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

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

After the War

     by

Brian Wayne Wells

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

Potato Farming in No. Dakota: The 1937 F-20    

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the July/August 2008 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

Grafton Potato Growers Inc.: A major potato buyer of potaotes in Grafton, the county seat of Walsh County, North Dakota.

     It began like so many other purchases of antique farm machinery.  The late Wayne A. Wells purchased a Farmall Model F-20 at the 1992 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet.  Wayne paid for the tractor by means of a check.  Wayne had the habit of making virtually all purchase transactions by means of a check—a habit that has been inherited and is carried on to further extremes by his son, the current author.  Future events would prove how extremely fortunate it was that the purchase was made by means of a check.

No. 71355 powering the Wallace Bauleke/Paul Meyer 22 inch McCormick-Deering thresher at the 1993 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.. This web-site contains an independent article on the history of the Wallace Bauleke/Paul Meyer thresher.

This particular F-20 was missing its serial number tag.  However, the serial number imprinted on the frame of the tractor was 71355.  The tractor was fitted with two 6.00 X 16 inch car tires mounted on IHC cast iron drop-center, or demountable, rims in the front.  One of the first improvements to the tractor was to replace these old car tires with two new 5.50 X 16 inch tri-rib tires.  No. 71355 was also fitted with 13 X 36” rubber tires mounted on IHC cast-iron demountable rims in the rear.  The rear tires were in extremely bad shape and in April of 1993 they too were replaced with brand new tires.

No. 71355, having already been painted but still with the old rear tires,,undergoes an overhaul during Christmas of 1992.

 

No. 71355 was only the second tractor to be restored by Wayne Wells, (the first tractor to be restored was the 1945 Farmall B bearing the serial number 130161, which is mentioned in the article called “Farmall B: Second Tractor on the Farm, but First in the Heart” contained in the November/December 1993 issue of Belt Pulley), both Wayne and his two sons, Mark and the current author, were anxious to parade the tractor at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show to be held on the last weekend in August 1992.  Accordingly, No. 71355 was painted prior to any overhaul of the engine being performed.  (Indeed, a very “smoky” but painted, No. 71355 can be seen being driven by Mark Wells in the parade at the 1992 LeSueur Show in the second hour portion of Disc/Tape No. 1 of the International Harvester Promotional Movie collection.

No. 71355 was painted in August of 1993 an was overhauled during Christmas of 1993.

 

The current author can be seen in the same movie driving the same 1945 Farmall B mentioned above, just ahead of No. 71355 in the parade.)  The badly needed engine overhaul of No. 71355 was conducted in large part over Christmas of 1992.  (Some of this work performed on No. 71355 over that Christmas was filmed and can be seen on the second hour portion of Disc/Tape No. 2 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.)  In April of 1993, No. 71355 was pulled and started for the first time following the engine overhaul.  (This procedure of pulling No. 71355 with the 1945 Farmall B in April of 1993 can be seen on the second hour portion of Disc/Tape #5 of the International Harvester Promotional movie collection.)

While No. 71355 was the second tractor restored by Wayne A. Wells, the 1945 Farmall Model B bearing the serial number 130161 was his first restoration project.

 

As the restoration of No. 71355 proceeded, history of the tractor was examined.  Nothing of the actual history of No. 71355 was known.  Consequently, the history of the tractor was a topic of speculation.  Ordinarily a telephone call to the seller of the tractor would have been the starting point for the research into the history of the tractor.  However, time had passed since the purchase of No. 71355 in April of 1992 and the canceled check bearing the name of the seller of No. 71355 was placed away in storage with the financial papers of the Wells family.  With the check used for payment on the tractor not readily at hand, the seller’s name was not available and not even a beginning could be made as to researching the actual history of the tractor.  Only the features of the tractor itself could be used as clues as to the tractor’s past.  Luckily, the particular and unique features of No. 71355, reveal a good deal about the tractor.

The tricycle design of farm tractors was introduced by the International Harvester Company in 1924 with the “Farmall” tractor. Soon nearly all farm tractor manufcturers around the world were copying the tricycle design for their “row crop” tractors.

 

First and foremost was the “tricycle type” design of No. 71355.  The tricycle design positioned the front wheels of the tractor close together.  This configuration allowed the tractor to work in crops which were planted in rows as narrow 30 inches apart.  As a tricycle “row crop” tractor, both front wheels of the tractor were attached to a single bolster.  Thus, both front wheels shared a single pivot point.  This type of steering is called “fifth wheel” type of steering and is different than the “automotive type” steering found in “standard” or “four-wheel” designed tractors in which each wheel has its own pivot point located at the “journal” for that particular wheel.  The fifth wheel type of steering allowed the tricycle designed tractor to turn much more sharply than the automotive type steering.  Thus, the tricycle design and the ability to turn very sharp corners made No. 71355 ideally suited for row crop farm work.

The single pivot point on the front of the Farmall tractor was the steering bolster on the tractor located in front of the radiator. The particular “open” (non-enclosed) gear and sector plate style steering on the early Farmalls (now called the Farmall Regular) made the Regular somewhat dangerous to drive over rough or rocky ground. After 1932, the Regular was modified and improved and became the Farmall Model F-20 tractor. One of the main improvements made to the Farmall Regular in 1932 was the replacement of the open gear and sector plate type steering with a “worm gear” type of steering in the new F-20. As a result the Farmall Model F-20 tractor was much easier to steer than the Regular.

 

A second feature of No. 71355 that provided a clue as to its history was the optional high-speed road gear that had been installed in the standard transmission of No. 71355.  Standard equipment on the Farmall Model F-20 was a four-speed transmission with speeds of 2⅜ miles per hour (mph) in first gear, 2¾ mph in second gear, 3¼ mph in the standard third gear and 3¾ in fourth gear.  (See the tractor specifications of the F-20 in the IHC Data Book #1: 1900 to 1940 by Alan C. King at page 24.)  However, in the transmission of No. 71355, the standard equipment 3¼ mph third gear had been replaced by the optional 28-tooth gear which resulted in a speed of 7.07 mph.  (See the 28-tooth “high speed” sliding gear listed as part No. 20700D on page 124 of the F-20 Parts Catalog—TC-13-A.)

The 28-tooth sliding gear that would replace 3rd gear in the Farmall Model F-20 transmission to allow the tractor to have a 7.07 mph road speed.

 

Consequently, this optional “3rd gear” became the “new road gear” and really was the new “4th gear.”  This was a factory installed option on No. 71355, as evidenced by the fact that the numbers embossed on the base at the shifter lever of the tractor, which reflected the shifting pattern for the gear shift lever, actually had the “3” and the “4” reversed to accurately portray the new gear shift pattern given the installation of this new optional road gear.  (Oscar H. Will and Todd Markle, Collector’s Originality Guide: Farmall Regular and F-Series [Voyaguer Press: St. Paul, Minnesota, 2007] p. 68.)

Mark Wells discs the newly plowed fields on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show with No. 71355 in August 1994. Loss of the traditional 3rd gear meant a loss of the 3-3/4 mph speed .on No. 71355 meant the loss of a light field work speed.

 

Installation of this optional road gear was made available only on those F-20s which were fitted with rubber tires.  (Ibid. p. 72.)  Accordingly, it was determined that No. 71355, rolled off the assembly line at the Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois, fitted with factory-installed rubber tires.  However, when No. 71355 was manufactured in the second week of December, 1936, the tractor could not have been fitted with the same 36 inch cast-iron wheels with demountable rims that are now mounted on the rear of tractor.  Only in March of 1937, (beginning with the particular F-20 with the serial number 79522) did F-20 tractors begin to be fitted with these International Harvester-made cast-iron demountable rear wheels and rims for rubber tires.  (See the F-20 Parts Book page 207.)  Prior to March of 1937, IHC relied on an outsource contract, they had signed with the French and Hecht Company of Davenport, Iowa, to supply all the rear wheels for all their rubber-tired tractors.

The French & Hecht Company factory located in Davenport, Iowa, where the round spoke wheel rims were manufactured.

 

Likewise, the IHC cast-iron demountable drop-center rims, currently, mounted on the front wheels of No. 71355, could not have been mounted on the tractor when the tractor was first built and sold.  IHC began using their own demountable drop center rims for rubber tires on the front wheels only in January of 1938 beginning with the particular F-20 tractors bearing the serial number 109127.  (See page 175 of the F-20 parts book.)

Factory Installation of the high speed road gear in the transmission of No. 71355 indicates that rubbers tires were also installed on the rear of the tractor. Still the IHC-made drop-center rear wheels that are now mounted on rear of No. 71355 could not have been factory installed on the tractor.

 

 

Prior to that time, IHC again relied on its contract with the French and Hecht Company to supply round-spoke rims for all F-20 tractors fitted with 5.50 X 16” rubber tires in the front.  (A French and Hecht round-spoke rim is pictured on page 174 of the F-20 parts book.)  Accordingly, when No. 71355 rolled out of the Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois, the tractor did so with rubber tires mounted on French and Hecht round-spoke wheel rims on the front as well as the rear.

A Farmall Model F-20 is delivered to a dealership with smaller 28 inch French & Hecht “round spoke” wheels in the rear, but disc-type wheels in the front.

 

Some time after No. 71355 was initially purchased, the tractor was fitted with an auxiliary transmission manufactured by the Heisler Manufacturing Company of Hudson, Iowa.  This auxiliary transmission was located on the power train of the tractor in the open space between the clutch housing on the engine and the standard transmission.  The Heisler auxiliary transmission provided a high range to all the standard speeds of the transmission—in fact doubling the number of speeds available to the tractor.

A Heisler model H-9 series “step-up” transhission installed on a Farmall F-20 tractor. The tag on the Heisler unit appears to indicate that the gearing of the Heisler unit will increase the speed of the tractor by 2.3 times normal speed in each gear.

 

The Heisler Manufacturing Company made three different models of auxiliary transmissions for the Farmall F-20.  Model number HT-2033 auxiliary transmission would increase the speed of the F-20 tractor by a factor of 2.32 to 1 because of the gear ratio of the auxiliary transmission.  Heisler model number HT-2034 featured a gear ratio of 2.1 to 1 and Heisler model number HT-2035 featured a gear ratio of 1.99 to 1.  The reason for the Heisler Company offering the three different auxiliary transmissions was that the rubber-tired F-20 was offered to the public with different sizes of rubber tires for the rear.  The Heisler Company knew that the size of the rear tires would greatly alter the speeds of any tractor.  The particular model of Heisler auxiliary transmission added to No. 71355 was model HT-2033 with the 2.32 to 1 gear ratio.  The addition of the Heisler Model HT-2033 supplemental transmission to No. 71355, with its optional high speed road gear and with 36” rubber tires in the rear, would have added high range speeds of 5.22 mph in first gear, 6.38 mph in second gear, 7.59 in third gear and 16.4024 mph in fourth gear.  These were hardly necessary or even desirable speeds for field work.  Indeed, they all seemed to be road speeds.  Indeed, the Heisler Company specifically warns against installation of an auxiliary transmission on any F-20 tractor which already has already been fitted with the optional high-speed road gear in the standard transmission.   Continue reading Potato Farming in North Dakota with a 1937 F-20 (Part I)

Raising Poland China Hogs in Waseca County, Minnesota (Part 2)

Raising Poland China Hogs (Part II): The 1936 Farmall Model F-30

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the September/October 2008 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            As noted previously, Waseca County is located in the flat plains of southern Minnesota.  (See the article called “Raising Poland China Hogs in Waseca County” in the May-June 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  The soil of these plains is a dark, rich, gumbo-type of soil.  This type of soil is perfect for raising corn.  One of the lesser populated townships in Waseca County is Byron Township.  Byron Township is located on the southern boundary of Waseca County.   As noted previously, one particular farmer in Byron Township was celebrating the Christmas holidays of 1935 with his parents and other family members when the great Christmas Eve snow storm of 1935 struck.  The storm isolated the family on the farm for a number of days before the roads were cleared enough for travel off the farm.  (Ibid.)

On this hog farm, Christmas was an important time for the farming operation because it was “farrowing time” for the registered purebred Poland China sows that were owned by our Byron Township farmer.  He was pleased to see that each of his sows had given birth to a large litter of baby pigs during this farrowing season.  Furthermore, the sows and baby pigs all seemed to be adjusting well to each other.  The Poland China sow is known to be a good mother to her pigs, but, as noted in the previous article, our Byron Township farmer had made the decision last summer (1935) to enlarge his breeding stock by adding four new bred gilts.  He now had twelve sows and twelve litters of baby pigs rather than a mere eight litters of previous years.  The four new gilts were “first time mothers.”  Our Byron Township farmer always worried about the emotional reaction of first-time mothers to their first litter of pigs, but now in the weeks following the holidays, he could see that even the young gilts were getting along well with their baby pigs.

The farrowing season kept our Byron Township farmer busy with chores in the hog house.  The whole hog house was divided into separate pens as each of the  twelve “families” had their own pen.  Each sow had to be fed and watered in her own pen twice a day.  As the baby pigs became larger and were able to get around relatively independently, there was less chance of them being, accidentally, laid on and crushed to death by their mother or by the other large sows.  Accordingly, the partitions separating each mother and their litters could be removed and the sows and their litters could be allowed to interact with each other.  Feeding and watering would be more communal and could be simplified to take less time.  Nonetheless, the “hog house chores” of feeding and watering remained a twice-a-day activity.

Having enlarged his breeding stock by 50%, our Byron Township farmer would now have 50% more feeder pigs to raise than in previous years.  Thus, our Byron Township farmer knew that he would be busier this year than ever before—especially, once the springtime field work began.  Currently, our Byron Township farmer had two Farmall Regular tractors available to him on his farm.  Although one of the Farmall Regulars actually belonged to his father, who lived on a separate farm building site located about a ½ mile away.  His father still regularly helped with the day to day farming activities.  They had purchased both of these Farmall Regulars in 1928 with the intent of speeding up their summertime work of cultivating the corn.  Now when they went to the field in the summer with the cultivators mounted on both tractors, they could cover a lot of ground in a short time.  However, they had purchased the two tractors seven years ago.  His father was not as able to do manual labor around the farm as he had in the past.  After all, his father had actually retired and sold the farm to our Byron Township farmer seven years ago.

This last August at the 1935 Minnesota State Fair, while the family was making their annual trip to show the pigs at that fair, our Byron Township farmer had been intrigued by what he saw at the large International Harvester Company exhibit on “Machinery Hill” on the fairgrounds.  The 1935 State Fair was his first real chance to see the full line of tractors that the International Harvester Company was now offering to the farming public.  In July of 1931, International Harvester had introduced a new larger Farmall tractor (Oscar H. Will & Todd Markle, Collector’s Originality Guide: Farmall Regular and F-Series [Voyaguer Press: St. Paul, Minnesota, 2007] p. 51).  When tested at the University of Nebraska from October 9 through October 23, 1931, the new larger Farmall was shown to deliver 20.27 horsepower (hp.) to the drawbar and 30.29 hp. to the belt pulley.  Because of its belt horsepower rating, the tractor became known as the Farmall 30, or the F-30 for short.  Continue reading Raising Poland China Hogs in Waseca County, Minnesota (Part 2)

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

Case Farming Part IV: The LeRoy Equipment Company

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J.I. Case Company Part IV:

The Rise of the LeRoy Equipment Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

              (As Published in the July/August 2006 of the

Belt Pulley Magazine)

Poster advertisement of the new Case dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota
Poster advertisement of the new Case dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota

All farm machinery manufacturing companies depend heavily on their various franchisees and sales staff for the success of the company. The story of the sales component of any company consists of hundreds of small individual stories. The J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company is no exception to this rule. One thread in the continuing story of the sales component of the J.I. Case Company began on a farm in Carroll County, Iowa near the small town of Lanesboro on January 1, 1914. On that day, a second child, another son was born to Otto and Hazel (Coomes) Wetter. This son was named Duane E. Wetter. Duane joined the first born, Maurice, who had been born to the family in 1913. Later in 1916, a daughter, Winifred E., born to the family. The Wetter family operated the farm in Carroll County until 1917 when they purchased another farm in Redwood County, Minnesota.   This farm was located in Woodbury, Township within Redwood County.

Just to the south of Woodbury Township lay Lamberton Township. Here on December 13, 1918, another thread in this same story, began with the birth of a fourth son, Merle to the family of John and Ella (Werner) Krinke. Both of Ella Krinke’s parents had immigrated to the United States from Prussia in Germany. While John’s father, Christian William Krinke, had also immigrated from Germany, his mother, Mary, had been born in Wisconsin. After living in Wisconsin, and near Rochester, Minnesota and near Blue Earth Minnesota, Christian and Mary (Adler) Krinke purchased a 320-acre farm three (3) miles northwest of the town of Lamberton, Minnesota in 1905. This was the farm where John Krinke grew up. In 1910, John and Ella had married. In 1912, a son, Darold was born to the couple. Then another son, Kenneth, was born in 1913. In 1914, upon the retirement of his parents, John and Ella took over total control of the farming operations. Meanwhile the family kept expanding. A third son, Donald was born in 1915. Following the birth of Merle in 1918, two daughters were born, Mildred in 1921 and Ruth in 1922. Finally, two more children, Robert born in 1925 and Betty born in 1929 rounded out the family of two parents and eight children.

On the 320-acre farm, John and Ella raised about 20 acres of rye, and 20 acres of wheat for cash crops. However, the family’s largest crop was about 100 acres of corn. Some of the corn was used as feed for the pigs and the beef cattle they also raised on the farm. However, 40-50 acres of the arable land on the farm had to be designated each year for the raising of oats to feed the many horses they used for power on the farm. As the older sons came of age, they helped their father with the field work. To effectively and efficiently operate this 320 acre farm took a lot of manpower and horsepower. As John’s sons grew up they helped their father with the work on the farm. The family had a five (5) horse hitch and a six (6) horse hitch which they employed when plowing in the fall and the spring. Including riding horses, the Krinke family at one point, owned and operated 22 horses on their farm. Additionally, the family milked 10 to 12 Milking Shorthorn cows twice a day as a part of their farming operations. Kenneth, who is currently living in Lamberton at the age of 93 years, remembers that he and his brothers each had to milk three (3) cows every morning before they headed off to school. The family also raised a substantial herd of Hereford beef cattle. Thus, another large portion of the arable land on the farm had to be set aside just for raising hay for pastures for the dairy cows, the beef herd and the horses.

Besides the substantial help provided by their boys, John and Ella still needed to hire on additional help during the busy threshing season. Sam Marburger, a bachelor farmer also living in Lamberton township had a 28” Altman-Taylor threshing machine and a steam engine that he used in the summer to perform custom threshing for other farmers in the neighborhood. By the time of the mid 1920s, farming had recovered to some degree from the post-World War I recession that had settled over the farming economy in 1921. At this time, John Krinke perceived that the work would progress much smoother during threshing season if the family had their own thresher. Accordingly, he paid a visit to Oscar Wiebold, the local J.I.Case Company dealer in Lamberton. Eventually he signed a purchase agreement for a 22” Case thresher and a crossmotor Case tractor to power the thresher. After a while they also purchased a tractor plow to be able to use the tractor in the fields as well as on the belt. Soon other neighbors were soliciting John and his sons to do the threshing on their farms also. So the family found that they could supplement their farm income with some income from custom threshing in the neighborhood. Later in the 1920s, the Krinke family obtained a Waterloo Boy tractor which was also used to power the thresher.

John continued to plant his corn with the horses and the wire check two-row corn planter. Wire checking meant that a wire with curls or “buttons” placed every 40 inches along the wire was stretched across the entire length of the field. The wire was then attached to a mechanism on the side of the planter. As the horses pulled the planter across the field, the buttons on the wire would cause the mechanism to trip both rows of the planter at the same time. Thus, not only were the rows planted 40 inches apart, but the “hills” of corn were planted 40 inches apart within the rows. This formed a perfect grid of hills in the corn field which allowed the corn to be cultivated “cross-wise” as well as length-wise. Accordingly, not only were all the weeds between the rows dug up and eliminated by the cultivator, but even the weeds between the hills within the rows were removed by “cross cultivating” the corn. Every year, corn farmers tried to cultivate every corn field on their farm three times—the first cultivation was conducted lengthwise, then the corn was cross-cultivated and finally the corn was cultivated once again in a lengthwise fashion. Cultivation of the corn, thus, required a great number of hours (or days) of work during the summer. No wonder then when a mechanical way of speeding up this summertime task was developed, farmers jumped at the chance to employ this newer method of getting the task done.

Exactly for this reason, John Krinke obtained another tractor. This tractor was a tricycle-style Farmall Model F-12 tractor.   Besides moving faster in the field and having more endurance than horses, the F-12 was designed to be fitted with a two row cultivator. Thus, tractor cultivation of the corn could proceed at a rate of two rows at a time or twenty (20) acres in a single day as opposed to a mere six (6) or eight (8) acres a day when cultivating with the horses one row at a time. John Krinke was made aware of his need to save all the time in the fields as he could. In 1934, his oldest son, Darold got married and moved onto a farm of his own. In 1936, his second son, Kenneth did the same. In 1934, Donald had graduated from high school in Lamberton and had entered Minneapolis Business School.

Meanwhile, his fourth son, Merle, was also growing up. After obtaining an eighth grade education in a country school, Merle had enrolled in Lamberton High School for the “short course.” The short course was only three (3) months long and took place in the middle of the winter. The short course was designed for farm students who needed to help their parents on the farm during the spring and the fall of the year. Also attending these short courses at Lamberton High School was Duane Wetter. Although living in separate townships, the Wetter family and the Krinke family had become acquainted with each other at the Methodist Church in Lamberton. Originally, the Wetter’s had been attending another church in the community, but when that church suddenly burned down, they began attending the Methodist Church. In their first year on their new farm in Woodbury Township Otto and Hazel Wetter had added to their family with the birth of another son, Milo in 1918. Later, two more daughters, Zona in 1920 and Donna in 1923, were added to the family. Now during the short courses at Lamberton High School, the children of both families became more closely acquainted. Furthermore, in the fall of 1932 a new teacher moved to Lamberton from Amboy, Minnesota. This new teacher was Robert W. (Bob) Olson.

Bob Olson had a fairly active life. Born in 1893 in Sterling Township in Blue Earth County near the small town of Amboy, Minnesota (1900 pop. 432), Bob had served as a United States Army pilot during World War I. Coming home from the war in late 1918, he enrolled in school at the University of Minnesota and became a teacher. While at the University he met Mabeth Starrett. They fell in love and were married in 1920. Unable to find a teaching job, Bob and Mabeth moved back to the home farm of Bob’s parents in Amboy. Rural living was a new experience for Mabeth, but she soon adapted to life on the farm where she and Bob lived for a number of years. Two children were born to the young couple—a son, Bob S. Olson in 1924 and a daughter, Helen in 1926. Bob helped his father on the large family farm. However, in 1932, Bob was hired to teach an industrial arts class at the High School in Lamberton. Accordingly, Bob and Mabeth and their children moved to Lamberton. Among the students in Bob Olson’s industrial arts class during the winter months of the 1932-1933 school year was Merle Krinke. Although Duane Wetter had graduated from Lamberton High School on the previous June 2, 1932, he may well have met Bob Olson, anyway and Bob Olson might well have had an impact on the life of Duane Wetter. At any rate the lives of Bob Olson and Duane Wetter have some surprising parallels.

Like Bob Olson, upon graduating from high school, Duane went to Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to further his education. He attended Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis and studied the new and growing technology of refrigeration. After finishing his studies at Dunwoody, Duane obtained employment at the Minnesota Department of Highways in 1939. That fall, war broke out in Europe. As the war stretched into its second year, United States’ involvement in the war seemed more likely all the time. Even before the United States became involved in the growing world war, Duane joined the war effort by journeying to Winnipeg, Canada, to join the Royal Canadian Air Force (R.A.F.) and became a pilot. He met and married Esther Else. Together they moved off to Sherbrook, Quebec, where Duane became a flight instructor of other prospective fighter pilots. While the couple was living in Sherbook, Esther became pregnant and gave birth to a son, Berwyn. In May of 1944, after the United States had become involved in the world war, Duane and many other American citizens serving as pilots in the Canadian R.A.F. took advantage of the agreement between Canada and the United States to transfer from the R.A.F. to the United States Army Air Corp.   (Following the Second World War, the Army Air Corp would become an independent branch of the armed forces—the United States Air Force.) Thus, Duane was shipped out to Europe as a replacement pilot attached to the 316th U.S. Fighter Squadron of the 324th Fighter Group, stationed in Luneville, France. Thus just like Bob Olson a generation earlier, here was Duane Wetter serving as a pilot for the United States Army Air Corp in a war against the Germans and stationed in France.

Duane was assigned to a Republic Company-made P-47 (Thunderbolt) fighter and began flying combat missions on February 14, 1945. He would end the war as a survivor of seventy five (75) combat flight missions and also would win a number of decorations for valour during his service in Europe. Following the war, Duane stayed on in Europe to become part of the occupation forces stationed at Stuttgart, Germany. Duane was discharged from the military and was finally able to make his way back to Minnesota only in November of 1945.

In the meantime, Bob Olson had also impacted two other students in his short time at Lamberton High School. In the industrial arts class during that school year of 1932-1933 were Donald and Merle Krinke. During the fall and spring months, the Krinke boys were needed by their parents for help on the farm. However, during the “short course” held in during the winter months both Donald and Merle sought to further their education. During the short time that the boys knew Bob Olson in the winter of 1932-1933, Bob Olson made an impression on these boys that lasted far beyond their school days.

At the end of the school year, Bob Olson made a decision to leave teaching and take advantage of a business opportunity in Lamberton. He purchased a franchise from the J.I. Case Company to sell farm machinery in the rural area around Lamberton. This was 1933, starting a business at this time appeared to be a foolish decision. Business activity all across the nation was at a standstill because of the worst economic depression in the history of the United States. Bob’s outgoing personality and business sense were assets for his new business, but the biggest asset to his new business was the improvement in the economy. As 1933 gave way to 1934, the economy started to improve ever so slightly. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief and everybody began spending money again with more confidence in the future. Farmers, began once again to feel that there was a future in their occupation and began to purchase new farm equipment.

Case Model CC left side picture
The Case Model CC tractor was first introduced to the public in 1929. This left-side view of the tractor shows the famous “chicken’s roost” steering bar that was characteristic of many early Case tricycle style tractors.

The dealership was housed together with a hardware store and a plumbing and heating business. However on the farm equipment side of his new business, Bob found that, more and more, that the row crop tractor was the single item of farm machinery that farmers wanted most. This made sense given the fact that corn was the primary crop grown in Redwood County. On average, 37.5% of all farm acreage in the county was growing corn. The second most produced crop in the county was oats—with 26.3% of all farm land in the county growing oats. However, oats and hay were grown on all farms largely as feed for the animals, in particular the horses that were used for power on the farms. If both hay (10.4% of all farm land) and oats were removed from consideration, corn then made up of 59.3% of all “cash crops” grown on the farms of Redwood County.

Small wonder then that Bob Olson found that the Case Model CC row crop tractor was in large demand by the farmers showing up at his new dealership. The row crop tractor was allowing farmers to mechanize all the farming operations on their farm especially the cultivation of corn. This meant that slow animal power could be done away with on the farm altogether. The decline in the number of horses in Redwood County, is shown in the decline in the amount of acreage devoted to oats in the county. In 1925, 123,000 acres of oats were harvested in Redwood County. On average, between 1925 and 1935 108.6 acres of oats were harvested each year in the county as a whole. However, starting in 1936, oats started to decline in importance—from 100,100 acres harvested in 1936; to 87,000 in 1938; to 84,100 acres in 1942 and finally to 79,500 acres in 1944. (To be sure, oat production made a recovery back up to an average of 103,800 acres for the period of time from 1945 to 1955. However this is due to the sudden rise of the egg production in Redwood County during the Second World War. In the immediate, post war period Redwood County became the home for 500,000 chickens who were laying upwards of 100 million eggs each year.)

Early versions of the Model CC Case tractor weighed just 3, 640 pounds and had a maufacturer's suggested price of just $1.025.
Early versions of the Model CC Case tractor weighed just 3, 640 pounds and had a maufacturer’s suggested price of just $1.025.

Bob Olson sold a great number of Model CC tractors in the first years of his dealership. In 1936, he sold a Model CC to John Krinke. This particular Model CC was fitted with rubber tires front and rear on the tractor. Donald Krinke had graduated from Lamberton High School in 1933. In 1936, Merle Krinke also graduated from Lamberton High School. Like Duane Wetter, both of the Krinke boys also headed off to college in Minneapolis. Merle entered Augsburg College and later attended the University of Minnesota just as Bob Olson had done a generation earlier. Following his higher education in Minneapolis and no doubt under the influence, to some degree, of Bob Olson, Donald Krinke sought and obtained a job as the district manager for the J.I. Case Company in the area including Redwood and neighboring counties.

img092
In 1939, Case introduced their “flambeau red” series of farm tractors. This Case Model DC was the top of the line row crop tractor of the flambeau red series.

 

However, in 1940, with war clouds looming, and with the United States involvement in the Second World War looking increasingly likely, the U.S. Congress re-instated the Selective Service draft. Merle Krinke’s number was drawn in the draft lottery and it was a very low number, suggesting that he was soon to be drafted into the military. Not waiting for the draft, Merle quit school and enlisted. Perhaps, the influence of Bob Olson caused him to enlist in the Army Air Corps. The Army Air Corps unit to which Merle was attached was guarding the Panama Canal. Thus, in 1940, well before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Both Duane Wetter and Merle Krinke were involved in the spreading world war.

On December 7, 1941, the United States suddenly became involved in the world war.   Merle re-enlisted and continued his service until 1945. In April of 1944, Merle was, however, permitted a 30 day leave from his military service. During this leave he returned to Lamberton, Minnesota. He had a good reason for wanting to return home at this time. He wished to get married. In the years, that he had known the Wetter family, he was attracted by Duane’s sister, Zona. They had begun seeing each other and writing each other while Merle was away in the service. Now, in 1944, while on his 30 day leave from the Air Corp, Merle and Zona had decided to marry. Thus, on April 8, 1944, they were married. All too soon, however, Merle had to return to Panama. Only at the end of the war in September of 1945 was he allowed to come home for good and resume married life. Upon his return from the military, Merle obtained a job at the the Myhere and Nelson Implement dealership in Montevideo, Minnesota. The Myhere and Nelson dealership owned the J.I. Case Company franchise for the area around Montevideo and surrounding Chippewa County. Montevideo was located on the Minnesota River about 60 miles to the northwest of Lamberton. Merle commuted to his new job while continuing to live in Lamberton. After only a very short time at his new job, in Montevideo, Merle became aware of an opportunity to open a new Case dealership in another town.

With the lifting of the wartime restrictions on the economy of the United States a huge pent-up demand for new farm machinery was unleashed. Having been unable to purchase new farm machinery all during the Second World War, farmers now poured into local dealerships to buy up the machinery that was now becoming available. Furthermore, the prices of farm commodities had reached new highs as the North American farmer attempted to feed the armed forces which were spread around the world. Since the war, the farm machinery manufacturing companies were busy not only making the new machinery as fast as they could get re-tooled from their wartime production for the armed forces, but they were also in a rush to open as many outlets from which to sell the new machinery. Record numbers of new franchises were being sold by all the farm equipment manufacturers. At the Myhere and Nelson dealership in Montevideo, Merle Krinke heard about yet another Case franchise that was being offered to anyone that was willing to start a dealership in the small town of LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752). LeRoy, Minnesota is located in the extreme southeastern corner of Mower County, Minnesota. Mower County is situated in the Southeastern part of the state on the Minnesota/Iowa border in fact, the town of LeRoy is located only about ½ a mile from the Iowa border. Continue reading Case Farming Part IV: The LeRoy Equipment Company

Case Farming Part III: The Model CC Tractor

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J.I. Case Company Part III: Model CC Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

            (As Published in the May/June 2006 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            In 1924, a revolution occurred in the design of farm tractors.  This revolution had started with the introduction by the International Harvester Company of the Farmall tractor in 1924.  The Farmall was a “row crop” tractor advertised specifically as the tractor that could “do everything on the farm except the family budget” (a quote from the movie “Practical Magic” on Tape/DVD #3 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies).  Soon every tractor manufacturer was introducing their own version of the row crop tractor.  The J.I. Case Company’s first entry into the row crop tractor market was the Model CC tractor, introduced in 1929.  The Model CC contained an engine with a 3 7/8 inch bore and a 5 ½ inch stroke.  Tests of the 4,240 lbs. Model CC at the University of Nebraska, conducted on September 10, 1929, found that the tractor produced 28.79 hp. at the belt pulley and 17.88 hp. at the drawbar.  The Case Model CC tractor was a tricycle-style of tractor.  Although the Model CC had two wheels in front, the two wheels were positioned close together.  This configuration became a standard for row crop tractors and was called the “narrow front end” or “tricycle” design of farm tractors.  The front wheels of the typical tricycle tractor, like the Case Model CC tractor, could fit in the pathway between two rows of corn or other row crops planted 30 or 40 inches apart.

Case Model CC & Gordie Hahn # 1
Gordie Hahn standing at the controls of his restored 1936 Case Model CC tractor.

was this very ability of the Model CC to cultivate corn that attracted a particular farmer living in Stockholm Township in Wright County, Minnesota. He and his wife operated a 160-acre farm on which they raised oats and hay for his horses, some summer wheat, which they sold, and corn, part of which was used feed and part of which was sold as a cash crop. Our Stockholm Township farmer had eight or nine sows on their farm which, each winter, gave birth or farrowed to about 80 baby pigs. He raised the baby pigs until they reached their ideal market weight of 260 pounds. Given the losses from early death and disease among the baby pigs he would generally end up with 65 to 70 pigs ready for market in the late summer. In the final weeks before market the feeder pigs ate voraciously through the corn. Nonetheless, our Stockholm Township farmer could make a pretty good estimate of the amount of corn that he would need to “finish out” the feeder pigs. In a normal year, he would be able to hire his neighbor who had a large corn sheller to come to his farm and shell out all the ear corn in his corn cribs. He would do this in about February or March each year. He would have that part of the shelled corn that he would not need for the pigs, hauled straight to the Cooperative elevator in Cokato immediately after shelling to be sold. In a normal year, the price of corn would reach the peak of its annual cycle in these winter months.Case Model G feed grinder

Continue reading Case Farming Part III: The Model CC Tractor

Case Farming Part I: Sweep-Style Horsepowers

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J.I. Case Company Part I: Sweep-Style Horsepowers

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the January/February 2006 issue of

                         Belt Pulley Magazine)

           Food, clothing and shelter are well known as the three basic requirements of human beings. Agricultural is generally concerned with the production of the raw materials i.e. plants and animals, that become the food for mankind. To a lesser degree, agriculture also is concerned with the production of raw materials for clothing for mankind e.g. cotton and wool. To a still lesser degree, agriculture may be said to be involved in one of the most basic building materials used in providing shelter for mankind i.e. wood. This is especially true in recent days when forests are replanted after harvest in preparation for another harvest of trees in the future.

Just as the development of the mechanical thresher/separator revolutionized the threshing small grains, so too did the sawmill revolutionize the lumber industry. In the early days of the settlement of the upper Midwest of the United States and Canada, homes were made from logs. However, a log house had a tremendous tendency to shrink or “settle” over the years. This settling was especially pronounced in the first couple years after the construction. Settling meant that windows and doors would not remain square and, thus, tight fitting doors and windows were impossible in traditional log homes. Only frame-built houses would allow for tight fitting windows and doors. As civilization came to the Midwest with more people settling in the towns and on the farms of the Midwest, the frame house became the rule in home construction.

This tremendous growth of frame house got under way in the period following the War Between the States—the golden age of American agriculture. This boom in frame built housing created a vigorous demand for sawn lumber. Thus saw mills sprung up all over the Midwest. Usually, these sawmills were located at the falls of a particular river. This would allow the sawmill to use the power generated by the falling water and a water wheel to power the saw. Additionally, the river would be used as a transportation medium for the logs as lumber camps cut the native timber of the watershed up river from the sawmill and floated the logs down the river to the sawmill. The water might be captured by a dam on the river just above the sawmill to provide a reservoir of water to power the sawmill through any dry spells. This “mill pond” above the sawmill also served as a storage place for all the logs that came floating down the river.

The wood most in demand for building construction was pine. Pine is a straight grained, light but strong wood. It is easily worked with a handsaw and/or a plane. Furthermore, it tends to maintain its proper dimensions and shape,once it had been properly seasoned. (Robert C. Nesbit and William F. Thompson, Wisconsin: A History [University of Wisconsin: Madison, 1989] p. 297.)   However, pine was not available in all areas of the United States.

Because of these desirable characteristics, pine could be transported a considerable distance and compete economically with any lumber found locally in any hardwood community. (Ibid.) Any person that has tried to hammer a nail into a “native” hardwood board will recognize why this is true. Pine tree forests were discovered to be most abundant in two belts of land in the United States. First was the wide belt of land that reached from New England through the Great Lakes area, with Lake Erie representing the southern most fringe of this belt, and extending on to present-day northern Minnesota. (Ibid.)   Secondly, there was the Southern pine wood belt which started in eastern North Carolina (Hugh Talmage Lefler & Albert Ray Newsome, North Carolina: The History of a Southern State [University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 1973] pp. 100-101.) and arched to the south and including nearly all of South Carolina (David Duncan Wallace, South Carolina: A Short History [University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 1951] pp. 3-4.)southern Georgia ( Kenneth Coleman & et al. A History of Georgia), northern Florida (Charlton W. Tebeau, A History of Florida [University of Miami Press: Coral Gables, Florida, 1971] pp. 42 & 52.), southern Alabama and southern Mississippi (Nollie Hickman, Mississippi Harvest: Lumbering in the Longleaf Pine Belt 1840-1915 [Paragon Press: Montgomery, Alabama 1962] pp. 3-11].

scene-of-an-early-american-sawmill

Lumbering of the northern pine woods began in Maine and followed the virgin forests of this band of land westward. The market for all this lumber was south of this belt where civilization in the form of towns and farms arose along the upper Ohio River valley during the early nineteenth. The cities of Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Louisville and Evansville were all build with pine wood harvested from the northern pine woods.

Scene from an early American steam- powered sawmill.
Scene from an early American steam- powered sawmill.

Continue reading Case Farming Part I: Sweep-Style Horsepowers

Dairy Farming in Massachusetts (Part I)

                               Dairying in Eastern Massachusetts (Part 1)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Dairy farming in Massachusetts involves not only milking twice a day but also the bottling of the milk and the delivery of the bottled milk to the doors of consumers.

The small hamlet of Concord, Massachusetts is famous in American history.  In 1775, a British arsenal was located there.  On April 19 of that year, British troops seeking to secure the arsenal from the increasingly rebellious Massachusetts colony, were marching from Boston harbor toward Concord, when they were met in Lexington, Massachusetts by a collection of militia, called Minutemen.  The Minutemen had been roused from their beds early in the morning of April 19 by Paul Revere.  At Lexington, on the road to Concord, a shot rang out which became known as the “shot heard around the world.”  The battle that ensued at Lexington was the start of the American Revolutionary War.

The Minute Men monument in Lexington, Massachusetts which our Concord Town farmer drives by on a regular basis on his milk delivery route to homes in suburban Lexington.

 

In 1775, Concord was one of many small communities that dotted the Massachusetts colony.  Farm families, living in or around the settlement of Concord and the other small villages of this part of Massachusetts raised food and products largely for their own use only—subsistence farming.  Boston had little economic connection with Concord or any of the other villages of the area except in its role as a sea port.  However, as time passed, Boston became more urban and was unable to produce the food required for its citizens.  Thus, the farms of the Concord moved into the “market economy” and began producing goods for sale in Boston.

In its role as one of the major international ports of the United States, Boston grew rapidly into a major metropolitan area.  One of the major food stuffs required by Boston was fresh milk—a great deal of fresh milk.  Because of this demand for milk and because of the rocky and hilly, timbered lands of eastern Massachusetts, it was natural that farmers there specialized in dairying.

Although there was a settlement which was referred to as the village of Concord, the term “Concord Town” referred to the geographical unit, which included the rural area around the village of Concord.  By 1938, Concord (1930 pop. 7,477) was beginning to lose its rural feel and was becoming a suburb of Boston.

An aerial view of a farm very much like our Concord Town farmer’s farm.

 

One of the dairy farms that still operated in Concord Town in 1938 was operated by a particular farmer.  He lived on the 80-acre farm that had been in his father’s family dating back to the early 1800s.  He was married with four children.  Dairying had been a major part of his family farming operation since the beginning.  This job meant not only milking his herd of Guernsey cattle twice a day, but it also meant pasteurizing the milk in a large vat and then bottling the milk and delivering to the door of their customers along the milk route which was largely contained in the village of Lexington.

Purebred Guernsey milking herd lying down in the pasture in mid-morning to chew their cud after having grazed soon after the early morning milking.

 

Chores began at 5 a.m. when our Concord Town farmer would leave the house to check on the fire in the boiler in the milk house prior to heading for the barn.  As he walked to the milk house one January morning in 1938, he noted that this January was having its share of unusually cold mornings.  Arriving at the milk house, he could hardly wait to get inside and close the door behind him.  Once inside, he found that there continued to be some warmth still emanating from the firebox of the boiler.  Good!  The fire wasn’t entirely out.  He carefully removed the ash from the stove, revealing the red embers from yesterday’s fire.  After adding a handful of cedar single kindling and loading up the firebox with an arm load of wood, our Concord Town farmer, adjusted the air vents on the door of the ash compartment.  Both vents controlled the size of the fire in the firebox and, thus, controlled the heat in the boiler.  Early in the morning on a cold winter’s day like this our Concord Town Farmer would open the air vents slightly more than usual to bring the fire quickly up to normal heat.

When our Concord Town farmer arrived at the milk house on his farm in the early morning he found that the fire in the boiler had not totally gone cold. He revived the fire from the coals that had survived the with kindling first and then wood logs.

 

The firebox heated the boiler reservoir water tank located directly above the firebox.  Pipes leading from the reservoir water tank, wrapped themselves around a stainless steel tank in the milk house.  This tank contained the fresh milk from the previous evening’s milking.  Our Concord Town farmer now opened the valve on the water pipe to allow the water to start flowing through the pipes again.  The water from the boiler would flow through the pipes wrapped around the stainless steel tank would slowly begin to raise the temperature of the milk.  Raising the temperature of the milk to 72ºF would “pasteurize” the milk.  Pasteurizing the milk greatly reduces the microbial growth within the milk and prevents diseases that might be caused by drinking “raw” (unpasteurized) milk.  The temperature of the milk must be maintained at 72ºF for 12-15 seconds to be effective.   However, the temperature must not get above 72ºF, or the milk would “cook.”  Ever mindful that he did not want the temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank to rise above 72º F, our Concord Town farmer positioned the air vents on the boiler to allow for a carefully controlled fire.  Checking the temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank, he found that it was below 40º F.  On a morning like this there was no trouble keeping the milk cold enough.

The milk tank which was heated to only to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Only just enough to pasteurize the milk and not “cook” the milk.

 

Then he was off to the barn where his son had already begun feeding the cows silage and their ration of feed grain in the bunks in front of their stanchions.  Our Concord Town farmer took the mechanical milkers from their drying racks, where they had been placed after dismantling and washing following the previous evening’s milking chores.  The mechanical milkers were now re-assembled by placing the rubber inserts into each of the teat cups on the mechanical milker.  Then he started the little “hit and miss” engine that ran the vacuum pump.  The vacuum pump was connected to a pipeline that ran down each row of stanchions on either side of the alleyway in the barn.  These pipelines contained valves and nozzles located at each stanchion.  With a hose connected to the nozzle, the mechanical milker was placed on the first cow to be milked.  Vacuum held the mechanical milker on the teats of the cow being milked.  A “pulsator” converted the vacuum into an action of vacuum and release.  This pulsator action when applied to the rubber inserts inside the four teat holders, milked the cow better than if the cow had been milked by hand.  It took only a couple of minutes for the mechanical milker to empty all four “quarters” of the udder on the first cow.  Our Concord Town farmer then turned off the vacuum valve near the nozzle of the vacuum line and then removed the milker from the cow.  He then opened the lid of the milker and dumped the milk into a pail setting in the center of the alleyway of the barn.  Then, he attached the milker to the next cow to be milked.  While the milker was milking the next cow, our Concord Town Farmer took the pail out to the milk room in the barn and dumped the contents of the pail into the milk strainer which sat on top of a 10-gallon milk can.  The strainer would remove any large impurities, like a stems of straw, that may have made its way into the milk during the milking process.

A drawing of the milk pasteurizer with a cut-away view of the mechanism on the inside.  The mechanism inside the tank stirs the warming milk so that the pasteurizing tank so that all the milk in the tank reaches 72 degrees  at the same time and then turns the heat off so that the milk is not over-heated or cooked.

 

Following the milking of the entire Guernsey herd, our Concord Town farmer would take the mechanical milkers up to the milk house.  There he would bleed off some of the hot water in the boiler reservoir tank and begin the process of disassembling, washing and disinfecting the various parts of the milkers.  The milking machines would then be hung up on the racks to allow the water to drain off and completely dry all parts of the mechanical milkers.

Father and son cleaning up the milking machines following the twice daily milking of the Guernsey herd.

 

Meanwhile, his son harnessed up the horses and brought them around to the front of the barn and hitched them to the sled that contained all the milk cans that had been filled during the morning milking.  The sled would then be driven up to the milk house where the contents of each milk can would be dumped into the stainless steel tank with the milk from the previous evenings milking.

Moving milk in 10-gallon milk cans by horse-drawn sled over the winter snows from the barn to the milk house.

 

Our Concord Town farmer’s son would open the vents on the firebox of the boiler a little more to increase the heat of the fire.  He then added some more wood to the fire and then checked the thermometer in the stainless steel tank.  The temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank must reach 72º F, but must not rise any higher.  The hot water circulating in the pipes leading from the boiler to the stainless steel tank and returning to the boiler, would gradually raise the temperature of the milk to 72º F.  It would take about three hours.  Time enough for the empty milk cans to be thoroughly, washed, disinfected and placed in a rack upside down to completely dry.

While he washed the milk cans, his son unhitched the sled and took the horses down to the barn, hitch up the Case No. 3 manure spreader, he then let all the cows out of their stanchions and allowed them to walk out of the barn to stretch the legs and to get a drink of water at the stock tank outside the barn.  Then he pulled the manure spreader into alley way of the barn.

A Case No. 3 horse-drawn manure spreader.

 

On such a cold morning, his first task after crawling down from the manure spreader was to immediately close the barn doors behind the manure spreader in order to keep the warmth of the barn inside.  While the horses waited patiently harnessed to the front end of the manure spreader, he would clean out the gutters on either side of the alleyway.  Before loading the manure from the gutters into the manure spreader, our Concord Town farmer’s son slid his fork under each of the steel slats of the apron on the floor of the manure spreader.  He needed to make sure that none of the steel slats was still frozen to the wooden floor of the manure spreader.  He knew from experience that a broken apron chain would mean that the manure would have to be unloaded by hand, and that was something that he did not want to experience again.

After the gutters had been cleaned, he untied the reins of the harness from the left side of the manure spreader and drove the horses and the manure spreader out the doors at the opposite end of the barn into the cow yard.  Then, he returned to barn and put out fresh hay for the cows.  Meanwhile the lactating cows were starting to make their way back into the barn.  They moved by habit to their appropriate stanchion in the barn and began to eat the fresh hay that was being laid out for them.  On a usual morning, the lactating cows would have been in no hurry to get back into the barn.  And he might have to allow them to be outside for a while longer.  However, on this cold morning, the cows were gathered around the barn yard door, anxious to return to the warmth inside the barn.  Their coat of hair was rather thin and compared with the non-lactating cows and the yearlings who were used to the weather outside the barn.   After all the cows were back inside and fastened in their stanchions again, he would head to the fields with the load of manure.

He remembered to swing by the milk house on his way to the fields, just to pick up the pan of wood ashes from the boiler, which his father had places outside the milk house earlier in the morning.  The breath of the horses created visible steam as the horses walked out to the fields.  It was a cold morning, however, the sun was finally beginning to rise in the east.  He looked at the neighbors house on the next farm and saw that the smoke from the chimney was rising up into the clear sky in a tall straight ribbon.

While, our Concord Town farmer’s son was taking the manure to the field, his father was cleaning up around the milk house and kept watching the temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank.  After about three hours, with the temperature at 72º F, the heating of the milk was stopped and then he began the bottling process.  Now, the newly pasteurized milk was bottled in one-quart bottles.  Our Concord Town farmer had ordered his bottles from the Warren Glasswork Company in New York City.  These glass bottles had been made with our Concord Township farmer’s name embossed on the side of the bottle.

A pasteurizing tank raised on a platform and with a valve on the front bottom of the tank which allows a person to fill milk bottles with the warm milk from the pasteurizing tank following the pasteurizing process.

 

As the individual bottles were filled with milk and capped, they were each placed in a bottle crate.  In summer these crates full of warm milk would have been moved immediately to the ice house on the farm to cool.  The “ice house” on the farm of our Concord Town farmer’s farm was really a cavern excavated out of a nearby hill.  On a winter’s day like this one, however, the bottled milk could merely be placed outside the milk house to be chilled.  On cold mornings like this one, the problem was to avoid having the bottled milk get too cold and to freeze inside the bottle.  Following the bottling process our Concord Town farmer went into the family’s house to get cleaned up and to change clothes.

After changing clothes, he went out to the shed and slid into the seat of his Divco Model S3 delivery truck.  The cream colored truck had his name emblazoned on both sides in bright red letters.

 

The Divco truck which our Concord Town farmer drove made his milk delivery route consume much less time than the horse-drawn milk delivery wagon.

Continue reading Dairy Farming in Massachusetts (Part I)

The Algoma Foundry and Machine Company of Algoma Wisconsin

Algoma is “OK”:

History of the Algoma Foundary and Machine Company of Algoma, Wisconsin

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

The restored Lindstom silo filler in 1994.
The restored OK silo filler manufactured by Algoma Foundry and Machine Company which was formerly owned by Roy Johnson, Harris Quist, Howard Nelson and Leonard Johnson and later sold to Maynard Mohn od Center City, Minnesota.

The ensilage process of chopping green corn or hay and storing it in a silo was first developed by August Goffart, a French experimenter, in 1877.  (Robert C. Nesbit, Wisconsin: A History [University of Wisconsin Press; Madison, Wisconsin, 1973], p. 291.)  In 1880, Dr. H.S. Weeks, of Ononomowoc, Wisconsin, also conducted experiments with ensilage stored in silos.  The success of Dr. Weeks’ experiments led some pioneering farmers to construct silos for storage of this new type of cattle feed.  Later experiments found that three cows could be fed for seven months on one acre of silage crops while it would take two acres of hay to feed just one cow for the same seven months.

At first, there was a major resistance to this new method of chopping and storing ensilage based on the belief that the fodder would eat away at the stomachs of cows or cause them to lose their teeth.  As of 1904, there were only 716 silos in the entire state of Wisconsin.  However, in the early 1900s, William Dempster Hoard, editor of Hoard’s Dairyman, began promoting silage for dairy herds in his magazine.  Thus, following the First World War, silos started to spring up across the nation as farmers began to see the advantages of silage.

Most commonly, silage was cut into pieces about an inch in length.  Machines were developed to facilitate this procedure, and the ensilage cutter–or stationary forage harvester–was born, with the dairy state of Wisconsin becoming the center for manufacturing and sales of silage equipment.  One of the companies that realized the potential market for ensilage cutters in Wisconsin was the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company of Algoma, Wisconsin.

The Algoma Machine company factory located east of the 4th Street Bridge
The Algoma Machine company factory located east of the 4th Street Bridge

Algoma is a small city of 3,600 people located on the shore of Lake Michigan at the base of Door Peninsula.  The entity that was to become the  Algoma Company was first established there in 1883 as A. Hamacek and Company by Adolf and Anton Hamacek.  A. Hamacek and Company made horse-drawn farm machinery and operated an electric light plant for those Algoma residents who had electric lighting in their homes and businesses.  On August 28, 1891, Adolph Hamacek left the partnership and moved to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.  Anton, however, continued to operate the business alone until the spring of 1893 when he formed another partnership with Joseph Wodsedalek and August Ziemer from Kewaunee, Wisconsin.  On August 6, 1895, a fire totally destroyed the business’s two-story building located in the 600 block of Fremont Street in Algoma.  Following the fire, the partnership purchased a new property, just east of the new Fourth Street Bridge in Algoma, owned by John Ihlenfeld.  This was an excellent location which was served by a spur of the Green Bay and Western Railroad.  The partnership then moved their operations to the single-story building located on that property.

During World War I, one of the partnership’s employees, Joseph Sticka, a machinist, conceived of his own design for a stationary forage harvester and left the employ of the partnership to establish his own business.  However, the business he established was not sufficiently capitalized and he soon sought the backing of his old employer.  Thus, in 1920, the partnership began mass producing the forage harvester developed by Joseph Sticka.

In March of 1920, the partnership was transformed into a company and incorporated as the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company.  Joseph Wodsedalek became president and Joseph F. Sticka became a director.  E.W. Anderogg, general manager of the Algoma Net Company, also became a director.  While continuing his work at the Net Company, Mr Anderogg sat on the board of the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company as representative of the interests of his boss, M.W. Perry, president of the Algoma Net Company.  M.W. Perry, although a minority shareholder, had loaned the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company a great deal of money.  Therefore, M.L. Perry had much influence over the company.

Shortly after they became incorporated, the Algoma Company introduced a new line of modern farm equipment bearing the trade name OK.  This line included forage harvesters–or ensilage cutters–forage blowers, feed grinders and hammermills.  This expansion, however, was ill-timed.

Workers in the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company in Algoma Wisconsin.
Workers in the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company in Algoma Wisconsin.

Although it is commonly accepted that the Great Depression began with the stock market crash in 1929 following a period of prosperity throughout the 1920s, the facts are that in the rural areas of the nation the depression actually began in 1921 with the fall in the price of farm products following the end of World War I.  Farmers were feeling the effects of the depression as early as 1921.  This meant that there was little demand for new farm machinery from that time until the nation began to recover in the 1930s.  As a result, the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company suffered deficits for the first nine years of its existence.

A financial statement, dated Feb. 1, 1929, noted that the corporation had a $38,807.20 deficit in its annual budget at that time.  The board required action and the corporation underwent a financial reorganization whereby the persons who had loaned the company money were made preferred stockholders in the corporation.  Suddenly, all the creditors of the company became the owners of the company.  In short, this meant that M.W. Perry became the majority shareholder of the company with 51% of the shares.  He also bought out all of the remaining inrterests of the Joseph Wodsedalek family.

On March 2, 1929, a new management team was installed.  M.W. Perry became the new president and E.W. Anderogg became the new general manager of the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company.  Following the reorganization, the compamy underwent a corporate down-sizing and under the new leadership managed to finish the year in good order and even showed a profit.  Consequently, in 1929, the corporation made its first profit in the face of the financial dislocations which occurred on Wall Street in October of 1929 and continued profitably for the next three years.

In the Spring of 1932, E.W. Anderogg was made treasurer.  The Company then began to cast about to find the right person to fill the position of general manager and were fortunate in obtaining the services of E.J. Albro for this position.  He had served as manager of the farm equipment division of the Montgomery Ward Company for 15 years, from 1917 to 1932.   In his position at Montgomery Ward, E.J. Albro had supervised the purchasing of thousands of dollars of fly nets from the Algoma Net Company.  Now he used his influence to arrange for Montgomery Ward to purchase all of their hammermills from the Algoma Foundry and Machine CompanyMontgomery Ward would sell these farm implements under their own name and eventually would become the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company’s largest single customer, absorbing 35% of all of the farm equipment they produced.

The silo fillers produced by the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company continued to follow the original design conceived by Joseph F. Sticka; however, with some small improvements made to the original design.  Two sizes of silo fillers were offered, e.g., a 13″ throat model and a 15″ throat model.  These two models came out of the factory, along with the hammermills and all of the other farm equipment offered by the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company, cloaked in the green paint that in the early years symbolized the OK line of farm machinery.  A bright yellow “OK” insignia would appear on both sides of the hinged casing covering the knife wheel.  Another insignia declaring “Mfd. by Algoma Foundry and Machine Company, Algoma, Wisconsin” was stenciled on both sides of the transport frame underneath the feeding table.  Although no paint numbers now exist which could allow a restorer to recreate the exact shade of this green paint, according to John Beitling, long-term employee of the paint department, the shade was very close to the green color which was habitually used on 1948-1950 Chevrolet pickups.

When Montgomery Ward began placing large orders for hammermills and other equipment, the purchasing contract required that such equipment be painted Montgomery Ward red and that the equipment bear no insignias.  Marvin Zirbel, another former employee of the Algoma Company, remembers that to save cost the Company made the decision to change the color of its entire line of OK equipment to Montgomery Ward red, Martin-Senour 99L-1637.  (Later, in 1964, when Massey-Ferguson bought the corporate entity which included the Algoma Company, Massey-Ferguson personnel found that the red paint used by the Algoma Company was indistinguishable from their own Massey-Ferguson red.)  The bright yellow insignias and lettering, however, would still appear in the same locations on the silo fillers and on all of those machines which were not sold to Montgomery Ward but were offered to the public through jobbers and wholesalers under the Company’s own name.

Marvin Zirbel and Ben Schneider work in the foundary of the Algoma Machine Company factory.
Marvin Zirbel and Ben Schneider work in the foundary of the Algoma Machine Company factory.

In 1943, one of these OK silo fillers rolled out of the plant cloaked in its red paint job and insignias.  It was one of the smaller models with a 13″ throat.  It traveled by railroad flatbed out of Algoma, across Wisconsin and into Minnesota, where it was sold to its first owner.  After only one season, the silo filler was resold in 1944 to Roy Johnson (a beef farmer), Harold Nelsen and Harris Quist (who milked Holstein herds on their farms), and Leonard Johnson (who milked Jersey cows).  They bought the silo filler together, along with a McCormick-Deering corn binder which had a wagon loading attachment.  (A two-row version of this binder with the wagon loading attachment can be seen in the 1934 International Harvester movie, Farming the Farmall Way.)  The four Lindstrom-area farmers used the silo filler to fill their own silos on all four farms and for some custom work in their neighborhood as well.  Harold Nelsen remembers that the OK silo filler was a “light runner”–a smooth and easy operating machine–powered most often by a Farmall H.  Each summer the silo filler was towed from farm to farm in the Lindstrom neighborhood by the Farmall H and performed admirably.

Following World War II, a flood of new and more efficient farm machinery came onto the market.  In 1944, International Harvester had introduced the No. 55-T baler, their first successful cotton stripper, and the new No. 2 field forage harvester.  All of these machines were advertised as “one-man harvesting machines.”  (See the 1944 IH movies called “One-Man Harvesting” and “One-Man Cotton Harvesting.”)

Like other farmers across the nation, these four farmers saw the advantages of single-stage processing of ensilage in the field, rather than carrying bundles of corn to the silo for processing.  Thus, in about 1949, Roy Johnson bought one of the new McCormick-Deering field choppers.  The other three farmers then hired him to fill the silos on their farms and the OK silo filler was sold to Maynard Mohn of Center City, Minnesota.  After a few years, the Mohn family also upgraded their silo filling operations; however, the OK silo filler remained stored under cover on the Mohn farm until it was put up for sale several years later at an auction.

John Bjornstad, grandnephew of Maynard Mohn, former owner of the OK silo filler inspects the knives of the OK silo filler.
John Bjornstad, grandnephew of Maynard Mohn, former owner of the OK silo filler inspects the knives of the OK silo filler.

John Bjonstad, grandnephew of Maynard Mohn, having observed the OK silo filler several times on the Mohn farm, expressed an interest in seeing the silo filler saved from the cutting torch.  At the auction, therefore, John’s grandfather, Paul Holm, of Almelund, Minnesota, purchased the silo filler for his grandson.  John and his grandfather then transported the silo filler to the site of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show near LeCenter, Minnesota.  There, in 1990, the silo filler was set up and operated by John and his grandfather as an exhibit at the Show.

John Bjornstad and his wife pose beside the silo filler that he remembers from his childhood.
John Bjornstad and his wife pose beside the silo filler that he remembers from his childhood.

Following that Show, the silo filler was wintered at the Pioneer Power site; however, due to the shortage of storage buildings, the OK silo filler was stored outside for one of the first winters since it had been manufactured.   Unfortunately, it has not been operated as an exhibit in any of the Shows since 1990.

In August of 1994, the OK silo filler was found by the author and his brother, Mark Wells, of Billerica, Massachusetts, in about the same location where it had been stored following the 1990 Show.  Even in 1994, after four years of sitting outside in the elements, the knives and shear bar seemed to be in very good condition. The pressed-paper pulley showed evidence of having recently been treated with fuel oil.  It appeared, however, that the growing layer of rust threatened to obliterate the “OK” decal hinged blower cover and the “Algoma Foundry and Machine Co.” stencilling on the frame under the feeding table.  It was at this point that the author and his brother began to think about restoration of the OK silo filler.  Research into the proper paint scheme, the correct shade of paint, and remaking of the proper decals is currently being conducted and plans are being made for a 1995 restoration.

The Algoma Foundry and Machine Company continued to function independently until September 14, 1962, when they were sold to Badger Northland Company, Inc.  The Algoma Company became a division of the Badger Company, with Karl Kuehn of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, serving as head of the Algoma farm equipment division.  Badger was manufacturing a short line of farm equipment, which included silo unloaders and barn cleaners, when they bought out the Algoma Company.  They hoped, through the acquisition of the Algoma Company, to broaden their line of Badger products to include forage equipment, particularly their field chopper.

In 1964, Badger Northland was in turn acquired by the Massey-Ferguson Company.  By this time, however, no silo fillers or forage equipment were being made at the Algoma site.  It was a sign of the times that only garden tractors (the Massey-Ferguson model 10) and snowmobiles were being made in the old foundry building.  In the summer of 1970, operations at the Algoma plant were entirely discontinued by Massey-Ferguson.

Before the merger with Massey-Ferguson in 1964, the president of Badger Northland was Wisconsin native Vincent Rolf.  He had been one of the founders of the Badger Farm Equipment Company in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, in 1949.  In 1965, he along with almost all of the original founders of Badger formed a new company called Calumet Corporation of Kaukauna, Wisconsin.  Calumet manufactured liquid pumps, liquid manure spreaders, and a line of trailers for transporting boats, snowmobiles, and garden tractors at its plant in Dundas, Wisconsin.  Upon learning that the old foundry building in Algoma was available, Calumet moved its manufacturing operations from Dundas to the foundry building in December of 1970, operating there until 1973.

Over the years, many people of the Algoma area were employed at the foundry:  Lester Zimmerman was a machinist at the foundry; George Bietling, Marvin Zirbel amd Doug Silmer worked there at different times; as noted previously, John Beitling worked for many years in the paint department; and Emil Bostick, now of Luxembourg, Wisconsin, worked in the stenciling department.

It is a different world now than when the foundry was first opened in 1895, reflecting the changes in farming methods which have occurred in the interim and reflecting the transition of the United States from an agricultural nation into an industrial nation.  Restoration of old farm machinery is one way in which the agricultural history of the nation can be preserved for future generations.  It is hoped that restoration of the 1943 OK silo filler will compose one more chapter of that history, a chapter which will recognize not only the farmers that used the silo filler but also the men and women who made the silo filler.

 

The 1941 Farmall Model B

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The Farmall B:

Second Tractor on the Farm, But First in the Heart 

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 1993 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Volume 6, Number 6

This is actually the 1945 Farmall model B which was originally owned by Carl Pinney of LeSueur, Minnesota, but the tractor reminds the current author and members of his family of the 1941 Farmall B that the family owned while they were on the farm in LeRoy Township, Mower County, Minnesota from 1947-1964.
This is actually the 1945 Farmall model B bearing the Serial No. 130161 which was originally owned by Carl Pinney of LeSueur, Minnesota, but the tractor reminds the current author and members of his family of the 1941 Farmall B bearing the Serial No. 60237  that the family owned while they were on the farm in LeRoy Township, Mower County, Minnesota from 1947-1964.

Farm tractors brought much improvement to farming; however, farming with a single tractor was beginning to have its shortcomings by the mid-1950’s.  As witness of this, I have a picture that I took in the summer of 1958.  Although this picture seems to be a nondescript picture of our 1950 Farmall M powering the John Deere grain elevator during the oat harvest of July, 1958, it takes on more significance with a little explanation.  The picture embodies many of the experiences of single-tractor farming.

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The 1950 Farmall M bearing the Serial No. 218137 powers the John Deere elevator during the oat harvest in the summer of 1958. The elevator leads to the corn crib on the Wells farm in LeRoy Township, in Mower County, Minnesota. The were being stored in the grain bin over the alley way of the double corn crib. On the lower extreme left of the photo, the leg of the A-frame jack that is described in the article can be seen. This jack is not needed for the wagon shown in the picture because the wagon has its own hoist under the box that can lift the front end of the box to let the grain flow easily out rear of the wagon box into the elevator pickup shown here.

The 1950 Farmall M bearing the Serial No. 218137 was our only tractor.  My Dad had purchased it new in 1950.  He traded a 1942 Farmall H to get the M.  Later, he would begin to speculate that he should have kept the H as a second tractor; however, the need for a second tractor did not appear as crucial in 1950 as it would in later years as this picture shows.  In this picture, the M had just returned from the field where it had spent the morning pulling the Massey-Harris Clipper combine.  From about mid-morning (when the dew was gone and the windrows dry) until noon the combine could fill our two wagons.  The M was then unhitched from the combine and hitched to the wagons which were brought to the building site for unloading.  This was planned so that the family could then have dinner and not waste time.  Nonetheless, after unloading the wagons, it would be well into the afternoon before the combine would be started in the field again.

The M had to be unhitched from the wagon and connected to the elevator, unconnected from the elevator and re-hitched to the empty wagon to pull it out of the way, and then hitched to the next wagon.  That wagon was then pulled up to the elevator and blocked so that the wagon would not roll when unhitched.  Then the tractor was once again connected to the elevator.  Additionally, all of our wagons were equipped either with hydraulic lifts under the box or fitted to use a home-made “A-frame” jack which would be placed at the front of the wagon.  This A-frame jack, which Dad welded himself, would be fitted with a hydraulic cylinder borrowed from M’s four-row cultivator.  The leg of this A-frame jack can be seen in the foreground of the picture with the John Deere elevator.  It is on the extreme left, leaning up against the granary which is to the left of the picture.

While running the elevator, the M would also be connected by long hydraulic hoses to the wagon or to the A-frame jack.  Indeed, the wagon in this picture is connected in this manner to the M, but the hoses cannot be seen.  Because we lived close to my mother’s family, Howard Hanks, we could occasionally borrow their Massey-Harris 22 or Massey-Harris 44.  (This is the same 44 that is described in the July/August 1993 issue of The Belt Pulley Vol. 6, No. 4.  The 22 is the same tractor that was pictured on the cover of the February issue of the Minnesota Edition of Fastline parts magazine, Vol. 6, No. 7, and is also pictured in the May/June issue of Wild Harvest: Massey Collectors News Vol. 10, No. 3.)  Both of these tractors had the Massey-Harris Depth-O-Matic hydraulic system and had the hydraulic bulkhead quick couplers which were compatible with the connections on our wagons.  However, these tractors were busy on the Hanks farm and were not always available to us. Continue reading The 1941 Farmall Model B