Category Archives: Haying

Articles which mention the farming process of hay making.

The Farmall Super C Tractor bearing the Serial Number 116464 at Work in New Hampshire

The Farmall Super C Tractor bearing the Serial Number 116464 at Work in New Hampshire 

by

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 Barn on the Grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association

The Barn on the Grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association 

by

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 restored Almena barn was restored and rebuilt on the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association.

In the spring of 2016 a new structure arose on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association.  This was a barn that had been originally built in the 1880s near the small village of Almena, Wisconsin.  The Village of Almena is located in Barron County in Wisconsin.  Indeed the Village of Almena is located on the  eastern boundary of the “Town” of Almena.  The word “Town” should not be confused with the word “village.”  In Wisconsin, the word Town refers to a piece of land 6 miles by 6 miles square.  In other states this geographical piece of land would be called a “Township.” Continue reading The Barn on the Grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association

The Wayne A. and Marilyn Wells 1950 Farmall M

The Wayne A. and Marilyn Wells 1950  Farmall Model M

by

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 International Harvester Company introduced the Farmall Model M as a full-three plow tractor in the autumn of 1939.

In early 1950, Wayne Alwin Wells traded the 1942 Farmall Model had been owned his father George Cleveland Wells, in to the Seese and Oksenan dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota, on the purchase of a Farmall Model M.  The Seese and Oksenan dealership was operating under new management  Prior to 1944, the International Harvester dealership in LeRoy had been owned by Elmer McRoberts.  However, in 1944, Elmer McRoberts had retired and sold the business to the partnership of Kennth Seese and Leonard Oksenan.  Kenneth Seese had previously been living in

Pursuant to the purchase contract of this tractor, the Farmall M bearing the Serial No. 2518137 was delivered to the Wayne Wells farm in eastern LeRoy Township, Mower County, Minnesota on March 1, 1950.  Wayne needed to grind up some feed for the baby pigs which had  just been weaned.  So he immediately belted the new tractor up to the Case hammer mill which was bolted to the floor of the granary on the farm.

A pre-war version of the Case feed grinder. The particular grinder owned by Wayne A. Wells had been bought by his father George Wells some time during the war years. Consequently, the Wells feed grinder had no galvanized feeder or whirlwind  dust collector.  On the Wells feed grinder both the feeder and the whirlwind dust collector were made of simple sheet metal and painted Case Flambeau Red.

 

He then went to the house and got his wife, Marilyn (Hanks) Wells and their one-year old son Brian Wayne Wells (the current author of this article).  He also picked up the little Kodak Brownie camera.  He then took a new picture of his son on the operator’s seat of the new tractor with his wife Marilyn holding young Brian securely in the seat.

Just after the Farmall Model M bearing the Serial No. 218137 was delivered to the Wayne A. Wells farm. the new tractor was put to work grinding pig feed for the newly weaned baby pigs.

 

The Wells family held an auction of all their farm equipment in preparation to moving from the farm in 1964.  At the auction Serial No. 218137 was purchased by Dean Shirbourne.

 

In the years since 1964, Dean Shirbourne continued farming.  Most of the machinery Dean used on his farm was International Harvester farm equipment.  He had other more modern Farmall tractors than the 1950 Farmall M he had purchased at the Wayne Wells farm auction.  Accordingly, he placed the 1950 Farmall M bearing the serial number 2518137 under an International Harvester two-row mounted Model 2MH corn picker.  This picker remained on the 1950 Farmall M until Dean retired from farming in 1993.  Every fall the tractor and mounted corn picker was used to “open” the corn fields on the Shirbourne farm and a couple of Dean’s neighbors.  (John Grass Jr., one particular neighbor of Dean Shirbourne remembers using the 1950 Farmall M on his farm.)

Once the mounted picker on No. 218137 had picked the corn in the “end rows” across both ends of the corn field and once the body of the corn field had been “opened” and divided into “lands,”  Dean Shirbourne brought in his two-row New Idea Model 6A pull-type corn picker to pick the remainder of the corn in his fields.  Recognizing that mounted pickers are not the best pickers for “husking” (removing the husks from the ears of ripe corn), Dean Shirbourne  and his neighbors preferred to use pull-type corn pickers to do the main job of picking their corn fields.  Pull-type corn pickers were respected for their large and very efficient husking beds.  Pull-type pickers had the best chance of getting the harvested corn down to a level of 4% or less “foreign material” (husks) in the ear corn crop.

Husking the corn down to a level of 4% foreign material (husks) was the ideal that farmers strove for in order to store the ear corn in normal corn crib over the winter.  Only a level of 4% or less foreign material in the ear corn would allow the cold dry air of winter to flow relatively unobstructed through the ear corn stored in the corn crib and dry the annual crop of corn sufficiently over the winter from the period of time from the harvest in October or November until February or March, when the ear corn would normally be dry enough to be shelled  and stored in a granary.  To store the ear corn in a corn crib at a level of more than 4% foreign material would invite blockage of the flow of air through the crib and invite mold forming on the ear corn.  and risk  without

Thus, once the corn fields were opened and divided into “lands,” Dean Shirbourne and his neighbors could conveniently use their pull-type pickers on the main body of the corn crop.  Thus each year, the 1950 Farmall M was used only for the short period of time each fall that it took to “open” the corn fields on the Shirbourne farm and on the farms of a few of his neighbors.  During the remainder of the year, the 1950 Farmall M bearing the Serial No. 218137 was stored away with its mounted corn picker in the machine shed on the Shirbourne farm.

Thus, from 1964 until Dean Shirbourne retired from farming in 1993, No. 218137 was used only for a couple of weeks in the autumn of  each year to open the corn fields in preparation of the harvest.  Upon his retirement from farming in the 1990s, Dean Shirbourne gave the 1950 Farmall M, bearing the Serial No. 218137, to his  nephew–Mark Mossyge–who beautifully restored the tractor.

 

 

Continue reading The Wayne A. and Marilyn Wells 1950 Farmall M

Oliver Farming in Mower County, Minnesota (Part VI): The Korean War

Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota (Part V):

The Korean War

by

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.

A 1945-1949 map of Korea showing the 38th Parallel as the dividing line between the separate countries of North and South Korea.

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.

The Hormel plant in nearby Austin, Minnesota began to offer higher prices for lambs and sheep following June of 1950.

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.

Part of the contingent of Turkish troops fighting in the Korean War. Turks were just one part of the United Nations force in Korea that traditionally enjoyed lamb as a regular staple of their diet.

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.

During the Korean War, the attempt was made to have fresh cooked meals available to the soldiers on a regular basis rather than C-rations.

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.

Demand for lamb for the international contingent of troops in Korea meant that raising purebred Suffolk Sheep became popular among farmers again.

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.

Bred ewe sales of all breeds of sheep are popular starting in the late autumn and extending through the winter.

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.

The “Larson” Bundle Wagon

                                                The Larson Hayrack/Bundle Wagon

by

Brian Wayne Wells

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

This is the newer “1935-version of the Larson wagon with “J-shaped” metal ribs as opposed to the older gently rounded metal ribs of the 1921 version of the Larson wagon.

 

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

Fred Marshall Hanks was a believer in the ability of the Milking Shorthorn breed to provide both good dairy cows and good beef cattle.

 

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

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By 1910, visitors to the Fred Marshall Hanks farm in rural Winnebago, Minnesota was a common occurrence  In 1919 one of those visitors was a man by the name of Larson who would have an impact on the family that would last for at least two gennerations.

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

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

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

Allis-Chalmers (Part I): Dry-Land Farming in Wyoming

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Allis Chalmers Farming (Part I): Dry-Land Farming

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the January/February 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            Wyoming is divided between the rocky Mountains in the west and the plains of the eastern part of the state.  Ever since the earliest settlers, cattle raising has been a part of the state’s eastern plains.  In the 1870s and ‘80s the cattle industry in Wyoming boomed, as the number of cattle grew from 8,143 head in 1870 to a maximum of 2 million head in 1885. Two counties over which these cattle grazed in the eastern plains of Wyoming were Sheridan and Jonson Counties.

The cattle ranchers were not the only people that were attracted to the Wyoming plains.  In the 1880’s the eastern plains of Wyoming began to attract settlers intent on making a living tilling the soil of the plains to raise marketable crops—especially wheat.  The competition for land and water in the arid environment of the plains of eastern Wyoming, created tension between large cattle ranchers and the farmers who fenced in the open range.  In 1889, this tension exploded into open warfare in what became known as the “Johnson County War.”  While the cattle barons won battles in this conflict, they lost the war.  Wave after wave of settlers coming into eastern Wyoming doomed the large scale cattle ranchers.  Helping the setters was a new federal law passed in the United States congress in 1862—the Homestead Act.

The Homestead Act had, originally, been passed by Congress in 1862 and was signed into law by President Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War on May 20, 1862.  Originally, homesteaders were allowed to take up land under the Homestead Act in tracts of 160 acres.  By moving onto the land, building a dwelling and staying on the land for five (5) years, a settler could “prove up” title on the 160 acre farm and become the owners of the land without spending any money purchasing the land.

The Homestead Act was a popular law.  Vast areas of the Midwest were settled under the provisions of the Homestead Act.  However, whereas the 160 acre allotments were the perfect size for a family attempting to build a farming operation in the rich well-watered soils of states like Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota , 160 acre allotments were simply too small to support farming on the dry lands of Wyoming.  Thus in February of 1909, under the guidance of Wyoming’s own congressman Frank W. Mondell, President Taft signed the Homestead Act of 1909.  This Act revised the Homestead Act of 1862 by doubling the amount of land available to an individual settler to 320 acres.  In 1916, the Homestead Act was revised again to provide 640 acres available to each homesteader as a grazing allotment.  This legislation was again introduced by Frank Mondell and was specifically tailored to promote settlement of the dry Wyoming plains.  Homesteading had first become widespread in Wyoming in the 1890s.  However, homesteading picked up in the first two decades of the new Twentieth Century and the greatest boom years for homesteading proved to be 1919, 1920 and 1921.

One of the largest groups of settlers participating in this boom was the large group of military veterans returning from the war in Europe.  The idea of settling on some land and farming it for five years then becoming the sole title owner of the land without putting down any cash at all was too attractive to be missed.  Among these retuning veterans from the World War were brothers Floyd Harrison Wells and George Cleveland Wells—great uncle and paternal grandfather, respectfully,  of the current author.

Arriving in New York City in late 1918, both George C. and Floyd H. are pictured in a group photo of the entire Company B of the 82nd Infantry Division of the United States Army in which the boys had served.  (This picture still exists in the possession of the current author’s mother.)  While still in the Army, the Wells brothers had planned to homestead some land in Wyoming.  Upon their return to the United States, both Floyd and George C. intended to take a train straight to Roswell, New Mexico to see their parents—George and Ella (McCarthy) Wells.  Originally, the elder George Wells (father of Floyd and George C. and great-grandfather of the current author) had been farming in Butler Township in Calhoun County, in western Iowa.  However he developed breathing problems and in 1904, George and Ella Wells and their entire family of six chidren (five boys and one girl) had been forced to move to the drier climate of Roswell, New Mexico.

The Wells children enrolled at in high school in Roswell High School.  Walter Thomas Wells, the oldest child in the family, graduated from Roswell High School in 1906 and became a telegrapher on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, in Roswell.  Sometime prior to 1914 and the start of the war in Europe, however, Walter decided to return to Iowa and start farming.  Toward this end he bought a farm from John M. Longeran which was located in Section 32 of Chester Township in Howard County, Iowa.  Later, before the start of the war in Europe in 1914, Walter T. rented out his farm and and moved to Musselman, Montana to  took a new job as a telegrapher for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul (the Milwaukee Road) Railroad.

The second and third brothers, Floyd and George C. graduated from Roswell High School in 1909 and 1910, respectively.  Soon after they each graduated Floyd and George moved to Iowa to help Walter operate the farm in Chester Township.  However, when the United States entered the war in Europe in April of 1917, they joined the United States Army.

Meanwhile in Roswell, New Mexico, the fourth child of George and Ella Wells—Byron Emerson Wells—had  graduated from Roswell, New Mexico in June of 1914 and had moved to Musselman, Montana to join his oldest brother, Walter T., in working for the Milwaukee Road Railroad.  In the same month that George C. and Floyd returned from the war, the fifth child of George and Ella Wells and their only surviving daughter—Mabel Mae Wells—graduated from Roswell High School.  (There actually had been another daughter born to George and Ella Wells who was named Myrtle V. Wells.  However, she had died in 1901 at the age of three [3] years of age.)  The sixth and last surviving child of George and Ella Wells was named Roswell McCarthy Wells and was only 13 years of age and was attending school and living at home.

Now that they were home from the First World War Floyd and George C. were anxious to get back to Roswell, New Mexico to see their parents and their sister and youngest brother.  However, before going to Roswell, New Mexico, Floyd and George C. returned to Chester, Iowa (1910 pop. 266).  George C. had an important reason to go to LeRoy before he headed off to New Mexico and then to Wyoming.  On June 24, 1919, George C. Wells married Louise Schwark, the daughter of Carl and Ida (Scharnweber) Schwark from Oakdale Township in Iowa about a mile south and east of Le Roy, Minnesota.  Floyd served as the best man for his brother at the wedding.

The day after the wedding, the wedding party of George and Louise and brother, Floyd, boarded a train of the other railroad which passed through LeRoy, Minnesota, in a north/south railroad—the Chicago,Great Western Railroad.  At the end of the Great Western Railroad line in Kansas City, Missouri the Wells wedding party transferred to a train of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and rode this train all the way to Roswell.  They were headed for George and Floyd’s parent’s house in Roswell, New Mexico.  The family reunion was a great celebration.  Everybody was there.  Walter and Byron had come down to Roswell from Musselman, Montana to see their two brothers now returned from the war and to meet their new new sister-in-law, Louise.  The family took advantage of the fact that everybody was present at the reunion and scheduled a picture of the whole famly to be taken by a professional photographer.

Following the family reunion at an Roswell, New Mexico, Floyd Wells,  George C. and Louise Wells boarded a train of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in Roswell to make the journey north to Deaver, Wyoming.  Once in Deaver, each brother filed on tracts of land located in “Election District 20” in Big Horn County, near Wyoming’s border with Montana.

Before the war, both Floyd and George had been involved in farming together with their older brother, Walter Thomas Wells, as on Walter’s farm located in Section 33 of Chester Township, Howard County, Iowa.  However, farming in Wyoming was not like farming in Iowa.

Without doubt the climate of Wyoming is dry.  Wyoming, as a whole, receives an average of only 13.75 inches of rainfall per year.  The counties along Wyoming’s eastern border with Nebraska and South Dakota received the most rainfall of the entire state—as much as 16 to 20 inches per year.  This was far less than the 34.72 inches of rain that the Wells brothers might expect per year in Chester Township, Howard County, Iowa.  However, in Big Horn County, located further west in Wyoming, received only about 10.1 inches of rainfall per year.  Thus, the Wells brothers could not use the same farming practices that they had used on the farm in Chester Township in Howard County, Iowa before the war.

Because of the dryness of the land in Wyoming, any homesteader in Big Horn County, Wyoming, needed to either irrigate his land or he had to practice “dry land farming.”  Dry land farming was based on the theory that the dry soil could be made profitable by cropping the land only once every two years.   Pursuant to the theories of various “dry land farming” exponents including Frank Bond, Hardy W. Campbell, Clarence T. Johnson and Dr. V.T. Cooke, dry land farming homesteaders would collect a crop from only one-half their land in any one year.  The other half of their land would “lay fallow.”  In the next year, the fallow land would be cropped and the present year’s crop land would be allowed to lay fallow for a year.  In this way, only half of the arable land on any dry land farming operation would be growing crops in any one year.  The other half of the arable land would be laid fallow for a year.

This was the rationale for raising the basic homestead allotment from 160 acres to 320 acres in 1909.  The practice of dry land farming was a means by which some extremely “marginal” land could yield a profitable crop.  By growing crops on one half of the land of his ranch one year, while allowing the other half of the land to lay fallow, and then alternating the next year, it was thought that a 320-acre dry land farming operation could be as profitable as any 160-acre farming operation of Midwestern states like Illinois and/or Indiana, where land was continuously cropped each and every year.

The theory of dry land farming rested on the premise that the fallow land would store up a reserve of moisture from the fallow year to be used in the cropping year.  Not only would the rainfall of the cropping year be used to grow the crop, but also the “reserve” of moisture stored in the soil would be use.  Consequently, the rainfall or soil moisture of two consecutive seasons was used to grow one season’s worth of crop.  Additionally, the dry land farmer would till the fallow land only to prevent weeds from growing up on the land and robbing the fallow land of the moisture they would need to raise the crop in the second year.  Consequently, even though there may be less rainfall in  Big Horn County, Wyoming,  than in the eastern counties of Wyoming, under the practices of dry land farming a farmer or rancher in Big Horn County could save up soil moisture in the land by farming the land only one season out of two growing seasons and allowing the land to lay fallow for the second year in order to store up soil moisture in the tore rainave up .

During the six months of April through September of 1918, Wyoming had received 10.1 inches of rain.  For land laying in fallow, this was a good start for the coming year.  However, during the winter of 1918-1919 Wyoming had no significant amount of snowfall and thus, there was no spring snow melt.  The whole of the winter’s precipitation (rain and snowfall), for the six months from October, 1918 through March of 1919, when melted down, amounted to only a 3.4 inches of rain fall.  This led to a dry spring in 1919 and the dry spell continued into the summer.  When Floyd Wells and George and Louise Wells got off the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad train in the town of Deaver in Big Horn County at the end of June of 1919, they found extremely dry conditions.  Furthermore, weather conditions did not improve.  Wyoming, as a whole, received only 10.1 inches of precipitation during the entire calendar year of 1919.  As one of those counties west of the 100°meridian in Wyoming, Big Horn County received less that the average rainfall of the state as a whole during the summer of 1919.

The winter of 1919-1920 brought a great deal of snow.  George and Louise even found it difficult to move around their farm yard to complete the chores because of all the snow.  Thus, it was a considerable surprise to George and Louise Wells to have a knock on the door of their homestead shanty on January 9, 1920.  It was 26 year-old Arthur I. Nelson, a farmer from Murphy’s Gulch over in neighboring Sheridan County.  Arthur Nelson was working temporarily for the 1920 United States Census as an “enumerator” or   census taker.  Arthur Nelson’s report for the 1920 Census found the two Wells brothers living side by side on their respective homestead claims.  Floyd H. Wells was living alone in the shanty on his farm and George and Louise were living in another little shanty on their homestead claim.  Louise was pregnant the time.  On April 22, 1920, she would give birth to their first child, Floyd Charles Wells.

As difficult as it was to get around their farm yard and do the chores in all the snow that winter, the large amount of snow was a blessing.  The snow of the winter of 1919-1920 added 6.2 inches of moisture to the soil in the spring.  With the coming of the spring of 1920, George and Floyd both set to work planting their crops.  Rainfall remained about normal for the summer of 1920.  Indeed, the rainfall for the entire year of 1920 approached the right amount for a normal year.  Ordinarily, this normal rainfall would have been reflected in a normal yield of wheat at harvest time had there been a normal amount of moisture already in the soil.  However, this was not the case.  Because of the drought conditions of 1919, there remained an insufficient reserve of moisture in the soil despite the near normal rains of 1920.  Accordingly, the Wells brothers obtained a yield of down only around 15 bushels of wheat per acre—below average for a normal year.

Like a jig saw puzzle, success in dry land farming was based on a series of separate parts—these parts—the rains of the particular growing season plus the rains of the previous year when the land was lying fallow, plus the spring snow melt of the spring before the fallow year and the spring snow melt before the growing season.  All these pieces needed to be in place in order for the dryland farmer to have a normal yield and make a profit.  The crop year, 1920, in Big Horn County is a very good example of the jigsaw concept of dryland farming.  Even a light snow in one particular winter two years before the growing season could spell the difference between a good crop and a poor crop when the fallow land was cropped.

To make matters even worse for the Wells brothers, a post-war economic recession spread across the whole country in 1920.  When the Wells brothers took the limited amount of wheat they had harvested to the elevator, they found falling prices for their crop.  Dropping from a high of $2.94 per bushel in May of 1920, the price fell to $2.49 per bushel in September 1920, then to $2.10 in October and by December the price fell to $1.69 per bushel.

In the following year, 1921, the drought conditions returned as Wyoming received only 11.7 inches for the whole calendar year of 1921 including the snow melt from the winter of 1920-1921.  Additionally, the post war recession continued into its second year with the price of wheat declining still further to $1.62 per bushel in February 1921, to $1.20 in August of 1921, to $1.08 in October 1921 and finally to $1.04 per bushel in November.

On September 21, 1921, Louise gave birth to a second son, Donald George Wells.  With their family growing and there family income limited by the post-war depression, George knew that he needed to do something to get more regular income.

Despite the return of 13.1 inches of rain to Wyoming in 1922, the wheat harvest that August still reflected a diminished yield of about 19 bushels per acre—only about 64% of the yield of wheat of irrigated land.  In spite of the normal amount of rainfall in 1922, the soil remained too dry to support a normal crop of wheat because of the drought conditions in that had existed the year before in 1921.  Additionally, the price that the Wells brothers received was only $1.05 per bushel, less than they had received the year before.  To save the family’s financial situation George sought work with the local Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad which had tracks passing north and south through Deaver, Wyoming.  With their family growing and their income limited, George and Louise felt the need to move off their homestead in order to find something else to do with their lives.  Then there appeared a possibility on the horizon.  Back in Chester, Iowa, George’s brother, Walter Wells, had been renting out his farm in Section 33 of Chester Township until about 1916.

Where they rented a farm five miles east and a mile south of the village of LeRoy.  The farm was actually just across the state line into Iowa.  About ½ a mile west of Chester, Iowa.

George and Louise Wells continued to rent this farm until 1936 when they purchased a 160 acre farm about 3 miles to the north and west back across the state line in LeRoy Township, Minnesota.  Floyd H. Wells was to remain in Wyoming.  However, he married Bernice Palmer and moved to a new farm nearer a source of water that allowed him cease dry land farming and eventually irrigated his entire land with trenches and then was able to raise row crops—great northern beans—on a yearly basis over his whole farm without laying half the farm aside to collect moisture.  To make a living at agriculture in the dry land of Wyoming, a homesteader needed financial reserves built up during the “good” years to carry the dry land farming operation through the drought years.  A dry land farming operation required a lot of work and sometimes required a good deal of luck to survive.

One particular rancher on a homesteaded ranch in Sheridan County, in 1925, had some reserves—they were not all of his own making.  His father had filed a homestead claim on this 320 acre ranch some 15 years before, in 1910.  Originally from Utah, his father had herded sheep, bringing his flock of sheep into Wyoming each summer to graze on the open range in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming.  (The story of his father obtaining his own flock of sheep is contained in the article called “Sheep Raising in Wyoming” in the November/December 2006 Belt Pulley magazine and the article is published on this blog as the article that precedes this article.)   Over the years of grazing his sheep in Wyoming, his father had fallen in love with the beautiful land of Wyoming.  Consequently, in 1910, he sold his flock and moved to this farm.  There had been nothing on the land when his father had moved on the land in 1910.  That first summer the family had had to build their own house and barn.  Actually they built the barn first and then lived in the barn with the animals before they built the house.  His parents had labored hard to “prove up” title within the five years required by the Homestead Law.

As a way of earning extra income from their farming operation, his father had joined together with another neighbor to purchase a used Nichols and Shepard wood frame thresher, with a 24 inch cylinder and 47 inch separating tables, and a Nichols and Shepard traction steam engine.  Although designated as an “8 horsepower (hp.) steam engine,” this steam engine actually delivered 25 hp. to the belt pulley.  The 8 hp. designation referred to the drawbar horsepower of the traction steam engine.  The previous owner of the thresher and the 8 hp. traction steam engine was from this very neighborhood.  He was selling the thresher and steam engine, because he was retiring from farming.  All the neighbors around the neighborhood were concerned that the only neighborhood thresher was now being sold.  However, nobody in the neighborhood had the adequate finances to buy the thresher and steam engine except our Sheridan
county rancher’s father.  Consequently, his father and one neighbor had almost been forced into the partnership and into buying the thresher and steam engine in order to rescue the neighborhood.  His father spent the money that he had obtained by selling his flock on his share of the thresher and steam engine.  Additionally, that same year, his father had also built a shed on his farm to house the thresher and the steam engine during the winter months.

His parents had worked very hard.  However, our Sheridan County rancher knew that his parents had also experienced a certain amount of luck in their farming operation.  His father had sold his flock just as sheep raising had become un-profitable in 1910 due to the fall of the price of wool.  Many shepherds were starting to sell off or reducing the size of their herds in 1910.  In 1909, the population of sheep in Wyoming had reached its peak with 6,091,000 sheep grazing in the state.  The next year, in 1910 the sheep population in Wyoming was down substantially—to only 5,397,000 sheep grazing in the state.  By 1914 there were only 3,827,000 sheep in the state.  The wool market was very closely tied to the rise and fall of the tariff on foreign wool imports.  The tariff was the most partisan issue in the history of the United States.  Ever since the 1840s, the tariff was always raised when the Republicans were in control of Congress and the Presidency and lowered when the Democrats were in control the government.   Even prior to the election of 1910, the sheep industry began to fear that the Republican control of the government was nearing an end and with it the high protective tariff on wool.  Anticipating this change in the government, the price of wool began to decline in February of 1910.  Even before the tariff was reformed, sheep herders had begun selling or reducing the size of the flocks.  As expected, the Republican party lost control of the House of Representatives in the election of 1910 and lost the Presidency in 1912.  The Gorman Tariff of 1913 virtually removed the tariff on wool in its entirety.  After that, the wool market was never the same.  The profits obtained in wool had disappeared with the removal of the tariff on foreign wool.

Our Sheridan County rancher also knew that his father had also been fortunate in filing for his homestead in 1910.  Wheat was the main crop of Sheridan County.  Even as early as 1907, three years before his father had filed a homestead on this farm, the price of wheat had risen above its usual range from 60 cents a bushel to 75 cents a bushel.  Starting in 1907 the new range for wheat prices was from 90 cents to a $1.00 per bushel.  The wheat market was expressing anxiety over the war in Europe that appeared to be coming.  War seemed imminent with each newspaper report of some new Balkan crisis.  Once the war actually broke out in August of 1914, our Sheridan County farmer’s father found the price of the spring wheat he was raising each year was fetching prices that ranged from $1.00 to $1.25 per bushel.  Upon United States involvment in the war in April of 1917, the price shot up to $2.38 per bushel for the month.  All through the war and in the period immediately following the war, wheat had ranged from $2.20 to $2.50 per bushel.  Additionally, in the years between 1904 through 1918, Wyoming was blessed by an abundance of rain—an average of 14.74 inches per year—12.5% more rain each year than usual.

As noted above, the end of the war saw a severe drought attacked Wyoming.   Additionally there was a nationwide economic recession that set in end of the recent world war in November of 1918 had brought a contraction of business activity.  Across the nation government contracts for military goods were cancelled and businesses struggled to get back on a peacetime footing.  The economic hard times eventually caught up the farmers too, with a huge decline in farm prices

Our Sheridan County rancher’s parents had suffered through these years just as the Wells brothers had.  But with the income from threshing in the summer and with the prudent management and saving in the good years, his parents had built up reserves to survive the dry year of 1919 and the recession years of 1920-1923.  Without such reserves many of the recent homesteaders had been force into bankruptcy.  His father had remarked, “Their operations folded up and died just like spring flowers under the summer sun.”

In 1923, our Sheridan County rancher had officially taken over operation of the ranch from his parents.  In actual fact, however, he had been gradually assuming more of the decision making on the ranch in the years since the war.  Indeed, the relationship between his father and him had not changed much in its basics since over the last two years since 1923.  He and his father still talked often about the ranch and many of the decisions made about the ranch operations were actually consensus decisions.

As noted above the practice of dry land farming depended on land being cropped every other year and laying fallow during the year between cropping years.  While laying fallow, the land would store up moisture in order to grow a normal crop during the cropping year.  Of course, to prevent the moisture from being leeched away during the fallow year, the fallow land had to be tilled to prevent weeds or other plant life from using up all the moisture that was being stored for the cropping year ahead.  Like his neighbors, our Sheridan County rancher knew that the best practice for preparing fallow land was use a moldboard plow to turn the wheat stubble over entirely.  In this way, all the weeds and other green plant life that had started growing up through the stubble would not only be killed but they would be buried underground to become a source of nitrogen for the crops the following year.

Usually, every spring, after he finished planting all the spring wheat in the tilled land, he would begin the process of plowing last year’s wheat stubble with the single bottom silky plow.  However, working with the horses on the sulky one-bottom plow was a slow tedious process under the scorching sun.  Furthermore, the health of the horses was endangered by doing this heavy field work with the horses during the hottest part of the year.  Most of the time our Sheridan County farmer had to content himself with completing only part of the fallow ground plowed with a moldboard plow.  The rest of the field would have to be worked up with a field cultivator which cover the ground quicker than the sulky plow.  The field cultivator killed the weeds, all right, but it left the weeds on top of the ground where then merely dried up and withered away.  There was very little incorporation of the “green manure”—the weeds—into the soil.  There never seemed to be enough time to complete all the work that needed to be done on the farm during the busy summer season.

This was a problem that continued to bother our Sheridan County farmer as he looked out the window of his frame house over the fields covered with snow in the winter of  1924-1925.  Rather than using horses to moldboard plow the fallow ground, he had thought of using mechanical power.  Just last summer, our Sheridan County rancher had really been introduced to the improvements that could be wrought by mechanical power, when he had an opportunity to operate a 1920 Model E which was owned by a neighbor.  He had used the tractor and a three (3) bottom plow, to till some fallow land on his farm. Being one of the pre-1922 Model E tractors, this particular tractor was fitted with three fuel tanks.  A 7½ gallon tank for gasoline was located just ahead of the operator’s platform.  The tractor was started on gasoline.  Then, when the temperature of the engine coolant reached about 170º F, the operator could reach ahead with his left hand and pull the fuel control lever to close the gasoline fuel line and open the kerosene fuel line leading to the Kingston Model L carburetor on right side of the tractor engine.  Kerosene for the normal operation of the tractor would then come from the 25 gallon tank located just ahead of the gasoline tank.  The third 7½ gallon tank which was located ahead of the kerosene tank just behind the engine was designed to hold water.  This water tank was also connected to the fuel line.  A small valve, located on the pipe leading from the water tank to the main fuel line, had a control that extended back from the water tank, under all three tanks and protruded into the operator’s control area.  A slight twist of the water valve control would allow a slight amount of water to seep into the kerosene flowing toward the carburetor.

Engineers at Allis Chalmers had discovered that when an engine was operating on kerosene or diesel fuel, a slight injection of water would provide a temporary boost in power for the tractor.  The early Model E tractors made from 1918-1922 incorporated this water injection system into the tractor’s fuel system.  The boost provided by water was only a temporary boost.  The valve was to be turned on only slightly by the operator when the tractor began to bog down in heavy going.

Our Sheridan County rancher had even used this water injection system while plowing the fallow ground with his neighbor’s Model E.  He would occasionally hit a spot of hard plowing which started to make the tractor lug harder than usual.  At this point, our Sheridan County rancher reach forward to turn the water value on ever so slightly.  The temporary boost in power provided by the water injection system would carry the tractor and plow through the hard spot.  He learned from that experience, however, that each Model E had its own peculiarities as to how it would react to the water injection feature.  Only a very little water leaked into the fuel line was sufficient.  He needed to quickly turn the valve off again as soon as the tractor emerged from the hard spot.  Too much water all at once or allowing too much water to seep into the fuel line by leaving the valve on too long, would cause the tractor to cease running altogether.

This experience of working with his neighbor’s old Model E and the three bottom plow had been an epiphany for our Sheridan County rancher.  Plowing of the fallow ground was always conducted during the busiest time of the year summer.   Just when the hay was ready to be cut and gathered and saved for the winter, plowing of the stubble ground on the fallow ground surely seemed like a was was a time consuming task which took weeks of steady grinding work to accomplish in May and June each year.  Progress in the field was measured in terms of 14 inches with each crossing of the field when using the single moldboard sulky plow behind horses.  Most times, the hay crop was usually ready to harvest long before the fallow ground had been altogether plowed.  However, using the Model E with the three-bottom plow took days off the time required to plow the fallow land.  It was simply a matter of measuring your progress 42 inches at a time plowing with three bottoms as opposed to a single bottom with the silky plow.  It was also the added difference in using mechanical power rather than horses.  Using the tractor, meant that he did not have to pause at the end of the field after each journey across the field to allow the horses to rest before starting out again.

Using his neighbors’ Model E, had made a believer of our Sheridan Township rancher.  It certainly was fun to look back at the field at the end of a round and see all the progress that had been made.  Not only could a tractor save time in plowing the stubble ground each year, but our Sheridan County rancher also anticipated that the Model E could be employed on the belt to power the Nichols and Shepard thresher when he and his neighbor threshed the wheat in their neighborhood.

Besides the farming operation itself, our Sheridan County farmer also had taken his father’s place in the neighborhood threshing partnership.  During the war, his father and the neighbor had upgraded their threshing operation by retiring their old thresher and investing in the purchase of a new Nichols and Shepard “Red River Special” thresher from their local farm machinery outlet—Diefender and Dunwiddie Hardware, located at 45 through 51 North Main Street in Sheridan.  The new thresher had been an improvement over the old thresher.  With its 28 inch cylinder and 40 inch separating tables, the new Red River Special was larger than its predecessor.  Furthermore it was fitted with the modern “Farmer’s Friend Wind Stacker” blower-style straw stacker made by the Indiana Manufacturing Company.  Since about 1914, Nichols and Shepard had been under contract with Indiana Manufacturing to buy enough Wind Stackers to fit nearly all of the Red River Special threshers made by Nichols and Shepard.

The new thresher was a good improvement for the partnership, but they were still using the old steam engine for powering and transporting the thresher across the prairie to the various neighbors’ homesteads.  However, the old steam engine was beginning to show its age and shortcomings when compared to tractors powered by internal combustion engines.  First, the horsepower output of the old steam engine was less that what was needed to efficiently operate the new thresher.  The new thresher required 35 horsepower on the belt to operate efficiently, the old steam engine delivered only 25 hp. to the belt.  Thus, the entire time they had been working with the new thresher it had not been able to operate at full capacity.  The persons feeding the thresher had to take care not to over-load the threshers by placing too many bundles on the self-feeder at any one time.

Secondly, steam engines had always presented a fire hazard especially while operating the thresher.  Every partially burned ash that came spewing out of the smoke stack contained the potential for a disastrous fire.  If ever a burning piece of ash were to start the straw stack on fire, the thresher would soon be engulfed.  Thirdly, steam engines were costly to maintain.  The tubes and fire box hood needed to be inspected each year in the off-season.  This particular old steam engine seemed always in need of repair.

Furthermore, the supposed “benefits” of the steam engine using natural products such as wood, was greatly offset by the fact that on the prairie land of Sheridan County, wood was not an abundant item.  To be sure the steam engine could burn straw, during the threshing season.  A natural by product of the threshing process, straw was cheap.  However, this did not eliminate the need to have sufficient supply of either wood or coal on hand when the straw was unavailable; for example, while the steam engine was transporting the thresher from homestead to homestead.  Thus their was a need to either find wood on the prairie or purchase coal to fire the steam engine during these times.  Thus, in actual fact, there was little difference between steam power and internal combustion engine power in regard to fuel expense.  Additionally, there was the problem of the having to carrying water to the steam engine while it was operating.  In operation, the steam engine used a great deal of water which, in dry land Wyoming, was not all that easy to obtain.  Thus, the purchase of a tractor appealed to our Sheridan County
rancher as a sourced of belt power for the thresher as well as a source of power in the fields.

Nichols and Shepard was the brand name to which he related to most closely, because of their good experiences with the old thresher and now the new “Red River Special” thresher.  Consequently, when the idea of obtaining a new internal combustion engine tractor first occurred to him, our Sheridan County rancher thought first of Nichols and Shepard internal combustion tractors.  The Nichols and Shepard Company had been manufacturing internal combustion engine tractors since 1911.  There were three models of tractor available, the huge Model 35-70 (meaning the tractors delivered 35 horsepower [hp.] to the drawbar and 70 hp. to the belt pulley); the Model 25-50 and the Model 20-42.  These tractors were powered by huge two-cylinder engines.  Indeed everything about these tractors was huge.  Each cylinder on the Model 35-70 had a 10½ inch bore and a 14 inch stroke.  All three models weighed considerably in excess of 10,000 pounds.  They were really just steam traction engines with an internal-combustion engine replacing the boiler for power.  Like steam traction engines, these huge behemoths were designed for the task of standing in one place and delivering belt power rather than performing any kind of field work.  For this single task, however, the farmer paid a high initial price—almost $3,000.00 dollars for “intermediate” sized Model 35-50  Nichols and Shepard internal combustion tractor.

The current Nichols and Sheppard thresher had been purchased from at Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware in the city of Sheridan, the county seat of Sheridan County.  Thus, it was natural for our Sheridan County rancher to talk with Alfred Diefender about tractors when he was in Sheridan.  On one of these trips to Sheridan in the winter of 1924-1925, Alfred informed him that Nichols and Shepard had entered into an agreement with the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company that, starting in 1925, all local Nichols and Shepard dealers would now be offering Allis-Chalmers tractors for sale in addition to all the regular Nichols and Shepard line of equipment.  This meant that the famous Allis-Chalmers Model E (18-30) would now be available from his local dealer.

When the Model 18-30 had, originally, been tested at the University of Nebraska tractor test site in Lincoln, Nebraska from August 23 through September 6, 1920, the tractor was found to actually deliver 20.19 hp. to the drawbar and 30.58 hp. to the belt.  However, when the Model E (18-30) was tested again a year later from September 15 through September 24, 1921, a few minor improvements had been made in the tractor.  First and most importantly, the tractor was tested on gasoline rather than kerosene.  The speed of the engine was also increased from 830 revolutions per minute [rpm] to 930 rpm.  The result was that the tractor now yielded 23.62 hp. at the drawbar and 38.62 hp. at the belt.  Indeed, with some further adjustments at the test site, the tractor’s maximum horsepower was boosted to 43.73 hp.!  Following this test the tractor was re-named the Model E (20-35) and throughout 1922 and 1923, the Allis-Chalmers Company advertised the Model E aggressively.  Despite the advertising, however, the post-war depression caused a decline in sales of the Model E.  After selling 853 Model E tractors in 1920, the Company sold only 145 Model E’s in 1921 and production of the Model E was suspended all together in 1922.  In 1923, production of the Model E was resumed and 235 Model E’s were sold that year.  Last year, in 1924, the Company had sold 357 Model E’s.

Thus, when our Sheridan County rancher actually went in town, in early 1925, to see Alfred Diefender at Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware, he was already favorably disposed to the large dark green Allis-Chalmers tractor.  Alfred told him that, just last fall, in August of 1924, Allis-Chalmers reintroduced the Model E for the coming year as the Model E (20-35) “Special.”  This new 7,095 pound Model E retained the same two-speed transmission with 2½ miles per hour (m.p.h.) first gear and a 3¼ m.p.h. second gear.  The new Model E also retained the same four cylinder tractor engine with a 4¾ inch bore and a 6 ½ inch stroke, with an Eisemann Model G-4 magneto.  However, Alfred told him, the compression in the cylinders had been increased by some 10-15 pounds per square inch (psi.) to 74-78 psi.  This small improvement boosted the belt pulley horsepower output of the Model E to more than 45 hp.  The water injection system had been done away with on this new version of the Model E, however.  The tractor was now just a straight kerosene burning tractor which used gasoline to get the engine started.  There was only a single large fuel tank mounted ahead of the operator.  This tank held the kerosene.  The small gasoline tank was mounted on the right fender.

The suggested retail price for the Model E was $1,885.00.  However, Alfred Diefender offered a contract price for the Model E that was much better that the suggested retail price.  So it was that our Sheridan County rancher signed a sales contract with Alfred Diefender for the purchase of a new Model E (20-35) Allis-Chalmers tractor.  Because the Allis-Chalmers Company did not manufacture their own plows, the company made arrangements with the La Crosse Plow Company to market LaCrosse plows together Allis Chalmers tractors.  Thus, the sales contract signed by our Sheridan County rancher and Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware also included the purchase of a three-bottom La Crosse tractor plow.

Consequently, the big dark green tractor was brought into Sheridan by one of the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad trains that passed through Sheridan early in the spring of 1925.  The tractor was off-loaded at the large warehouse owned and operated by Diefender and Dinwidindie Hardware.  This warehouse had been built in 1904 by Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware specifically for the farm machinery side of their business.  Inside the warehouse, the Model E tractor was “prepped” for delivery and finally delivered to the farm of our Sheridan County farmer.  Delivery of the La Crosse three-bottom plow was taken by Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware a few weeks later.

Spring in Wyoming in 1925 arrived in April with fairly normal rainfall—1.5 inches for the entire month.  Because of the heavy rain in October of 1924 (2.05 inches), the average snowfall in November (amounting to 0.75 of an inch of rain fall when melted down) and the above-average snowfall of December of 1924 ( amounting to 0.85 of rainfall), the total soil moisture was above average and prospects for the coming growing season of 1925 looked promising. Our Sheridan County rancher was able to use the Model E to work the ground of the plowed ground of the fields that had laid fallow all last year with two field cultivators.  Both of these field cultivators were small horse-drawn cultivators.  However, he was able to use an “evener” hitch arrangement which allowed him to pull both cultivators at the same time.  Once the fallow ground had been turned into seed bed, it was time to sow the ground to wheat and oats.  For this light duty job of pulling the grain drill our Sheridan County rancher, used the horses.

By early May the wheat and oat sprouts were starting to peak up above ground, aided by the 1.8 inches that fell on Wyoming during the month of May.  This was a normal amount of rainfall for May.  In order to save the moisture in the soil for the next year, our Sheridan County rancher knew that he needed to get the wheat and oat stubble ground turned into fallow ground.  Green plants and grass were becoming visible in the stubble ground.  These plants were stealing away the moisture in the soil every day they were allowed to grow.  He needed to work the stubble ground to kill the green plant life.  He was looking forward to using his own new tractor and plow to turn the entire stubble ground in short order.  He would be able to assure that all the green plant life would be incorporated into the soil this year.  With his new three bottom plow he knew this process would not take nearly as long to accomplish as it had in the past with horses and the single bottom sculky plow.

Thus, one morning in late May, our Sheridan County rancher walked out to the shed where the Model E was parked.  He hoped to get an early morning start on the plowing of the last year’s wheat and oat ground.  He checked both the main kerosene tank and the small gasoline tank on the fender to make sure he had fuel enough for the day’s work ahead.  Then he turned off the fuel line leading to the carburetor from the kerosene tank and turned on the line leading from the small gasoline tank on the fender.  When he was sure that all the kerosene was drained from the carburetor and nothing but gasoline filled the bowl of the carburetor, our Sheridan County rancher applied the choke to the carburetor and moved to the front of the tractor to engage the starting crank at the bottom of its range of its arc of motion.  He then grabbed the crank handle and made sure that his thumb was located on the same side of the crank handle as the rest of his fingers.  Although it was summer and the tractor was less likely to back fire, he did not want to take any chances on injuring his thumb if the engine did accidentally back fire.  Out of the same fear of a back fire, our Sheridan County rancher only pulled up on the crank one-half a turn at a time while trying to start the tractor.  He did not push down or try to make the complete 360º turn of the crank while starting the tractor.  He knew that a broken wrist could result from such a practice if the engine backfired.

Today, our Sheridan County Rancher needed only to “pull up” once on the crank, completing 180º of the arc of the crank before the engine fired.  The engine fired but did not start.  At this point, he opened or disengaged the choke, and situated the crank at the bottom of the arc again and pushed in on the crank to again fit the claw of the crank into the receptacle on the pulley at the front of the crankshaft.  Then he pulled up on the crank again to give the engine crankshaft another 180º clockwise turn.  With this second attempt the engine sputtered to life.  This was the “two ups and a start” that every tractor owner wanted to brag about.

He then hitched the tractor to the three-bottom plow and headed to the field.   Pulling the tractor up to the end of the field where he wanted to start his first plowing land” he reached around pulled the trip rope and tripped the plow bottoms.  Simultaneously the bottoms plunged into the ground and began to roll the ground over.  He had begun making his first trip across the field about one-third of the way across the width of the field.  While the back two bottoms of the plow rolled the soil into a furrow created by the plow bottom immediate ahead, the front bottom had no ready made furrow to roll soil into.  Thus, the first bottom rolled soil up onto the top of the ground next to the furrow that bottom was creating.  Upon reaching the other end of the field, our Sheridan County rancher reached around and pulled the trip rope again and the clutch on the right side wheel of the plow engaged to pull all three bottoms up out of the ground.  He then turned the big Model E around to line the first bottom up with the soil that had been rolled up on top of the ground in the first crossing of the field.  He would now pull the plow back across the field such that the first bottom would roll the soil over onto the overturned soil that already was lying on top of the ground from the previous trip across the field.  As he did so, the plow tended to create a mound of dirtthat stretched across the length of the field.  This mound of dirt is called a “dead furrow.”  This dead furrow designated the center of the plow land as our Sheridan County farmer kept moving out from the dead furrow with each complete round he made with the plow—up along one side of the dead furrow and back only the other side of the dead furrow.  Each time he crossed the field he rolled over 42 inches more of stubble ground.  Each complete round added 84 more inches of the width of the field plowed.

As the plowed land became wider and wider, the “turn-arounds” by the tractor and plow became longer and longer.  To keep from wasting too much time on these turn arounds, our Sheridan County rancher had purposely started making his dead furrow about one fourth of the way across the width of the field.  When the plowed land reached all the way to the edge of the field on that side, then he would begin another dead furrow on the other side of the field about a quarter of the width of the field from the other edge.  As he completed the field the two plowed areas of the field should meet about in the center the field.  Where the two plowed areas of the field met, there would be another “dead furrow.”  However, instead of being a composed of a mound of soil rolled together from both sides, this dead furrow was the opposite.  This dead furrow was a small trench with the soil rolled away in both directions.  All dead furrows are undesireable.  However, they were an unavoidable imperfection which result from the mold board plowing process.  These dead furrows would have to be worked out when the field was tilled the following year when our Sheridan County rancher returned to the field to prepare the ground for seed.

The Model E moved along in first gear at 2½ mph., our Sheridan County rancher was again amazed at the speed with which he was able to dispatch the fallow ground plowing.  Plowing that might have taken weeks to complete with the horses and the sulky plow could now be completed in a matter of days.  This year, he was able to complete the fallow ground plowing well before the wheat started to ripen.  Once he did get the plow put away at the end of the plowing.  He was able to get the grain binder out and greased up and ready to enter the fields.  This was another lighter duty job for which he used the horses.

He had, of course been watching the price of wheat.  The price of wheat had finally risen to $1.23 per bushel as a monthly average in July of last year (1924).  Over the winter the price had risen to a high of $1.85 as a monthly average for January of 1925.  Wheat growers had not seen prices this high since October of 1920.  Although prices had cycled downwards in a predictable way during the spring and summer, the price for the month of June, 1925 was $1.57 per bushel.  It did look as though the post-war recession was finally over.

The annual threshing of the small grains in the neighborhood began in late July.  Our Sheridan County rancher used his new Model E, to pull the large thresher from place to place around the neighborhood.  With the Model E on the belt, the large 28” x 40” was finally powered up to the recommended 35 hp. and then some.  With 45 hp. delivered to the belt, the Model E had power to spare to run the thresher.  Most times the thresher was fed from two wagons of bundles parked on either side of the self feeder.  In years past years, he used to watch carefully to make sure that the men working on top the two bundle wagons did not pitch to many bundles onto the self-feeder at any one time.  The thresher would become over-loaded, the speed of the thresher would slow down because the steam engine had no reserve of power.  Then the straw would clog up on the separating tables located behind the cylinder in the thresher rather than passing all the way through the thresher to the straw blower in the rear.  Then the whole threshing operation would have to be stopped while the clogged straw was pulled from the thresher by hand.  Clogging of the thresher usually happened when the workers up on top of the two wagons happened to be boys who were relatively inexperienced in working on a threshing crew.  With the Model E on the belt, however, the big four cylinder engine would lug under a heavy load, but would keep the belt turning at a high enough speed to keep the straw moving toward the blower at the rear of the thresher.

While operating the thresher on the various ranches of the neighborhood, our Sheridan County rancher found that the Model E was easier to operate that the steam engine and did not need the constant care and attention that the steam engine needed while operating on the belt.  At the end of the season, despite having to purchase kerosene and a small amount of gasoline to fill the small starting tank located on the fender, our Sheridan County rancher found that the Model E had actually cost less in operating expense when one figured in things like employing a boy or young man with a team of horses merely for the task of hauling water all day from a nearby stream or cow watering tank, just to keep the steam engine from running out of water.

With all the wheat coming onto the market in July the price of wheat sagged somewhat to $1.51 a bushel as a monthly average.  However, nationwide the demand for wheat was still robust and in August the price rose to $1.63 as a monthly average.  Thus, by the time that our Sheridan County rancher got around to threshing his own wheat in August, he was able to sell the wheat and receive a decent price immediately without having to store the wheat and wait for the price to rise.  He used the cash received from the wheat to pay off some of his machinery debt at Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware.  It had been a successful year.  Like many dry land farmers of the Great Plains of North America, our Sheridan County rancher found that by getting the whole of his fallow land plowed in a timely manner, the Model E tractor had placed him in advantageous position for the following year.  Not only was the moisture captured in the oil for the next year, but the plant life that had started to grow on the land was now decomposing under the soil and releasing nitrogen that would help the wheat crop that was to be planted on the fallow ground in the coming year.

Dry land farming on the Great Plains of North America was just one of the applications for which the big horsepower of the Allis-Chalmers Model E tractor was used.  The Model E is just one of the many different models Allis Chalmers farm tractors and farm equipment that will be celebrated when the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association will host the Allis-Chalmers Collectors Club at its annual show held on August 24-26, 2007 in rural LeCenter, Minnesota.  We hope to see you there

Case Farming Part V: Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

J.I. Case Company Part V:

The Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

 (As Published in the September/October 2006 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)

During the post-World War II period, the Case Model DC tractor remained the most popular selling tractor of the entire Case line of tractors. However with the labor strike which happened at the Main Works factor in Racine Wisconsin, the LeRoy Equipment Company was unable to obtain any tractors for the inventory of their dealership
During the post-World War II period, the Case Model DC tractor remained the most popular selling tractor of the entire Case line of tractors.

As noted previously (see the article called J.I. Case Company Part IV: the Rise of the Le Roy Equipment Company contained in the July/August 2006 issue of Belt Pulley Magazine), two newly discharged veterans of the Second World War formed a partnership to accept the business opportunity of starting a new Case Company dealership in the small town of LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752).  Before the war, LeRoy, Minnesota had been the home of a Case dealership called the “LeRoy Equipment Company.”  However, during the Second World War, the dealership had disbanded.  Now the J. I. Case Company wanted to re-establish the “LeRoy Equipment Company” in order to take advantage of the expected boom in post-war demand for modern farm machinery.  Two veterans, Merle Krinke and Duane Wetter, both originally from the small town of Lamberton located in western Minnesota, had expressed interest in this business venture.

Duane and Merle had known each other at Lamberton High School.  Furthermore, ever since April 8, 1944 when Merle Krinke married Duane’s sister, Zona Wetter, Duane and Merle had been brother-in laws.

Merle had been discharged from the Army Air Corp at the end of the war in the Pacific in September of 1945.  Since that time, Merle had been employed at the Myhere and Nelson Implement dealership, a local  Case franchise dealership in Montevideo, Minnesota.  Montevideo was a small town located on the South Dakota border with Minnesota, northwest of Lamberton.  It was at Myhere and Nelson that Merle had first heard about the opportunity of starting the dealership in Le Roy.

During the war, Duane Wetter had served as a decorated fighter pilot in U.S. Army Air Corp and had flown 75 combat missions in the European theater.  Since the end of the war in Europe in May of 1945, he had been stationed in Stuttgart Germany as part of the U.S. occupation forces.  He was discharged in November of 1945.  Scarcely had he returned to his wife and young son in Minnesota, than he was asked to make the decision to join in a partnership with Merle and move off to LeRoy with his whole family.  Le Roy was located in the southeastern corner of Mower County, just ½ mile from the Iowa border.  This was a long way from Lamberton, Minnesota.  Nonetheless, a decision about the starting the dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota needed to be made as soon as possible by the two veterans.  They would re-establish the dealership under the name “LeRoy Equipment Company” to take advantage of the good will that had been formed by the pre-war dealership of the same name.  Continue reading Case Farming Part V: Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

The 1936 Loren Helmbrecht Farmall F-12 (Part II)

The Farmall F-12: The 1936 Loren Helmbrecht Tractor (Part II)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

A newly restored 1936 Farmall F-12 with red wheels much like the original configuration of No. 65999.

As we have noted on a previous occasion, the 1936 F-12 bearing the Serial No. 65999 could well have been sold from Dingman Hardware, the International Harvester dealership in the town of Clear Lake, Minnesota (1930 pop. 242).  (See the May/June 2003 issue of Belt Pulley magazine for the article called “The Farmall F-12: The 1935 Minnesota State Fair.”)  No. 65999 had been sold to a dairy farmer living in Sherburne County, Minnesota, and in Palmer Township of that county.  Our Palmer Township farmer had put the tractor to use in the spring of 1936.  It had been a very cold, record breaking winter, especially January and February of 1936.  Indeed, Cedric Adams on WCCO radio out of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) had reported that the temperature had never risen above 0° for a total of 36 straight days during that period of time.  However the cold weather broke in late February and except for another cold snap in early April, the temperature had evened off into a very nice planting season.  (Downtown Minneapolis Daily Maximum and Minimum Temperatures for 1936 from the Internet.)

An interested farmer looks at a Farmall F-12 at a local IHC dealership with the salesman close at hand to answer any questions about the tractor.

 

That spring our Palmer Township farmer was putting No. 65999 to use in a number of different tasks around his farm.  He had shortened the hitches on much of the horse-drawn machinery on his farm that spring.  It always seemed to be handier to start the little F-12 than to get the Belgian horses all harnessed up just to complete even small tasks on the farm.  His records were also reflecting that use of the tractor was actually proving more economical in the long run than using the horses for the same tasks.  He wished to see just how much of the work on the farm could be accomplished by the little dark gray tractor.  Now he used the horses only during the days when his second daughter was able to help out with the field work.  She was becoming quite an expert at driving the tractor.  As always, she wanted to be involved with whatever her father was doing.  Thus, while she was preparing the seed bed with the tractor, her father was using the horses to plant the corn.

A newly restored McCormick-Deering 2-row horse-drawn corn planter which has had its tongue shortened to allow easier use with a farm tractor.

 

While she was in School during May of that year, he used the tractor to plant the rest of the corn.  He wanted to see if the tractor was truly the “farm all” that it was advertised to be. It was not because No. 65999 performed the farm tasks at a faster rate of speed than horses that made the tractor more profitable.  Even at top speed (3-3/4 mph) the little tractor was no faster than a horse.  Rather it was the stamina of the tractor as opposed to the horses that made the F-12 profitable and 1936 was the year that our Palmer Township farmer was to prove the economy of tractor power as opposed to horse power in this regard.

The small hand pump on the bottom of this J.J. Groetken advertisement is the hand pump used by our Palmer Township farmer.

 

Shortly after he had planted his corn in the spring of 1936, he finished up his morning milking.  After letting the cows out of the barn, he went to the machine shed to get the tractor and manure spreader.  He always tried to park the tractor close to the two 55 gallon barrels that he now had in the machine shed.  These barrels, sitting upright, were filled with kerosene for the tractor.  One barrel had the bung plug removed.  Screwed into the bung hole was the J.J. Groetken Pump Co. barrel hand pump which he had purchased at an auction at a neighbors farm.   (Jack Sim, An Illustrated Guide to GasPumps [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 2002] p. 190.)  The Groetken Pump Co. had ceased advertising in 1927.  Clearly, he would not be able to replace the pump or finds parts for the hand pump once it wore out.  However, the hand pump seemed to be working so far and the price he had paid was very reasonable.  He would worry about the demise of the hand pump when it happened.  The Groetken hand pump had a hose attached to the outlet nozzle of the pump.  He put unscrewed the cap to the opening on top of the fuel tank of the tractor.  Inserting the hose and observing the level of the fuel in the tractor tank he began turning the crank on the hand pump with his other hand.

After filling the 13-gallon tank sufficiently, he unscrewed cap on what appeared to be another opening to the same tank.  Actually, this was an opening into a second smaller compartment within the fuel tank.  This one-gallon compartment held the gasoline that was used to get the tractor started.  From a partially filled five-gallon gas can, he had in the machine shed he filled this little tank with the more expensive gasoline.  Then he took an 8” Crescent wrench from the work bench located nearby and opened the plug on the fuel line vent which protruded through the hood of the little tractor just above the engine.  By opening the valve at the bottom of the fuel bowl, he let all the kerosene out of the carburetor and the fuel line.  Then he reached back under the fuel tank and turned off the fuel coming from the kerosene tank and turned on the valve leading from the gasoline tank.

 

A close-up detail of the fuel line vent, which protrudes through the hood of No. 65999 over the engine just ahead of the fuel tank. Our Palmer Township farmer would remove the small cap on top of the vent and pour a small quantity of gasoline into the into the vent which would wash the fuel line and carburetor free of kerosene and allow the engine to start easier and faster on pure gasoline.

 

With a bit of gasoline from the five-gallon can, he now poured gasoline down the gasoline vent and replaced the plug.  The engine was now all primed to start and start it did after one pull upwards on the crank with the choke on and another upwards pull with the choke off the tractor came to life.  This certainly was faster than harnessing up the horses.  He would allow the engine to warm up entirely backed the tractor out shed and turned it around and hitched it to the New Idea Model 8 manure spreader and headed to the barn.  (For a discussion before he would switch the engine over to kerosene.  During the warmup the throttle would not work, but still the tractor could be backed out of the shed and hitched up to the  New Idea No. 8 manure spreader while allowing the engine to warm up sufficiently to run on kerosene.  (For a history of the New Idea Company, see the article “The New Idea Spreader Company of Coldwater , Ohio” contained in the September/October 1998 issue of Belt Pulley magazine, p. 14.)

In the coming winter, our Palmer Township farmer would find that even after the tractor was driven to barn he needed to let the tractor run a while before  switching to kerosene.  However, this morning it was quite warm suggesting that today would be warm summer’s day.  Accordingly, he would not be able to drive the little tractor across the yard to the barn before the engine was able to start burning the cheaper kerosene fuel.

Continue reading The 1936 Loren Helmbrecht Farmall F-12 (Part II)

The Willmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor (Part II)

The Mankato Implement Dealership (Part 2 of 2 Parts):

     Wilmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 2002 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

In the spring of 1937, a farmer living in Rapidan Township in Blue Earth County, Minnesota, started working in the fields of his 80-acre farm with his newly purchased John Deere Model B tractor bearing the serial number 34081.  Just the previous February he and his family had attended the annual open house at the Mankato Implement Company the local John Deere dealership located in Mankato, Minnesota.  (See the March/April 2002 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 15, No. 2, p. 16 for the history of the Mankato Implement Company dealership and story of the 1937 open house.)  At the open house, our Rapidan Township farmer had acted on a dream that had occupied his thoughts for some time.  He had purchased his first farm tractor.

Being a tractor that was manufactured prior to Serial No. 42200, No. 34081 was one of the “short frame” John Deere Model B tractors.  Our Raidan Township farmer found that No. 34081 was a vast improvement for his farm in all seasons.  However as time passed he found that some improvements were needed to the tractor.  As noted in the earlier article in this series, our Rapidan Township farmer replaced the seat on No. 34081 with an after-market Easy-Ride seat.  The Easy Ride seat was made by the Monroe Automobile Equipment Manufacturing Company of Monroe, Michigan and was composed of a large coil spring and a Monroe shock absorber.  The Easy Ride seat was much more comfortable than the original John Deere seat—especially on a tractor with steel wheels and 3” high lugs.  As noted in the earlier article in this series, International Harvester had begun installing the Easy Ride seat on its Farmall tractors in 1939.  The seat was a factory-installed option and became such a commonly requested option on the Farmall “letter-series” tractors—the Model M and Model H etc.—that the Easy Ride seat might just as well been standard equipment.

Although no evidence exists that the Monroe Easy Ride seat was ever a factory-installed option for John Deere tractors.  However as noted previously, a surprising number of un-styled and early styled Model B tractors were fitted with the Monroe seat.  Accordingly, it is not surprising that our Rapidan Township farmer had No. 34081 fitted with the Easy Ride seat which he purchased from a third-party short-line farm tractor parts business in Mankato.  When he purchased the Monroe seat, he found that the seat had already been painted green in color for John Deere buyers.  The Monroe Easy Ride certainly made No. 34081 much smoother to ride.

When the United States became involved in the Second World War, our Rapidan Township farmer found that prices for his farm products rose higher than he had ever remembered.  No. 34081 sped up his ability to complete the field work on his farm.  Because of this increase in efficiency, he was able to take full advantage of all the arrable land on his farm planting from “hedgerow to hedgerow” for the war effort.  He even was able to add a couple of cows to his milking herd of Holsteins.  With a modern tractor-powered and, by now, electrified farm our Rapidan Township farmer was well positioned to take full advantage of the of the rise in prices which accompanied the nation’s attempt to feed the armies around the world.  The John Deere Model B, now with rubber tires on the front wheels worked very well for him all through the Second World War.  During this period, he found that the tractor allowed him to complete much more field work each day than in the past and he was still able to get the milking done at a decent hour in the evening.

By his figuring, in the new environment of higher farm prices, our Rapidan Township farmer figured that the tractor had paid for itself many times over by the time that the war ended.  Now, with the return of peace in 1945, he, like the rest of his neighbors, now thought of trying to upgrade the tractor further by putting rubber tires on the rear of the tractor.

The most popular way of converting the rear wheels to rubber tires was to have a local blacksmith shop cutting the flat spokes of the steel wheels and removing the steel band on the outside of the wheel and then welding on a new rim designed for rubber tires.  Local blacksmith shops all across the Midwest were doing a brisk business in the post-war era in cutting down steel wheels and welding on tire rims.  Indeed, just seven miles south in Good Thunder, Minnesota, the welding shop owned by Dick Scheur was doing a good deal of this work.  To our Rapidan Township farmer having the steel wheels cut down seemed the most prudent way to mount rubber tires on the rear of his tractor.  Consequently, in the early spring of 1946, just as the last traces of snow left in the ditches and shady areas, our Rapidan Township farmer placed No. 34081 securely up on blocks and removed both rear wheels.  He loaded the steel wheels into the back of his new 1946 Chevrolet pickup and headed out his driveway and down the township road toward County Road No. 9.  It certainly wasn’t cold enough for the heater to be turned on.  Indeed he reached up and turned the little crank o the center of the dash board that opened the bottom of the windshield.  He opened the bottom of the windshield just a crack to let in some fresh air.  His new pickup was one of the “Art Deco” Chevrolet pickups which had a great deal of chrome running up and down the front grill.  It was a design that had appealed to him ever since these Art Deco trucks had been introduced in 1941.  Continue reading The Willmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor (Part II)

Sandwich Manufacturing Company of Sandwich Illinois

The Sandwich Manufacturing Company of Sandwich Illinois

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 1998 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

A Sandwich Company single-cylinder “hit and miss” engine showing the “Brewster green” color that graced most of the Sandwich Company machines.

Farm equipment companies that did not sell a “full-line” of farm equipment they were referred to as “short line” companies.  Usually these short line companies did not produce farm tractors and most often did not even produce stationary engines.  Inevitably, these small companies were swallowed up by larger companies and, in the process, the individual identity of these small companies was lost.  Often, however, many of the greatest improvements in farm machinery were made by these short line companies.  One of the most inventive and creative of all short line companies was the Sandwich Manufacturing Company of Sandwich, Illinois.

The Sandwich Manufacturing Company factory Works in Sandwich, Illinois.

 

The Sandwich Company began as a concept in the mind of one person–Augustus Adams.  Augustus Adams was born in Genoa, New York, on May 10, 1806.  Genoa is located in the “Finger Lakes” Region of New York near Syracuse.  Today, the town is known as the birthplace of Millard Fillmore (1800-1874), who was later to become the thirteenth President of the United States.  Following the death of his father, Samuel Adams, in 1817 (not the famous hero of the American Revolution), Augustus was sent to live with his brother-in-law in Chester, Ohio.  There, he alternated between attending school and doing farm work in the area.  He was studious by nature and devoted a great deal of his leisure time to studying and reading.  In 1829, he returned to the Finger Lakes Region and settled in Pine Valley located in Chemung County near Elmira, New York.  In Pine Valley he opened a foundry and machine shop, which he operated until 1837 when he was smitten by the dream of seeking his fortune in the west.

A generation before John Babsone Lane Soule pronounced his famous quote of “Go West, young man” in the Terre Haute Indiana Express in 1851 (later popularized by Horace Greeley), the dream of seeking riches on the Western frontier was firing the imaginations of many young people.  (John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations [Boston 1968], p. 768.)  So it was with young Augustus Adams.  Augustus had married Lydia A. Phelps on October 21, 1833, and started their family.  Over the next few years they had four sons: Darius (August 26, 1834); J. Phelps (September 18, 1835); Henry A. (January 21, 1837); and John Q. (July 23, 1839).  However, Augustus was extremely reluctantly to take his family to the untamed western frontier, and so he left them in New York while he struck out for the town of Elgin, located in northern Illinois, northwest of Chicago.  He intended that the family would follow as soon as he could make decent living arrangements for them on the frontier in Illinois.

Darius Adams, first-born son of Augustus Adams.

 

Augustus, who from his own experiences in working on a farm, knew that much hard, laborious hand work was involved in raising and harvesting crops.  Consequently, he understood that the future of any business would be assured if the business could build labor-saving farm equipment, and over the next several decades, the company that Augustus Adams founded would do just that.

Continue reading Sandwich Manufacturing Company of Sandwich Illinois