crucial early summer. As a result, the reduced yield of soybeans and corn in 1947 on his farm left our Nevada Township farmer with less corn and soybeans to sell, but he had been able to obtain higher market prices for those crops. Furthermore, our Nevada Township farmer suspected that the high market prices for corn were also caused by high demand, driven by the aid that the United States had supplied to Europe under the Marshall Plan in 1947.
Like the soybean crop, the excellent weather and rain during all stages of the growing season, led to predictions that 1948 was going to be a bumper crop year in corn. Thus, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son did not feel that the high market prices of corn would continue into 1948. Indeed, the corn market had already begun to anticipate a bumper crop as early as April of 1948 when the market price for corn fell to $2.19 per bushel, in the following months (May and June of 1948) the price fell to $2.16, $2.02 in July, $1.92 in August and $1.38 in September.
Once again our Nevada Township farmer contracted with his neighbor who had the one-row Wood Bros. Company pull-type cornpicker to harvest all his ear corn. The weather in November of 1948 remained near perfect for harvesting ear corn. found himself waiting on the arrival of his neighbor in order to get his corn in the crib. The shortcoming of contracting with a custom harvester is that you are placed on a list with other customers for whom the custom harvester has to perform the custom harvesting. Thus, each customer has to wait his turn while the custom harvester works down his list as fast as he can. This waiting can drive a farmer to distraction. This year with every farmer on the list having a larger than normal corn harvest, the wait was longer than usual.
Our Nevada Township farmer shuttered when he thought of the potential for loss to his crop while he waited on the corn picker to show up on his farm. Of course, his anxiety was lessened somewhat because it was the corn crop that was sitting in field rather than his soybean crop. Corn was much more durable in the field than was a soybean crop. Additionally, corn needed to dry down to only 15% to 13% to be stored as shelled corn. Indeed, corn could be (and used to be) stored in the field intentionally. In the past, corn used to be cut, bound up in “bundles” with twine and “shocked” in the field. Indeed, some farmers maintained that corn tied together in “bundles” with several bundles standing up and leaning against each other in standing in “shocks” in the fields, could weather a winter as well as ears of corn in the crib.
Soybeans on the other hand had to be harvested at just the right time in their maturity. Our Nevada Township farmer vividly remembered the years before 1947 when he purchased his small Oliver Harvestmaster combine. In those days, he had real worries about the conditions of his soybeans in the field as he waited for the custom combine harvester to show up on his farm. As described in the article called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County (Part II) : Soybeans” on this website, soybeans need to harvested when they reach a dryness of between 10% and 8%. If the soybeans sit in the field too long beans might dry down to less than 8% dryness. This means the soybeans will tend to “shatter” or split into halves. The elevator will dock the price that the farmer receives if there are to many “halves” or shattered beans in the sample they take. Rain and snow may also damage the soybeans. Additionally, as the bean sit in the field, the pods may start falling off the plant. This represents an absolute loss of yield for the farmer.
Indeed it was with this thought in mind that our Nevada Township farmer, when faced with the choice purchasing either a combine or a cornpicker. He chose to obtain his own combine, the little Oliver Model 15 Harvestmaster combine rather than purchase a corn picker last year, in the summer of 1947 because of the risks of leaving soybeans in the field too long. Now, at the end of his soybean harvest, our Nevada Township farmer once again found himself in the familiar position of worrying about his crop in the field while waiting on a custom harvester to show up in his yard. In the beautiful weather of the autumn of 1948, the wait was excruciating as one perfect harvesting day after another passed with no sign of the corn picker arriving.
While waiting on his neighbor, our Nevada Township farmer backed his OMC (Owatonna Manufacturing Company) Model 20 farm elevator up against the side of the corn crib. He positioned the head of the elevator over one of the four covered holes in double corn crib. For the time being, until the corn picker arrived, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son would leave the lid over the square hole in the roof of the corn crib. His second son took the chutes that would be attached spout on the head of the Owatonna elevator into the empty grain bin above the alleyway in the middle of the double corn crib.
Remembering the abundant corn harvest of 1943 when he had filled needed the double corn crib up to the roof and had then stored the surplus ear corn in a round snow fence crib in the orchard of his “inner yard,” in what is called the “curtilage” of his house on the farm. As has been explained in the first article of this Oliver Farm Equipment series of articles, the curtilage was fenced off from the “outer yard” of our Nevada Township Farmers homestead. Furthermore, the reason for having a tight fence around the curtilage was that the flock of sheep lived in the outer yard. The fence prevented the sheep from getting into the curtilage and destroying the family garden.
The temporary snow fence corn crib could not be constructed in the outer yard where the sheep lived. The presence of the corn would be an open invitation to the sheep to break the thin wooden laths of the snow fence and begin gorging themselves on the corn inside the snow fence corn crib. Corn is so rich that even a small amount of corn would make the sheep sick. Yet the corn tastes so sweet to the sheep that they could not stop eating the corn. With the surplus corn in the round snow fence corn crib, positioned in the orchard on the curtilage near the house the corn would be safe from the sheep and the sheep would be save from the corn. However, an inspection of the snow fence on the farm revealed to our Nevada Township farmer the need for a new snow fence. Accordingly, he sent his second son to town to buy three new rolls of snow fence. He was unsure if the snow corn crib in the orchard would need to be any taller than two round tiers, but he thought to have the extra third roll handy just in case.
When his neighbor finally arrived with the little Wood Bros. Company corn picker, our They were able get started on the corn early enough in November that they were able to get all the corn in the corn crib during the relatively “warm” weather of the 1948 harvest season prior to Thanksgiving. The size of the harvest kept our Nevada Township farmer and his second son busy hauling wagons from the corn field to the building site and unloading the wagons into the Owatonna elevator and filling the double corn crib one side at a time.
The weather kept cooperating with the harvest. Snow did not arrive in Mower County until December of 1948 and the really cold weather that winter did not arrive until last half of January of 1949. Starting in the middle of January 1949 a series of blizzards which lasted until through the first part of February dumped a total of about 10” (inches) of snow on the ground and the cold temperatures kept that accumulation on the ground until a warming spell in March. Accordingly, it was only in March that our Nevada Township farmer could make arrangements with Ray Jacobson to shell out his out all his corn. In the corn crib.
When his neighbor finally arrived with the little Wood Bros. Company corn picker, our They were able get started on the corn early enough in November that they were able to get all the corn in the corn crib during the relatively “warm” weather of the 1948 harvest season prior to Thanksgiving. The size of the harvest kept our Nevada Township farmer and his second son busy hauling wagons from the corn field to the building site and unloading the wagons into the Owatonna elevator and filling the double corn crib.
At this point, they moved the OMC elevator up into the orchard near the house and proceeded to fill the round snow fence corn crib. When the single snow fence ring was full, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son opened up a second snow fence ring on top of the first. The bounty of golden ear corn kept coming in from the field by the wagon load until the second snow fence ring of the temporary corn crib was full. Our Nevada Township farmer and his second son set up the third snow fence ring on top of the second. Finally, the last of the corn came in from the field and the corn harvest for 1948 was done. Records would later reflect that the 1948 corn crop yields for Mower County averaged 48 bushels per acre.
The weather had cooperated and the first snow of the year was postponed until December of 1948 and the really cold weather that winter did not arrive until last half of January of 1949. Starting in the middle of January 1949 a series of blizzards which lasted until through the first part of February, 1949 dumped a total of about 10” (inches) of snow on the ground and the cold temperatures kept that accumulation on the ground until a warming spell in March of 1949.
Accordingly it was March before our Nevada Township farmer could make arrangements with Ray Jacobson to shell out his out all his corn—starting with the ear corn in the temporary snow fence corn crib. Our Nevada Township farmer had tried to tie a large tarpaulin over the top of snow fence crib. However, the winds of the winter of 1948-1949 had foiled this attempt to provide a roof over the temporary corn crib. As a result, the ear corn in the snow fence crib became more “weathered” than the more “pristine” ear corn that was stored in the double corn drib with its shingled roof. The Hunting elevator in Lyle was more likely to buy the pristine corn without any “dockage” of the price per bushel due to the weathering of the corn.
Thus, our Nevada Township farmer wanted to shell out the corn in the snow fence crib and store that shelled corn in the granary in order to feed as much of the “weathered” corn to the animals on his farm. After shelling out snow fence crib, our Nevada Township farmer was surprised that the resulting shelled corn nearly filled the granary. This meant that just a little more of the pristine shelled corn needed to be added to the granary to have more than enough shelled corn to feed the animals on the farm all year long. This meant that almost the whole contents of the large double crib on his farm could be shelled out and sold to the Hunting elevator. This is what he did as fast as he could.
As shown above, the bountiful harvest resulting in the glut of corn in the market had been expected all during the growing season of 1948. As a result the monthly price of corn had dropped all summer long. Currently, the average price of corn for the month of March of 1949 was falling to $1.11 per bushel. This represented the loss of an entire dollar per bushel off the price of $2.16 in April of 1948—a 47.4% decrease in the price of corn in just on year. Still $1.11 per bushel was a price well above the usual seasonal price range for corn and our Nevada Township farmer wanted to take advantage of the price of $1.11 per bushel, because he believed that the price would fall even more in 1949.
Starting in the middle of January 1949 a series of blizzards which lasted until through the first part of February dumped a total of about 10” (inches) of snow on the ground and the cold temperatures kept that accumulation on the ground until a warming spell in March. Accordingly it was well into March that our Nevada Township farmer could make arrangements with Ray Jacobson to shell out his out all his corn.
Our Nevada Township farmer had tried to tie a large tarpaulin over the top of snow fence crib. However, the winds of the winter of 1948-1949 had foiled this attempt to provide a roof over the temporary corn crib. As a result, the ear corn in the snow fence crib became more “weathered” than the more “pristine” ear corn that was stored in the double corn drib with its shingled roof. The Hunting elevator in Lyle was more likely to buy the pristine corn without any “dockage” of the price per bushel due to the weathering of the corn.
Thus, our Nevada Township farmer wanted to shell out the corn in the snow fence crib and store that shelled corn in the granary in order to feed as much of the “weathered” corn to the animals on his farm. After shelling out snow fence crib, our Nevada Township farmer was surprised that the resulting shelled corn nearly filled the granary. This meant that just a little more of the pristine shelled corn needed to be added to the granary to have more than enough shelled corn to feed the animals on the farm all year long. This meant that almost the whole contents of the large double crib on his farm could be shelled out and sold to the Hunting elevator. This is what he did as fast as he could.
At the end of the year, our Nevada Township farmer and his second son felt that a small truck ( a pickup) could be used on the farm for a variety of light-duty jobs and would use less gas than the 1-½ ton truck his father had wanted to purchase the year before. Pickups were much common now on farms across the United States than they had been before the war. Before the war, farm trucks had usually been 1½ ton trucks. With its own rear hitch, the small truck could even be used for hauling wagons to town in place of using the cars. Since early in the fall, the new 1949 model year Chevrolet trucks had been out at dealerships like Usem’s in Austin. This new ½-ton pickup shared the same “round nose” styling as the 1948 Chevy trucks, even the larger 1-½ ton truck, except these new 1949 model pickups had a shiny, eye-catching chrome grille out front. The 1-½ ton truck still had the old-fashioned painted grille. This was a throwback to the war years when all chromium production had been channeled into the war effort.
The 1949 growing season proved to be another great year for crops.Soybean yields in Mower County established another new record—a phenomenal 18 bushels per acre.Corn yields in the county were averaging 48 bushels per acre.The recession officially ended as of September or October of 1949.Yet the ill effects of the recession continued after the “official” end of the recession.In October of 1949 unemployment across the nation stood at 7.9%. As a result of continuing recession and the bumper crops, soybean prices slid to $2.04 per bushel in November of 1949. When the 1949 corn crop was shelled out and came on to the market in February of 1950, the price still lagged at $1.13 per bushel as an average for the month as a whole.
The winter of 1949-1950 had seen a great accumulation of snow (sometimes as much as 14 inches) on the ground for most of the winter.The unseasonably warm temperatures of early had finally melted all the snow. However, rains picked up where the snow had left off. Rains continued through most of April and May of 1950—with only a week’s respite in late April that allowed our Nevada Township farmer to get his ground worked up and his oats sown. The dry weather in early May of 1950 allowed him to plant his corn and his soybeans. Apparently, the markets were anticipating that the 1950 crop might be somewhat troublesome, WCCO radio at 830 kilocycles (kc) on the radio dial broadcasting out of Minneapolis, Minnesota (1950 pop. 521,718) was reporting that even this early in the season, the price of soybeans had risen to $2.70 per bushel as an average for the month of May, 1950 and the price of corn had adjusted upwards to the average price of $1.28 per bushel for the month May.It seemed as thought the markets were anticipating shortages in the fall due to below average harvest yields.Still these prices remained well under the 1947 prices. That year, there had been a real problem of wet weather in the spring and early summer which had caused a loss in crop yield in the autumn.(See the fourth article in this series of articles called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]: The Wet Year” contained in the blog at this website.) As the weather warmed again in early 1950, our Nevada Township farmer, looked forward again to field work and spring planting with the same positive expectations that he did.Springtime was the natural time to look forward to the new growing season. However, just when it looked like 1950 might be another wet year like 1947, the rains stopped. Unseasonably hot weather, with temperatures as high as 90ºF or higher, occurred in late May and early June, caused the crops to spring up out of the ground and flourish. Our Nevada Township farmer began to change his mind.Perhaps this would be another bumper year in crops like 1948 and 1949.Because of this he expected to see a decline in farm commodity prices over the summer.
The eldest son of our Nevada Township farmer and his new wife this would have meant that a mortgage would have been placed out of reach because of the combination of high prices for houses they were attempting to purchased and the higher than normal interest rates on the loan they would need to purchase the house. Only the assurance of low interest rates under the G. I. Bill would allow them to purchase the house they would need in Charles City, Iowa. For his father on the farm in Nevada Township in Minnesota, this
Soybean prices had beput a real en soaring since the end of the war and had reached a record $4.13 per bushel in January of 1948. Now, in November of 1948, soybean prices declined to $2.35 per bushel. The glut in the corn market resulted the average price of corn falling to $1.11 per bushel in March of 1949. This represented the loss of a full dollar per bushel off the price of corn just one year before in March of 1948—a 47.4% decrease in the price of corn in just on year.
Consequently, just as the high prices of the new Chevrolet trucks and the higher interest rates that the banks were now charging for loans caused our Nevada Township farmer and his second son to put off their plans for purchasing a new truck at Usem Chevrolet, consumers across the United States began to delay purchases of large consumer items like houses and cars. Indeed, our Nevada Township farmer felt that the recent downturn in the economy was the long expected waited “post-war” recession. Unknown to him was the fact that most of the public and many of the governing officials of the nation felt the same way. Indeed, once it became clear in November of 1948, that the economy was headed into a recession, it was the belief of many, even members on the Federal Reserve Board, that this recession was the long delayed “post-war” recession. Accordingly, the recession of 1948-1949 was largely caused by a psychological expectation that the Second World War would be followed by a recession just as the First World War had been followed by the severe recession of 1920-1921.
The second son felt that a small truck could be used on the farm for a variety of light-duty jobs and would use less gas than the 1-½ ton truck his father had wanted to purchase the year before. With its own rear hitch, the small truck could even be used for hauling wagons to town in place of using the cars. This new ½-ton pickup shared the same “round nose” styling as the 1948 Chevy 1-½ ton truck except the new pickup had a shiny, eye-catching chrome grille out front. The 1-½ ton truck still had the old-fashioned painted grille. This was a throwback to the war years when all chromium production had been channeled into the war effort.
The second son anticipated that the small truck could be used on the farm for a variety of light-duty jobs and would use less gas than the 1-½ ton truck his father had purchased the year before. With its own rear hitch, it could even be used for hauling the wagon to town in place of using the cars. This new ½-ton pickup shared the same “round nose” styling as the 1948 Chevy 1-½ ton truck except the new pickup had a shiny, eye-catching chrome grille out front. The 1-½ ton truck still had the old-fashioned painted grille. This was a throwback to the war years when all chromium production had been channeled into the war effort.
The 1949 growing season proved to be another great year for crops. When combining the oats our Nevada Township farmer was again ready to fight the clumps in is windrows. However, only at the corners, did our Nevada Township farmer worry about the combine struggling with the crop in 1949. As the PTO binder was being towed around the corner, cut grain tended to pile up in one spot on the ground at the corner. Our Nevada Township farmer was still worried that the clumps of grain would clog the little combine but in 1947, our Nevada Township farmer was pleasantly surprised to find that none of these clumps of grain at the corners of the field did anything more than to make the six cylinder engine of the Model 70 to “muscle down” and work to power the clump through the combine.
Soybean yields in Mower County established another new record—a phenomenal 18 bushels per acre. Corn yields in the county were averaging 48 bushels per acre.
Economists finally assured the pubic that the recession officially ended as of September or October of 1949. Yet the ill effects of the recession continued after the “official” end of the recession. In October of 1949 unemployment across the nation stood at 7.9%. Clearly this recession had cause harm to the economy and hurt to wide portions of the public. The causes of the recession included the failure of the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to slow the economy from over heating in the post-war period. Later the Fed failed to recognize that after the initial inflationary cycle had passed that the stfrom 1948 on the the economy However, it remains that the res
As a result of continuing recession and the bumper crops, soybean prices slid to $2.04 per bushel in November of 1949. When the 1949 corn crop was shelled out and came on to the market in February of 1950, the price still lagged at $1.13 per bushel as an average for the month as a whole.
The winter of 1949-1950 had seen a great accumulation of snow (sometimes as much as 14 inches) on the ground for most of the winter. The unseasonably warm temperatures of early had finally melted all the snow. However, rains picked up where the snow had left off. Rains continued through most of April and May of 1950—with only a week’s respite in late April that allowed our Nevada Township farmer to get his ground worked up and his oats sown. The dry weather in early May of 1950 allowed him to plant his corn and his soybeans.
Apparently, the markets were anticipating that the 1950 crop might be somewhat troublesome, WCCO radio at 830 kilocycles (kc) on the radio dial broadcasting out of Minneapolis, Minnesota (1950 pop. 521,718) was reporting that even this early in the season, the price of soybeans had risen to $2.70 per bushel as an average for the month of May, 1950 and the price of corn had adjusted upwards to the average price of $1.28 per bushel for the month May. It seemed as thought the markets were anticipating shortages in the fall due to below average harvest yields. Still these prices remained well under the 1947 prices. That year, there had been a real problem of wet weather in the spring and early summer which had caused a loss in crop yield in the autumn. (See the fourth article in this series of articles called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part IV]: The Wet Year” contained in the blog at this website.) As the weather warmed again in early 1950, our Nevada Township farmer, looked forward again to field work and spring planting with the same positive expectations that he did. Springtime was the natural time to look forward to the new growing season. However, just when it looked like 1950 might be another wet year like 1947, the rains stopped. Unseasonably hot weather, with temperatures as high as 90ºF or higher, occurred in late May and early June, caused the crops to spring up out of the ground and flourish. Prices on the markets stabilized. Our Nevada Township farmer began to change his mind. Perhaps this would be another bumper year in crops like 1948 and 1949. Because of this he expected to see a decline in farm commodity prices over the summer.
Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells