The Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part III):
1975 – The Soybean Year
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the January/February 2003 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
As noted previously, the 1938 McCormick-Deering Farmall F-20, bearing Serial No. 127631, had been modernized with the mounting of 10” x 38” rubber tires on the rear of the tractor and by installation of a supplemental transmission called the High Speed Gear Box manufactured by the Behlen Manufacturing Company of Columbus, Nebraska. (See “The Behlen Company Part II” in the November/December 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine. Vol. 15, No. 6.) It is unclear as to who may have originally purchased No. 127631; however, it may well have been Lloyd Rhoton, owner and operator of a large 240-acre farm north of Stewartville, Minnesota.
What is known with certainty about the history of No. 127631 begins with a story about a young couple, Wendel and Vandy Newman, living on a farm about 120 miles to the west/southwest of Stewartville Minnesota in Clay County,Iowa. Wendel Newman had been born and raised in Dixon County, located in northeast Nebraska, before moving to Clay County, Iowa. On January 26, 1947, he married Vandy Blatchford. Wendel had accepted a job as a hired hand on the farm of Carl Madson near the small town of Webb, Iowa (pop. 167), located in Clay County. Carl Madson raised Palamino horses. His farm was the home of the Grand Champion stallion called Golden Dude. While living in a house provided for them on the Madson farm, Wendel and Vandy gave birth to their son Bob Newman on January 6, 1949.
Needless to say, Wendel longed to get out on his own and to establish his own farming operation. To this end, he learned of a 320-acre farm available to rent south and east of Stewartville, Minnesota. The farm, which was located on the county line between Mower Olmsted counties. The farm which was owned by was owned by Pete Noonan was actually on the Mower County side of County Line Road in Racine Township. However, the Noonan farm did not have its own building site. Thus, the Newman family needed to find some other place to live nearby. As it happened, there was a building site available for rent located one mile west of the Noonan farm. This building site was owned by Sam Hoover.
Accordingly, the Newmans struck out in March of 1950 from Webb, Iowa, and made their way north to the Noonan farm. It was wintertime and a bad time to be moving household goods under normal circumstances, but in March of 1950 a snowstorm blew in from the Dakotas which inundated Minnesota and northern Iowa with snow. The snowstorm made traveling miserable and dangerous. Still, the Newman family persevered through the snow and established themselves in the Sam Hoover house.
As the family became familiar with their new home, they found they were shopping more often at the unincorporated village of Racine, Minnesota, rather than in Stewartville or any of the other towns in the area. Wendel was aware of the Glen James Implement dealership in Racine and he knew that by spring he would need some farm machinery to get his crop into the ground. One of the first things that he considered obtaining was a tractor. The Glen James dealership was the local Minneapolis-Moline franchise holder which had been in existence under the same family for many years. Wendel had also heard his neighbors speak of an International Harvester dealership, called A.G. Wilson, which once did business in Stewartville. However, tragedy had struck this dealership in 1946, in that A.G. Wilson had died suddenly. Nevertheless, his widow continued the dealership in Stewartville as Mrs. A.G. Wilson and Sons. Since she wanted her sons to take over the dealership, she was greatly disappointed when this could not be worked out. In 1949, the year before Wendel moved to Minnesota, Mrs. Wilson was forced to close her husband’s business. Stewartville never again had an International Harvester dealership.
Wendel knew, however, that he would not be able to afford a new tractor. Thus, he was looking for a good, used tractor. Finally, he became aware of a 1938 Farmall F-20 which was for sale by its owner – a farmer near Stewartville. This was the F-20 that bore Serial No. 127631. When Wendel went to see the tractor, he knew it was the tractor for him. In addition to the economical price – a price within the means of a young farmer just starting out in farming. – Wendel saw that No. 127631 also had many optional features which made it nearly as modern as a post-war tractor. Ordinarily, F-20s were equipped only with a non-standard 1-1/8” power take-off shaft which was located far ahead under the “belly” of the tractor. However, No. 127631 was equipped with the optional power take-off extension. This optional extension not only brought the power take-off shaft back to the rear of the tractor right over the drawbar, but the optional extension also converted the power take-off shaft to the proper ASAP approved 1-3/8” spleened shaft. Furthermore, the shaft protruding over the drawbar was protected by a universal type of safety shield which was ready to be easily connected with the shields of modern power take-off equipment. Thus, the tractor was ready to be used immediately with any of the modern power take-off machines that were being produced in the post-war era.
Wendel Newman came to appreciate another improvement that had been made to No. 127631 almost immediately after he put the tractor to work on the Pete Noonan farm. Because he and Vandy lived on the Sam Hoover building site, which was removed from the Noonan farm by about one mile to the west, all field work on the Noonan farm required a road trip down County Line Road. Had No. 127631 not been equipped with rubber tires and the Behlen supplemental transmission, Wendel may have been forced to leave No. 127631 on the Noonan farm, exposed to the ravages of nature, for a good portion of the year. Not only would driving the tractor back and forth from the field to the building site have taken a great deal of time, but in the new post-war era, local, county and township governments were beginning to frown on the practice of driving steel-wheeled tractors on public roads. The steel lugs on the steel wheels would raise havoc with carefully graded gravel roads and would utterly ruin “blacktopped” roads. With No. 127631, Wendel didn’t need to worry about having Vandy come and get him in the 1946 Ford; rather, Wendel could pull up onto the road with No. 127631, shift the regular transmission into neutral, pull the lever to engage the Behlen High Speed Gear Box, and be off down the road at 14 to 15 miles per hour. All he needed to do was to get out of the field, heading home before sundown.
Once home, Wendel would then have to milk his herd of Jersey cattle. As one Jersey cow was in the habit of jumping fences and getting out, he would have to round her up before dark. (This cow continued to cause problems for Wendel no matter how high he built his fences.) Since this was a continuing problem, he finally decided to take the cow to market. However, no sooner was the cow loaded up and ready to go, than she jumped back out of the truck. In the end, Wendel was forced to hire a large livestock truck to come to the farm to get the cow and to haul her to market.
Wendel came to fully appreciate the Behlen supplemental transmission on No. 127631 once he learned that Sam Hoover’s son wanted to take over the building site where they were living and build a new house there. Thus, Wendel and Vandy were required to move again within the same year. This time they moved to a building site which was owned by Delman Christy located two miles south of the Noonan farm. Thus, Wendel had twice as far to drive his machinery to the field. Still, with the Behlen High Speed Gear Box on No. 127631, Wendel found it easy to make even the short trip to the Delman Christy farm – so easy, in fact, that he could come home on the tractor for dinner at noon and still return to the field with a minimum of time wasted.
Much to their dismay, at the end of the growing season, Wendel and Vandy learned again that they would be forced to move from the Delman Christy building site. Thus, in 1951, they began looking for another farm to rent. After some searching, they found a farm in Mower County, near the small town of Dexter, Minnesota (1950 pop. 316), and in the spring of 1951, the whole family packed up and moved to the new farm. All of their farm equipment, including No. 127631, moved with them. Along with the new farm came a new herd of dairy cattle – this time Holsteins – which Vandy noted appeared to be gigantic cattle compared to the dwarfish Jersey cattle she had known the previous year.
The Newman’s enjoyed their new farm, and over the years two more children were added to the family: Catherine Grace was born on October 13, 1953, and Holly Dee was born on January 16, 1955. Bob, their first born, entered elementary public school at Dexter.
In 1953, Wendel obtained a used Farmall M. Thus, No. 127631 became the second tractor on the family farm. As Bob became older, he learned to drive the tractors and to help his father with the field work. One particular task that Bob remembers performing was using No. 127631 to operate his father’s power take-off stalk chopper in the corn fields. Obviously, the Farmall M was being used at the same time by Wendel in some other task – probably corn picking. Because of the power take-off extension on No. 127631, preparing the corn field for plowing would not have to be delayed until the end of ripe corn harvest. Thus, No. 127631 was still making valuable contributions to the farming effort.
As Bob attended school at Dexter elementary in the late fall of 1959, he met a new student in his class—Glenn Westfall. Glenn’s parents, Robert and Lorraine (Hanks) Westfall, and family had moved off the John and Ruth (Whipple) Jenson farm south of the state line road in Iowa near LeRoy, Minnesota (1950 pop. 959), and moved onto the Jimmy Olson farm located northwest of Dexter, Minnesota, about five miles from where the Newman’s now lived. The Westfall family at that time was composed of Dean William, born on June 9, 1948; Glenn Robert, born on December 22, 1949; Wayne Ellis, born on April 27, 1954; Steven Howard, born on December 28, 1958; Marcia Mae, born on April 10, 1957; and the new baby Diane Lorraine, born on March 30, 1959. (As an aside, during the Westfall’s first summer on the Olson farm, the current author (eleven-year-old nephew of Robert and Lorraine) spent an entire week visiting the Westfall’s during the oat harvest. At that time, the Westfall’s were still shocking and threshing their oat harvest. It represented the first and only time that the present author had seen commercial threshing performed on a non-Amish farm. Although the current author did not meet Bob Newman until adulthood, he often heard his first cousins Dean and Glenn refer to Bob and all the fun they had together. Indeed, just as the current author and his younger brother Mark Wells always referred to a visit with the Westfall family as “going to Dean and Glenn’s,” so too did Bob Newman refer to the Westfall’s home as “Dean and Glenn’s place” when the present author first met Bob in the Spring of 1996.) Sometimes Dean and Glenn would visit Bob Newman at his home farm. There, they saw and became acquainted with the 1938 Farmall F-20 bearing Serial No. 127631. The tractor became known as the “Newman F-20.”
In 1962, Wendel and Vandy Newman retired from farming and had an auction of all their farm machinery, including No. 127631. They kept only their Farmall M when they moved from the farm into the town of Dexter. The Westfall family would occasionally notice that the Newman F-20 was still being used by another farmer in the neighborhood.
In December of 1968, the Westfall family, now consisting of eight children, moved from the Olson farm and purchased their own farm east of Dexter. Leisha Ann had been born on November 8, 1960, and Roberta Dee had been born on March 19, 1967. It was good to have their own farm, but there was a whole new group of responsibilities that came with that. First, one had to find and purchase machinery to use on the new farm. The first few years in establishing any new farm are usually the most difficult. However, in the early 1970s, the Westfall family received some help from a favorable farm economy. In December 1970, at the Baltic Sea port of Gdansk, Poland, a chain of events was set in motion which would result in higher prices for United States farm commodities on the world market.
In response to a pre-Christmas announcement of higher food prices in Poland, rioting broke out which would eventually lead to the first Solidarity strike in December of 1970. At first, there was a fear that the strike would be put down by troops from the Soviet Union, as had happened in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. However, world opinion was strong enough to encourage negotiations. These negotiations resulted in a change of government in Poland and a rollback of the increased food prices, with the Soviet Union guarantying the lower food prices in Poland. This meant that the Soviet Union would have to obtain much more grain to cover their own needs and to cover the needs of Poland as well. It was obvious that the Soviet Union was going to have to enter the world grain market as a major buyer to cover their short- term needs. Furthermore, because Soviet agriculture was already beset with continuing problems trying to meet the needs of its own domestic market, it appeared that the Soviet Union would be buying grain on the world market for a long time. (Dan Morgan, Merchants of Grain [Viking Press, New York 1979], pp. 193-219)
The prospect of long-term Soviet buying in the world grain market created a favorable climate for the farm prices of soybeans in the United States from 1971 through 1973. According to Robin Hanks, a nephew of Robert and Lorraine Westfall and also a board member of the Mower County Soybean Growers Association, the climate in the soybean market had radically changed. “It’s as if the period of time prior to 1973 was a different world,” he said. The roots of the “new world” in farm markets began with the Soviet buying in 1972. Roy Smith, a farmer who posted his memories of the farm crop markets on the Successful Farming website on May 24, 1996, stated that prior to 1972, the price of soybeans was usually $2.20 to $2.40 per bushel. Soviet buying of United States soy meal created a big demand for soybeans. The price of soybeans rose accordingly. Additionally, the impact of Soviet buying was supplemented by the wet fall of 1972, which as Roy Smith points out, “made harvest difficult and extremely late.” Soon the price of soybeans was over $4.00 per bushel. By the end of 1973, the price of soybeans was high enough to raise the average price of soybeans for the whole year to $5.68 per bushel. (U. S. Soybean Statistics located on the United Soybean Board website.) According to R.L. Kohl, writing on the Perdue University website on November 9, 1995, when all things are considered together—inflation, the exchange rate of the dollar, and changes in technology—1973 remains the year in which soybeans produced the highest income for growers. Furthermore, as 1973 ended, signs continued to be positive for 1974. However, this was only the beginning of the story.
The 1974 soybean crop began well enough, but these beginnings proved to be misleading. The summer was very wet—too wet for a successful soybean season. Furthermore, the weather remained wet throughout September and October of 1974 over most of the midwestern United States. Ironically, during those same months, the soybean crop of other areas of the United States failed because the weather conditions had been too dry. Driven by the likely prospect of an extremely poor harvest in 1974, soybean prices continued to spiral upwards from the already record highs of 1973. Roy Smith noted that even in the late spring of 1974, soybean prices had reached $10.00 per bushel. Then, over Labor Day of 1974, there was a hard frost covering much of the nation. The early frost finished off the remainder of the soybean crop of 1974. The result was a sudden upward spike in the price of soybeans which reached $13.00 a bushel. Such prices coming over the radio were hard to believe. Most farmers did not have soybeans stored up to sell at the time to take advantage of the high price. Even those farmers that did have soybeans stored, sometimes found that they were unable to sell their beans. David Preuhs of LeSueur, Minnesota, relates that, during this time, farmers found that their usual buyers were not buying soybeans. The buyers did not trust the high price and were afraid they would get caught holding the high-priced beans when the price suddenly re-adjusted itself. As time went by, the price did re-adjust itself, but soybean prices still remained high at $6.64 per bushel.
The continuing news of high prices in the soybean market led most farmers to begin to modify their crop plans to include more soybeans in their acreage for the 1975 growing season. One such farmer was Robert Westfall. In 1972, he had purchased No. 127631 – the 1938 “Newman” F-20 – to use as an “extra” tractor on the farm. Since one or more of the older Westfall children had remained on the farm, they had been able to use No. 127631 in the fields while Robert used the newer Fordson Major. When Robert Westfall purchased the “Newman” F-20, it brought back memories to the older Westfall children of the fun they had had with Bob Newman. In the intervening ten years since the Newman auction in 1962, the tractor had been overhauled, so now the tractor ran like “new.” However, the old pre-war tractor still had no electric starter or battery. Thus, it was difficult for the younger children to start the tractor. Furthermore, this particular F-20 had a tendency for the starting crank to fly off and hit the person starting the tractor in the head. Robert himself was injured in just this way. It was an injury that caused some bleeding and perhaps should have required medical attention. But, as was his manner, Robert requested only a Band-Aid be applied to the wound, and he headed off to the fields with the tractor. Robert’s younger son Steven was also struck in the head by the crank while attempting to start the F-20. His injury required stitches.
While on the Westfall farm, No. 127631 was used in seedbed preparation and in the planting of corn and soybeans. As was true on all family farms, the wife and children often helped in the fields. However, by the summer of 1975, most of the older Westfall children had left the family farm. Three of the boys – Dean William, age 27, Glenn Robert, age 25, and Wayne Ellis, age 21 – and one daughter – Marcia Mae, age 18 – were off the farm pursuing their careers. Steven Howard, age 19, was employed on a neighboring farm for the Terry family to earn money for his second year at college. Robert’s wife Lorraine was working at Libby’s Company in Rochester, Minnesota. Only daughters Diane Lorraine, age 16, Leisha Ann, age 14, and Roberta Dee, age 8, were left at home to help their father in the fields during the summer of 1975. Thus, Diane, being the oldest remaining child, was employed to drive the 1938 F-20 in the field most often that summer as the family attempted to take advantage of the high price of soybeans. The help of this farmer’s daughter was extremely timely. Robin Hanks remembers that although the spring of 1975 was very wet, the weather that followed throughout the growing season and the harvest season generally cooperated with the farmer. The family was able to deliver soybeans to the market at the end of the year while the price remained high.
Diane was once again employed in the summer of 1976 in the fields operating No. 127631. The growing season of 1976 was a normal weather season and once again allowed the family to bring the soybeans to market for a good price. In 1977, however, there was a glut of soybeans that came to market and the price declined. The productive capacities of the United States soybean farmers had caught up with the worldwide demand created by the massive Soviet purchases. Thus, soybean prices fell back to average levels where they have been since that time.
Meanwhile, the Behlen Company was also adapting with the times. Marketing and sales of the Hi-Speed Gear Box had been so successful that the Company soon found it was ordering gears from wholesalers in Chicago by the truck load. The management of the company concluded that it would be less expensive to start cutting, hardening and grinding their own gears. Thus, hobbing, grinding and heat treating equipment were all obtained and installed at the factory facilities in Columbus, Nebraska. (Walter D. Behlen, The Story of the Behlen Manufacturing Company [in a speech given at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska, on October 11, 1968.) However, production of the Hi-Speed Gear Box was destined to be a limited market. It could not have been otherwise. Sooner or later, continued upgrading of the pre-war tractors would become impossible and those tractors would be replaced on the average family farm by new tractors that would not need upgrading. However, as the Hi-Speed Gear Box faded from production at the Behlen Company, another new product for farm tractors and road graders arose—the hydraulic power steering unit. Throughout the 1950s the International Harvester Company had been locked in a struggle to remain in first place in the sales of farm equipment. Although between 1945 and 1960 sales of farm tractors in the United States had doubled and sales of combines had tripled, International Harvester had been losing its market share in the farm equipment business. (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester Company [Doubleday and Co.: Garden City, New York 1985], p. 101.) By 1958, International Harvester would be in second place behind its chief rival Deere and Company. (Ibid. p. 94.) One of the main reasons for this was that while International Harvester was dissipating its energies and resources on forays into the refrigerator and freezer market and by investing heavily in the very small tractor market – the Farmall Cub, John Deere, on the other hand, was continually improving its large tractors – its core product. In 1954, John Deere introduced power steering on its large tractors. Caught behind on this advance in technology, the International Harvester Company turned to the Behlen Manufacturing Company to design and manufacture a power steering unit specifically for its tractors.
Although the contract with International Harvester demanded a great number of the power steering units manufactured by the Behlen Company, the power steering unit was also marketed as an after-market add-on for older tractors. Nonetheless, despite the success of the power steering unit, it was the grain systems sold by Behlen Company that remained the flagship product of the Company. The Company had come a long way from the days when Walter Behlen had started manufacturing a hand husking hook in 1936. Changes in the Behlen Company’s grain systems had been required by a change in the methods of agriculture. In the period of time following the Second World War, galvanized wire corn cribs for storing ear corn had given way to grain bins for storing shelled corn. In the period of time leading up to the Soviet purchases of grain from the United States, there had been a build up of grain reserves. This build up across the nation required building storage facilities to house the nation’s reserve grain. This was a heady time for Behlen.
Meanwhile, No. 127631 had helped out a farming operation on the Westfall family farm at a crucial time. The old pre-war tractor was certainly proving to have a productive life much beyond other F-20s and, indeed, beyond that of other pre-World War II tractors made by other manufacturers. Needless to say, the upgrades that had been performed on No. 127631 over the course of its life with different owners had acted to extend the life of the productive tractor. Indeed, the tractor was to still have one additional small upgrade. An upholstered seat cushion with a back rest from a Minneapolis-Moline U or Z was installed on the tractor in place of the metal pan seat. This seat cushion was mounted on the Monroe seat support frame containing the Monroe spring and shock absorber.
Diane Westfall graduated from high school in June of 1978. By that time, she had compiled more hours on the 1938 F-20 than any other family member. The F-20 was retired to the grove on the Westfall farm in 1978 and was replaced in the farming operation by other, more modern tractors, including an Oliver 77 Row Crop.
While in high school, Diane had begun dating Rodney Chapek, a boy from a neighboring farm in the Dexter community. On occasion, when Rodney came to the Westfall farm, he would see No. 127631 sitting out in the grove. Being interested at an early age in the restoration of old farm tractors, Rodney would make sure a can was placed over the exhaust pipe and would turn the starting crank of the engine to keep the pistons of the engines from getting stuck. On May 29, 1982, Rodney and Diane were married and they moved onto their own farm in the Dexter neighborhood. They began a family of their own which eventually contained three children – Adam Lee born on June 29, 1983, Allison Nichole born on March 23, 1986, and Jacob Daniel born on October 8, 1989. As the can over the exhaust of No. 127631 rusted through, rain and snow would invade the manifold and the pistons of the engine would rust tight.
On January 13, 1992, Robert Westfall passed away. Lorraine continued to live on the Westfall farm and rented out it out until October of 1996, when she sold the farm and move into the town of Dexter. In the summer of 1994, Wayne Wells Family Farmalls contracted to buy the 1938 F-20 sitting in the grove on the Westfall farm as a restoration project. Marilyn (Mrs. Wayne) Wells is the sister of Lorraine Westfall, and in a sense, then, the tractor would stay in the family. The Wells family had restored other Farmall tractors, including a 1937 F-20 – Serial No. 71355. (It is intended that No. 71355 will be the subject of another article at a later date.) However, No 127631 is special because this 1938 F-20 would be the first tractor restored by the Wells family that had actually been used by a member of the family in farming operations.
In addition to having a stuck engine, the right rear wheel was also stuck on the F-20 and it had to be pulled up onto the trailer by use of a “come-along”, with the right rear wheel sliding all the way! A “come-along” was used to get the tractor onto the trailer which was then used to haul No. 127631 from the Westfall farm to the Wells home in LeSueur, Minnesota. Once restoration work was commenced on No. 127631 during Christmas of 1994, it was found that the right wheel was stuck because the brake shoes had become rusted tight to the drum in the right brake. (The beginning of the restoration of the No. 127631 can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape #13 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.) New brake shoes were obtained from Rice Equipment, of 20 North Sheridan Road, Clarion, Pennsylvania 16214-1216, Tel. (814) 226-9200. Overhaul of the magneto was performed by Robert Riebel of Route 2, Box 163, LeSueur, Minnesota 56058-9746, Tel. (507) 665-2868. The carburetor of No. 127631 was overhauled by Corwin (Corky) Groth of 24880 145th Ave., Eldridge, IA 52748-9622, Tel. (329) 285-7009.
New pistons and sleeves were obtained from the late Jim Ellis of Ellendale, Minnesota. (Regular readers of the Belt Pulley magazine will remember that Jim Ellis and his three-bottom McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow are mentioned at length in the article called “The M & W Company Part III (Restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M and the Jim Ellis Plow” contained in the March/April 1998 issue of Belt Pulley.) Additionally, cast iron rear wheels with 36” rims for rubber tires were purchased from Jim Ellis. When these rims were mounted with 12.4 x 36” tires with 45˚ lugs and when the rims and cast iron centers were exchanged for the cut-down steel wheels on No. 127631, the tractor took on the appearance of a tractor that had come from the factory with rubber tires.
New cylinder rings were also obtained from Rice Equipment. Overhaul of the engine was begun in the spring of 1995 at Denzer’s Valley Ag shop in LeSueur, Minnesota, and was completed in August of 1995. During the summer of 1996, No. 127631 was re-painted and properly decaled to be ready for the 1996 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show which was to host the summer convention of the Minnesota Chapter of the International Harvester Collectors Club.
Because No. 127631 was intended to be a working part of the field demonstrations at the Pioneer Power Show, it was required that the engine be able to not only run but also able of operate under a load as if the engine were new. The favorite way of placing any tractor under a load on the LeSueur Pioneer Power Grounds is to have it be a part of the plowing demonstrations. For best operation during the plowing demonstrations, each tractor needs to be paired with a plow of its own which is properly “tuned” to the particular tractor. Tuning the plow has to do with the adjustments made to the hitch of the plow to allow for straight lines, both vertically and horizontally, from the center of draft on the tractor to the center of load on the plow. (A very good visual presentation of the importance of these vertical and horizontal adjustments is contained in the 1943 movie called “Hitching and Belting Techniques” contained in John Deere Service Day Movies, available on VHS video tape [Tape No. 90-2] from the Two Cylinder Club, P.O. Box 10, Grundy Center, Iowa 50638-0010. Since the 1937 F-20 (Serial No. 71355) had already been paired with the McCormick-Deering Little Genius two-bottom plow known as the Delmar Trebesch plow, No. 127631 needed to be paired to a different Little Genius plow. (The restoration of the Delmar Trebesch plow is featured in an article called “The McCormick-Deering Little Genius” contained in the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The pistons which had been obtained from Jim Ellis and which had been installed in No. 127631 were the optional high compression style pistons. With these optional high compression pistons it was expected that No. 127631 would develop slightly more horsepower than an identical F-20 – No. 71355 – fitted with standard equipment pistons. Thus, No. 127631 could be matched with a slightly larger plow than the Delmar Trebesch pre-war plow with its 14” bottoms. As related in the article called The M & W Company (Part III), cited above, Wells Family Farmalls had purchased the Jim Ellis three-bottom Little Genius plow together with another two-bottom Little Genius plow with 16” bottoms.
This 2-16 Little Genius plow had been owned by late Jim Schaper of Bricelyn, Minnesota. Jim’s parents, Ray and Verona (Labbs) Schaper, operated a 240-acre farm near Bricelyn, Minnesota, where they raised soybeans, corn and sugar beets. The farm had no livestock, save a few chickens which were kept for the family’s own use. The Schaper family farmed with an Oliver Model 70 tractor, which he used to pull the Little Genius plow. They also had an Oliver 60 which was used predominately for cultivating soybeans, corn and sugar beets. Ray purchased both of these tractors new from the local Oliver dealership – Yaeger Implement in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Ray and Verona continued operating the farm until the 1970s, when they retired from farming. At that time, Jim Schaper took over the farming operations from his parents. By then, Jim had married Ruth Leach and together they had started a family that would eventually include five children—a daughter Trish, sons Jeff and Mike, another daughter Tami, and finally a son Bryan. Jim continued farming until 1986 when he sold out. At the 1986 auction, the two-bottom Little Genius plow with 16” bottoms was purchased by Jim Ellis. Held back from the auction were the Oliver 60 and the Oliver 70. Jim intended to restore the Oliver 70 and had actually begun the restoration when he suddenly died of a heart attack on July 19, 1999. Currently, Ruth continues to live on the home farm where the family still has the two Oliver tractors that had first been purchased by Ray Schaper. Jim Schaper’s sons have pledged to complete the restoration of the Oliver 70 which was begun by their father.
Meanwhile, the Jim Schaper McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow was purchased from Jim Ellis by Wells Family Farmalls in April of 1995. The 2-16 Jim Schaper plow was purchased together with the 3-16 Jim Ellis plow for the purpose of exchanging the front wheels of the two plows. The three-bottom Jim Ellis Little Genius plow was actually a steel-wheeled pre-war plow. However, the round-spoke-type front wheels had been cut down to be fitted with 15” rims for rubber tires. The Jim Schaper plow, on the other hand, was an authentic post-war plow with disc-type front wheels mounted with 6.00 by 16” tires. Exchanging the front wheels of these two plows would allow the Jim Ellis plow to take on the appearance of a post-war plow. As noted in the article cited above, this would allow the Jim Ellis plow to be properly paired with the 1953 Clark-Christenson Farmall Model Super M. At the same time, the exchange would allow the Jim Schaper plow to take on the appearance of a pre-war plow and could be properly paired with the No. 127631.
Accordingly, the hitch of the Jim Schaper plow was adjusted to function most effectively with No. 127631. The LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association has a permanent registration in which permanent exhibits are entered into a database on a computer. At the parade occurring each day of the annual show, a copy of the entire computer registration record is made available to the announcer. In this way, all pertinent information is at the fingertips of the announcer as he announces the exhibits in the parade. The computer database also has a comments section which may be used for any additional information about the tractor. In the case of No. 127631, the comment section is used to explain that the plow being pulled by No. 127631 is the Jim Schaper plow.
International Harvester built its F-20s to be rugged tractors which would serve their owners for a long time. However, no one expected that No. 127631 – the Newman-Westfall tractor – would have quite as long a productive life as has occurred. Contributing to the long productive life of the Newman-Westfall tractor was the unique combination of optional equipment ordered for the tractor when new and the after-market improvements made to the tractor after its original purchase. Significant among these after-market improvements was the installation of the Behlen Hi-Speed Gear Box. Consequently, the restored Newman-Westfall tractor, as a permanent exhibit at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association’s annual show, not only stirs memories among the descendents of the owners of the tractor but also serves as an example of the contribution made by the Behlen Manufacturing Company towards mechanical farming.