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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.
It 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.
Of course, these days, the high prices for corn, or any farm product, was a relative term. Usually, when the price of corn fell, our Stockholm Township farmer would recoup his profits when he sold the feeder pigs which had eaten the corn. It was unusual that both corn and hog prices would fall at the same time. However, in the recent economic crisis, not only had corn and hog prices fallen at the same time, but they both had fallen to record lows. Simple belt tightening had not solved the problems of this crisis. There had been some real suffering in recent years by himself and his neighbors. There seemed to be no answer to the economic problems. His family could do nothing but just weather the storm. Only within the last year or so, since 1934, had things returned to a rough sort of normality.
The corn harvest of 1935 had been a real success. In Wright County the average yield of corn was 38 bushels per acre. This yield ranked with the “good years” of 1921, 1925 and 1932, when the yields had been 42, 39 and 38 bushels per acre, respectively. Nationwide, the yield of corn was never as high as it was in Wright County. However, in 1935, the national corn yield of 24 bushels per acre which represented a bumper crop nationwide. Our Stockholm Township farmer knew that a bumper crop would mean a lowering of the price of corn.
Our Stockholm Township farmer had shucked his corn by hand. Tossing the ears into a wagon and leaving the stalks in the field. Hand shucking was a slow and laborious task whether it was done in the fields or if the corn was brought to the yard in the form of bundles. He really needed some way to save time during the ripe corn harvest. He had been thinking of getting a farm tractor. When he did, he felt that he should also get a corn picker also. Mechanical picking of all his corn would save days of weeks of labor in the field. However, if he were picking all his corn, he would need additional storage space for all the ear corn. Toward this end, he had been planning to build another short corn crib beside the granary.
A farm tractor would not only provide a source of power for the heavy field work, but would supply mechanical power to the belt which would allow him to start grinding his feed for the pigs. Currently, our Stockholm Township farmer was feeding the pigs shelled corn. He knew that grinding the feed for the pigs would allow the pigs to digest the feed more efficiently. Thus, the feeder pigs would gain weight at a faster rate on less feed. Consequently, he also felt the need for new high capacity hammer mill to grind the feed for his pigs.
Thus, on one of those sunny but cold days in mid-November of 1935, our Stockholm Township farmer drove into Cokato and completed a deal to purchase a Model CC tractor from the Case dealer. Our Stockholm Township farmer was not alone in buying a Model CC. Nationwide, the J.I. Case Company sold 7,150 Model CC tractors in 1936. The model year 1936 proved to be the best year for sales of the Model CC over the entire production run of the tractor from 1929 to 1939.
The contract agreement signed by our Stockholm Township farmer included the purchase of a two-row mounted cultivator which fit the tractor. From now on he would cultivate his corn twice as fast—two rows at a time rather than the single row at a time with the horses. Also, the purchase contract included a Case Model H-series two-bottom tractor plow with 14 inch bottoms, a Case Model I-R two-row pull-type cornpicker and a Case Model G hammer mill.
December of 1935 proved to be colder than normal, but on one sunny but cold day prior to Christmas, the new tractor arrived on the farm together with the plow and the feed grinder. Our Stockholm Township farmer was so anxious to see how the new tractor worked, that he built a new shorter hitch for his old horse–drawn manure spreader and began hitching the tractor up to the manure spreader to make the daily trip to the field.
Each morning he would come out the alleyway behind the granary where he had the tractor stored. He would completely close the curtains in front of the radiator. In truth they remained closed all winter. The closed curtains allowed the water in the radiator heat up to the optimal temperature of 190°F. This was the optimal temperature for operating the tractor on kerosene. Before cranking the tractor to start the engine, our Stockholm Township farmer opened the little drain valve at the bottom of the carburetor and let all the kerosene out of the fuel bowl of the updraft style Zenith Model 124½ carburetor with an l ¼ inch opening into the intake manifold. Then he closed the drain valve and switched the fuel valve to allow gasoline to flow down through the fuel line to the carburetor from the two (2) gallon gasoline tank rather than the 18 gallon kerosene tank. Next he moved the “damper” lever, located on the left side of the gas tank in front of the operator’s seat, to the “C” position. This would allow the exhaust fumes to go straight out the exhaust pipe rather than being diverted to the cast iron chamber that surrounded the intake manifold. Then he reached over to the left side of the gas tank in front of the operator’s seat to twist the magneto spark advance lever clockwise to a position just short of the vertical or “grounded” position. He, then, set the throttle control to the half-way position. Moving to the front of the tractor he pulled the choke control on the side of the radiator to the full choke setting and pulled the radiator shutter all the way up, to restrict all air flow through the radiator. He, then, positioned the starting crank in the low end of its cycle and pushed the crank in to engage the claw in the crankshaft pulley. Then he grabbed the end of the crank with his hand, making sure that his thumb was located on the same side of the crank as were all the fingers. He pulled up on the crank and spun the engine. He knew from his own experience with his truck and an old hand-started car that a person could break or otherwise injure a wrist, hand or thumb, if the engine backfired. On a cold morning like this morning, the chances of backfire were increased.
Because the tractor was very new, only “two ups” with the crank were needed to start the engine. The engine came to life with “sputtering” and “coughing.” Our Stockholm Township farmer slowly pushed the choke control back from the full choke position to the half choke position until the engine ran a little smoother. Then he moved around to the operators seat and twisted the magneto spark advance lever counter clockwise to the “full advance” position. He allowed the engine to warm up before pushing the choke control all the way in to the full open position. Then, he crawled up into the operator’s seat and grabbed the gear shift lever, shifted the transmission into reverse, released the hand brake, and slowly pulled the clutch lever backwards to engage the clutch. The tractor slowly backed out of the alleyway of his granary/corncrib complex. He drove the tractor across the yard and hitched the manure spreader to the drawbar and pulled the manure spreader through the gate to the cow yard. He made sure that he did not leave the gate to the cow yard open too long. Our Stockholm Township farmer knew that even on a cold morning like this, some of the Holstein heifers and pregnant cows in the cow yard were watching closely for a chance to “escape” the cow yard. He closed the gate and drove the tractor up close to the north side of the barn. He parked the manure spreader under the end of the track for the litter carrier that protruded about ten feet outside the large roller doors that opened from the alleyway of the barn out into the cow yard. Turning the tractor off, he went inside the barn and loaded the bucket of the litter carrier with the manure in the cement gutters of the barn.
He rolled the litter carrier down the alleyway of the barn and out the large roller doors of the barn. When the litter carrier was directly over the manure spreader, he tripped the latch and tipped the bucket of the litter carrier over and dumped the contents into the manure spreader.
When the barn was clean of all the manure, our Stockholm Township farmer started the tractor again and headed out the gate on the opposite side of the cow yard which headed for the fields. It was winter time and now that all the crops were finally harvested, the gates to all the fields were open. The cows had been having access to all the fields so that they might forage at will in any of the fields. He drove down the fenced lane to the field on the far end of the farm. This field had been planted to corn last summer. According, to his crop rotation plan, he would be planting oats and summer wheat in this field this coming April. He would need to plant 20 acres of the 30 acres in this field to oats, in order to have enough oats to feed the livestock all year. Over on the side of the field, he would plant his summer wheat. Currently, the field was only partially plowed. Winter weather had set in rather early and unexpectedly this last fall. Consequently, this is the first field where he would be trying out his new tractor and plow. According to his crop rotation plan, last year’s oat and wheat field would become the new hay field and last years pasture would have to be plowed to be planted into corn.
It was a rough ride to the field with the spades on the steel wheels at the rear of the tractor rolling along over the frozen ground. Although in third gear, the tractor moved along at 5.14 mph (miles per hour), our Stockholm Township farmer found that this speed was too fast and too rough on the frozen ground. He chose second gear which moved the tractor along at 3.72 mph. Just as he reached the entrance to the field, he stopped the tractor and dismounted. Walking around to the front of the tractor, he reached in and felt the cast iron at the lower front end of the engine block near the water inlet hose leading from the radiator into the engine. When this area of the engine block became warm to the touch, our Stockholm Township farmer knew that the engine was about 200°F which was hot enough to switch from expensive gasoline to the cheaper kerosene to fuel the engine. On the Model CC, a tractor with no temperature gage, this was the method recommended in the Operator’s Manual of determining when the engine reached 200°F. Climbing back up onto the seat, he reached forward and twisted the fuel valve, located on the left side of fuel tank to switch from gasoline to kerosene. Then he twisted the damper control lever to the “H” or hot position. This diverted the hot exhaust gases to the cast iron housing surrounding the intake manifold. In this way, the exhaust fumes would heat the kerosene and air mixture passing through the intake manifold to the cylinders. Properly heated the kerosene would burn completely when ignited by the spark plug in the cylinder. Thus, the engine would get the most horsepower possible from the kerosene.
These daily trips to the field were just the type of light duty work that was suggested by the operator’s manual for the Model CC during its first 50 hours of service. This was the “break in” period for the new tractor. Our Stockholm Township farmer felt he would have the engine well “broken in” by the time the tractor was to start plowing in the spring. His wife teased him that he was having so much fun finding jobs for the tractor, that the barn and hog house had never been so clean as now! His wife might well poke fun at his attempts to use the tractor for every activity on the farm, but there was no dispute that he was beginning to appreciate the fact that he did not have to harness up the horses just to accomplish these small light duty tasks. These wintertime daily chores were being handled with much less trouble than in the past. He began to wonder if the tractor was not already beginning to pay for itself by allowing him to complete even these winter time chores quicker and easier. He then had time to spend on other jobs around the farm. Perhaps the tractor was saving money even before the field work began.
One of the pleasant surprises that he discovered about the Model CC was the noticeable cushioning of the “shocks,” jars and jerking of the steering wheel as the steel wheels on the front of the tractor negotiated the frozen ruts and bumps in the lane on the way to the field. This improvement in steering comfort was thanks in large part to the “chicken’s roost” steering bar, or “drag link” located on the left side of the tractor. This chicken’s roost style steering drag link became the trademark of steering systems on all Case row-crop tricycle-style tractors until 1955. Originally, the steering system on the Model CC contained two separate gear components. The first component contained a worm gear arrangement enclosed in a housing located on top of the transmission just under the fuel tank ahead of the drivers seat. The second gear component was not enclosed in a housing, but rather was an “open” gear arrangement attached to the top of the steering standard for front wheels of the Model CC located ahead of the radiator. However, newer Model CC tractors, (like our Stockholm Township farmer’s tractor) were simplified by eliminating the front end open gear component. Nonetheless, the chicken’s roost remained, and the result was greater operator steering comfort while operating the tractor on frozen ground.
Hard frozen ground, became the trademark of the winter of 1935-1936. The last part of December of 1935 was unseasonably cold. However this was nothing compared to January and February of 1936 when the temperature dropped below zero and stayed there for a month and a half. One night the temperature dipped to -34°F below zero. With the coming of the new year, there was already three (3) inches of snow covering the ground. However all through January and February much more snow fell and the cold temperatures did not let any of the snow melt. Thus, the snow accumulated until, by March 1, 1936 there was 16 inches of snow on the ground. Our Stockholm Township farmer shoveled pathways across the yard just to get to the barn, the granary, the hog house and the chicken house just to keep up with the daily chores.
As a result of the harsh winter, spring came late in 1936. The spring field work was delayed, first because of the cold, then because of the wet ground due to all the melting snow. It was late in April before our Stockholm Township farmer could get into the fields. He took the tractor and the two-bottom plow to the field on the far end of the farm where he picked up with the plowing where he left off the previous fall. He was again pleasantly surprised to notice how quickly he was able to finish the plowing in that field. Next he was able to move on to plowing the sod on the old pasture. In May, the weather warmed up so much that it was like summer had occurred over night. There were frequent gentle rains in the spring, but no huge drenching storms—nothing that prevented the kept field work from moving ahead in a timely fashion.
There was a nice 1 ¼ inch rain in the second half of May followed by another one (1) inch rain in early June and another ½ inch rain in mid June. Our Stockholm Township farmer was able to get all the corn planted. He pulled his two-section drag over the corn field soon after planting. The corn had not yet sprouted up through surface of the ground. The soil had been crusted over by the sun following the most recent rain. Dragging the corn at this stage disturbed the top ¼ to ½ inch of soil and uprooted the little tiny weeds that were just starting to grow. Because the corn had been planted 2 inches under ground, it was completely unharmed as the drag passed over head. Our Stockholm Township farmer knew that this method of catching the weeds very early with the drag was the cheapest, easiest and fastest cultivation of corn he would ever have during the growing season.
Now it was time to mount the two-row integral cultivator on the tractor. The rear wheels of the Model CC were positioned 48 inches apart. This was a very narrow arrangement, but suited the tractor to the spring time tasks of plowing and seed bed preparation. However, for cultivation of the corn the rear wheels needed to be set out to a distance of about 80 inches so the tractor could straddle two rows of corn planted in 40 inches rows. Accordingly, the J.I. Case Company shipped 10” and/or 12” rear axle extension hubs with every Model CC tractor which was sold together with a two-row integral mounted cultivator. Our Stockholm Township farmer now set about installing the hub extensions or “spools” on both sides of the rear axle in preparation for mounting the integral cultivator. He blocked the rear and front wheels of the tractor, then he loosened the six (6) bolts and nuts that secured the rear wheel to the hub. He then jacked up the rear wheel of the tractor, removed the six bolts entirely and removed the wheel. Then he bolted one of the ten inch spools to the hub before bolting the wheel back onto the spool at the end of the extended hub. By adding the 10 inch hub extensions to both sides the rear wheel spacing would be increased to 68 inches. Then by simply reversing both wheels before bolting them to the spool extensions on both sides, our Stockholm Township farmer gained another six (6) inches of wheel spacing on each side, to bring the total rear wheel spacing to 80 inches between the rear wheels. Although the rear wheels were spaced so far away from the operator, that the spades on the steel wheels posed very little threat of catching a cuff, sleeve or other piece of clothing of the operator when set out at this distance from the operator’s seat, J.I. Case Company engineers, nonetheless, took great pains to provide for the attachment of the fenders over the rear wheels at every potential rear wheel spacing. Thus, together with the hub extensions, the Case Company shipped extensions for the front brace to which the fender was ordinarily attached. Instructions on the correct mounting of these extensions and the attachment of the fenders to the extensions are included in the portion of the Operator’s Manual for the Model CC which deals with the mounting of the cultivator.
Mounting the cultivator was not the simplest procedure, but once all various parts of the cultivator were secured in place, our Stockholm Township farmer was able to start for the corn field. Starting the Model CC and driving through the gate of the cow yard, then dismounting and closing the gate to the cow yard behind him then doing the same with the gate at the entrance to the corn field gave our Stockholm Township farmer multiple opportunities to pass the radiator at the front end of the tractor. As he did so kept feeling the engine block to check the temperature of the engine. In the warm summer air the engine was hot in no time at all. He switch over to using kerosene and switched the damper control to the “H” position.
First he cultivated the eight (8) “end rows” which were planted crosswise across this end of the field. After doing so, he pulled up to the first two rows of corn planted “length-wise” across the field. Unlike the end rows, in which the corn had been “drilled” when planted. The long rows had been “wire check” planted. Wire check planting was the process by which a long wire along which wire knots, or “buttons,” had been affixed every 40 inches, was stretched across the entire length of the field. The wire was then attached to a tripping appartatus on the side of the corn planter. As the wire passed through the mechanism, every button would cause both planting units on the two-row planter to trip and release three or four seeds into the ground. Thus, not only were the rows of corn planted in rows 40 inches apart, but the “hills” of corn within the rows were also 40 inches apart. This allowed for the corn to be “cross cultivated.” Not only would our Stockholm Township farmer get all the weeds between the rows, but cross cultivating would allow him to get the weeds between the hills within the row.
Our Stockholm Township farmer lowered the cultivator with the levers located on either side of the driver’s seat on the tractor and started across the field on the first two rows of corn. He chose first gear with a speed of 2.6 mph. because any faster speed would not allow him to carefully watch the small plants passing under the cultivator on both sides of the tractor. There was a lot of activity to watch with the new two-row as compared with the old horse-drawn single row cultivator. The young four (4) inch plants of corn passed in a continuous stream under the cultivator and between the shields attached to the cultivator. These shields were attached for this first time cultivation of the corn only. The shields prevented any large clods of dirt stirred up by the shovels from rolling over and covering the young plants of corn. Later, when the corn was a little older, he would remove the shields from the cultivator and he would be able to shift into second gear to cover the ground a little more quickly.
This morning he had begun cultivating just after completing the morning milking chores. Even then it was warm enough that he had the radiator curtains covering only a very little of the radiator in order to keep the tractor operating at its most efficient level on kerosene. Now as the sun moved directly overhead, he opened the curtains all the way. As he moved across the field, he occasionally stole a glance to the side, hoping to see a nice straight cross row every time. Now that the corn was up he wanted to see how good a job of wire checking he had done with his planter earlier that spring. By and large he was not disappointed. The cross check was pretty accurate.
Cultivating two rows at a time, our Stockholm Township farmer certainly noticed the difference in the amount of cultivating he was able to complete in just one single morning. It was more than twice as much ground covered as compared with the single row cultivator and the horses. There was no pausing at the end of the rows to let the horses rest. Our Stockholm township farmer was also pleased that the corn was growing so well. It looked as though it would be “knee high by the fourth of July” which was the old standard by which to measure a good year. However, he certainly did not expect that, as the sun came out again following the ½ inch rain that fell in mid June, that this particular rain was to be the last rain that his crop would see for two months. In July the weather turned exceedingly hot with many days above, 100°F. Thus 1936 became the year that not only saw record cold temperatures but also was the year in which there were record hot temperatures. Showing signs of distress, the leaves of the individual corn plants rolled up into “spikes” in an attempt to retain moisture within the plant. It was no use however, as the blazing sun and exceedingly hot temperatures wilted the corn and caused it to shrivel.
If he had been forced to work with the with horses in 1936, our Stockholm Township farmer knew he would never have been able to complete all his field work. To work horses in temperatures such as these, would invite sunstroke and, surely, kill the horses. However, with the Model CC he was able to keep on working right through the hottest part of every day. There certainly was no need for radiator curtains now! Indeed, as he cultivated along burning cheap kerosene, his only worry was make sure the engine did not overheat. He merely checked the water level in the radiator twice a day and made sure the copper “honey-comb” front of the radiator remained free of dust and obstructions.
Oats and summer wheat are both more able to withstand dry weather than corn. However, the year was so incredibly dry that even the yield of wheat on the farm of our Stockholm Township farmer and his neighbors in Wright County was reduced by more than 20% to only 14.1 bushels per acre. The drought was nationwide in effect. Indeed following the record dry year of 1934, these years were being called the “dust bowl” years. Our Stockholm Township farmer heard on the WCCO radio station out of Minneapolis that the yield per acre of oats was down by 14% nationwide and wheat yield was down by 9% to 12.8 bushels per acre because of the dry season. The only positive side to the reduced wheat crop was that the price of wheat rose. Already in July of 1936 the market was anticipating the poor harvest and wheat prices averaged $1.06 per bushel. Just at the time that wheat should have been starting the annual downward cycle, the price rose in August to $1.15 as a month average, and the price kept on rising, $1.16 in September when our Stockholm Township farmer sold his wheat. The prices reached $1.18 in October, $1.20 in November, $1.35 in December, $1.37 in January of 1937, $1.38 in February and finally peaked at $1.42 per bushel in March of 1937.
Because of the lack of any rain, our Stockholm Township farmer was able to get all the cultivation, cross-cultivation and re-cultivation of his corn completed along with putting up all of his wheat and oats and serving his time on the threshing crew as the thresher made its way around the neighborhood. At last, the rains returned with a nice ½ inch rain in mid-August and two more—a 1 ½ inch rain and a 1 ¼ inch rain—in the second half of August. The corn was too mature to really benefit from these late season rains. Yet when our Stockholm Township farmer headed to the corn field again with his tractor and new Model I-R cornpicker he was to find that the corn crop was yielding only 23 bushels per acre—down by 26% from an average Wright County year. Still the crop could have been worse—the yield in Wright County just two years prior in 1934 had been only 14 bushels per acre, only 45 % of the 30.9 bushels of a normal year in Wright County.
The Case Model I was a two-row corn picker that had been introduced by the J.I. Case Company to the farming public only the year before, in 1935. While the Model I had no husking bed, the Model I-R was an identical picker, but was fitted with an eight-roll husking bed. The husking bed consisted of alternating rubber and iron rollers which removed a great deal of the husks from the ears that passed through the picker on the way toward wagon elevator. Our Stockholm Township farmer was aware that he needed the husk content of the ears in his corn cribs to be less than four (4) percent, in order to have adequate drying of the corn without mold or mildew forming in the corn. This was the reason, why he had spent the extra money for the Model I-R as opposed to purchasing the cheaper Model I corn picker. The Case Company advertised that operating expenses, while using the Model I corn picker would be only 1¢ per bushel. Testimonials from other farmers referred to an actual reduction of operating expenses from 33% up to 50% by using the Case Model I cornpicker over other “alternative” methods of harvesting ripe corn. This meant that the picker would save money in pure operating expenses even over hitching up the horses and going to the corn field to hand husk the entire corn crop. This was because of the weeks of time the hand husking took as opposed to the three days he had just spent accomplishing the same task. Mechanical picking of corn could result in 250 ears of corn in the wagon every minute as opposed to 15 ears every minute hand husking. Our Stockholm Township picked all the corn on his farm in just three days with the Model I-R picker. This was staggering when compared with the weeks or months our Stockholm Township farmer had spent in the corn field in past years, picking the corn by hand.
Our Stockholm Township farmer used his grain elevator to fill the corn cribs on his farm. He backed the elevator up until the top of the elevator poked through the opened window of the coupola located on the crown of the roof that extended over the short corn crib which was attached to the granary. Then he crawled up into the space over the alleyway between the crib and the granary. This space had been floored and had been made into bins for the storage of grain. He attached the chutes to the head of the elevator so that the ear corn would be directed into the crib rather than deposited on the floor of the bins over the alleyway.
He wanted to fill the short crib first. This was the corn that our Stockholm Township farmer would not be able to sell. It was to be the feed that he needed to fatten the feeder pigs that he would be finishing for market next year. The long corn crib would hold the rest of the corn that he harvested this year. Usually, he was able to shell all the corn in the long corn crib and sell that corn directly to the Co-operative elevator in Cokato.
Usually the long corn crib would be full of corn. However, with his corn crop reduced by 25% , he did not entirely fill the long crib this year. Nonetheless, a wall of fresh golden-colored ears of corn was visible in the cracks between the wooden boards that made up the sides of the cribs. The mass of corn in the cribs created a sweet smell that filled the autumn air around the yard of the farm. As the air dried the corn the sweet smell would fade.
This particular year, our Stockholm Township farmer felt especially fortunate to have the corn all harvested in a very timely manner. The snow started falling in the first week in December and, once again as in the previous year, the weather became very cold. If he had been attempting to pick the entire crop by hand he would never have been able to complete the harvesting before spring arrived. By the middle of December, there was 8 inches of snow on the ground. By early January of 1937 there was still 8 inches of snow on the ground. By February there was 16 inches of accumulated snow. The new tractor and cornpicker had saved our Stockholm Township farmer from all the losses that would have occurred as a result of leaving the corn in the fields all winter.
As it was during those very cold days in December the corn had been safely stored away in the cribs on his farm. The cold weather in December had been sufficient, by itself, to dry the corn in the cribs. The corn was now ready to shell. Usually, our Stockholm Township farmer employed his neighbor, who had a Minneapolis-Moline Model B-2 corn sheller, to come to his farm to shell out his corn during the winter months. However, everybody in the neighborhood also employed this particular neighbor to do the shelling on their farms also. Usually the sheller was kept pretty busy in the winter months. However, the extremely cold weather and all the snow prevented any custom shelling through out January and February in 1937. Only in mid-March did the temperatures rise enough to melt the snow.
Like his neighbors, our Stockholm Township farmer had been looking forward to selling his extra corn. Even as early as last August well before the harvest, the price of corn had risen to $1.22 per bushel as the corn market began to anticipate the poor harvest of corn. Corn had not been that high since February of 1925. As the corn came onto the market that autumn, the price went through natural decline—sliding to $1.20 in September, $1.13 in October and $1.10 in November before starting to rise again to $1.11 in December and to $1.14 and $1.13 in January and February of 1937, respectively. As warmer weather arrived in mid March and the winter snow melted, our Stockholm Township farmer had held his breath as he waited for the sheller to arrive on his farm. He thoroughly expected that the price of corn would fall from these extra-ordinarily high prices as more of his neighbors and the farmers from around the nation shelled and sold off their final supplies of corn. However, in March, 1937, the price of corn rose again—reaching a monthly average of $1.22 per bushel. The sheller was finally making progress around the neighborhood, but the weather had one more surprise in store.
One more late season snow storm occurred in the last week of March which deposited about eight inches of snow again interfered with the custom shelling. Luckily, immediately after the late season snow storm, the temperatures were so warm that all snow was soon melted. At last, the neighborhood custom sheller could get his large Model B-2 corn sheller out on the road again. Finally, on the last day of the month, Wednesday, March 31, 1937, the large corn sheller was towed into the yard of our Stockholm Township farmer by his neghbor’s new Minneapolis-Moline Model MTA tractor which was to be used to power the Model B-2 corn sheller.
Once the sheller was set up and set to running, there were by-products of the shelling process distributed in all directions from the corn sheller. A big tube was un-limbered and pointed in the general direction of the hog house. The husks from the shelling operation would be blown into a pile by the large tube. Our Stockholm Township farmer intended to use the husks as bedding for the baby pigs in the hog house. The cobs exited the corn sheller by an elevator. These corn cobs would be used as bedding for sows once the baby pigs were weaned from their mothers. Our Stockholm Township farmer used the Case Model CC tractor to position his grain wagon under the corn sheller’s grain elevator. This wagon would catch the grain as it flowed out of the grain elevator.
When the wagon was full, the shelling operation was stopped temporarily while the tractor was started and the wagon towed out of the way. Our Stockholm Township farmer’s large 1 ½ ton REO truck was then placed under the grain elevator leading from the corn sheller to collect the shelled corn. Meanwhile, the tractor and wagon was pulled over to the granary where our Stockholm Township farmer had positioned his portable farm elevator was again set up with the top end of the elevator poked through an open window in the cupola on the roof of the granary. The wagon was pulled up next to the bottom end of the farm elevator and the hopper of the farm elevator was lowered behind the wagon.
The tail gate of the wagon was loosened and the freshly shelled corn started pouring out into the hopper of the elevator. The farm elevator, powered by our Stockholm Township farmer’s old McCormick-Deering Model N single cylinder “hit and miss” engine, carried the shelled corn up the incline and through the window in the cupola where it fell into one of the grain bins that was located in the granary. Filling one of the bins in the granary with shelled corn would traditionally be enough shelled corn allow the animals on help the n was empty the tractor pulled the wagon away and the hopper of the farm elevator was raised and locked in its “up” position. To allow the REO truck to pull through position itself to empty its shelled corn into the elevator hopper.
Our Stockholm Township farmer would soon have to starting grinding the shelled corn every few days to feed the young feeder pigs. The new Model G Case hammer mill had been mounted couple of wooden skids. Thus, it could be moved around and positioned where needed. Our Stockholm Township farmer planned to position the hammer mill in the alleyway between the granary and short corn crib, directly under small trap door in the middle of bins over the alleyway. By fashioning a cloth chute made from an old feed sack and attaching the cloth chute to the frame of the little trap door, he hoped to automate the process of grinding the shelled corn. With his Model CC belted up to the hammermill and the hammermill running, he hoped to merely open the little trap door to the grain bin directly above the hammermill and allow the shelled corn to trickle the cloth chute and directly into the hopper of the hammermill. He could then concentrate his efforts on the bagging of the ground feed coming out of the hammermill. When he had enough ground feed bagged, he could merely close the trap door to turn off the supply of corn falling into the hammermill, shut down the belt power on the tractor unbelt the tractor and he would be ready until the next time he needed to grind feed.
This was his plan to automate the feeding of the pigs for next summer. Currently, the large sheller was making quick work of the corn contained in the short corn crib. Soon all the corn in the short corn crib had been shelled and the large sheller was moved to the long corn crib. At last they were shelling the corn that our Stockholm Township farmer would sell immediately. A borrowed Dodge truck that belonged to a neighbor arrived on the farm and was positioned under the shelled corn elevator. When this truck was full of shelled corn and the sheller was shut down to switch trucks, the Dodge was driven straight out of the driveway of the farm and up onto the county road headed to the elevator in Cokato.
Our Stockholm Township farmer learned that the elevator in Cokato was offering $1.37 a bushel for corn. Indeed, the monthly average price for the whole month of April would be $1.37 a bushel—a price not seen since September of 1920. Luckily, our Stockholm Township farmer had not lost anything by having to wait to have his corn shelled. Indeed, the wait had actually resulted in a higher price. The quantity of his corn harvest had been greatly reduced because of the drought. However, that corn he was able to get to market was fetching a very good price. He used a good share of the money received from the corn to pay on the new machinery he had purchased.
By his own figuring, the purchase of the Case Model CC tractor had been a very worthwhile investment. He had been able to get all of his field work completed in 1936 despite the intense heat of the summer. He had not lost any horses due to the intense heat of the past summer. The cultivation had been completed two-rows at a time for the first time in his farming operation. Timely cultivation had eliminated most of the weeds from the cornfield. Thus, what little moisture there was in the soil in 1936 was preserved for the corn. Very few weeds were allowed to compete with the corn in his corn field because the Case Model CC kept cultivating all summer despite the killing heat.
The Model CC tractor and the Model I-R two-row corn picker had allowed the entire ripe corn crop to be harvested very fast. Had our Stockholm Township farmer tried to pick the corn by hand as in past, he would not have gotten the whole crop out of the field. The corn would have become “lodged” by all the snow received in the winter—the winter of 1936-37. Further losses, of what little amount of mature corn there was because of the drought, would have been inevitable. By quickly, harvesting all of the crop in 1936, the tractor and corn picker had provided the difference between a loss and a profit in this bad harvest year by saving nearly every ear of corn from that bad harvest.
His only regret was that he did not have more corn to sell. However, his sows had just farrowed in February and the baby pigs would soon be weaned from their mothers and would then being to begin eating feed and then more feed and then still more ground feed until they were ready to be sold to market in August. He would need all the rest of his corn crop which was now shelled and stored over the alleyways in the newly renovated corn crib. The pigs would grow up soon over the summer and would soon be ready to sell. The fast growth rate of pigs made pig operations on diversified farms become known at “mortgage lifters.”
Our Stockholm Township farmer bolted a pair of long skids on the bottom the new Model G feed grinder. He then staked the feed grinder in a location just outside the makeshift crib he had made from the snow fence.
He would open the small door in the floor of the overhead bin in the alleyway between the small corn crib and the granary and let the shelled corn trickle down from the door through a makeshift chute made from an old feed sack with the bottom cut open. This makeshift chute kept most of the corn aimed toward feeder of the hammermill rather than spreading all over the floor of the alleyway.
He then belted the tractor to the new feed grinder and proceeded to grind up as much of the corn in the snow fence crib as he could. The Model G feed grinder was fitted with a “whirl-wind” dust collector and bagging attachment. Two burlap bags were hooked on either side of a “Y” shaped spout from which the finished ground feed flowed. A lever attached to a valve inside the “Y” could be positioned so that the ground feed would flow down one left or the other.
When the sack fixed to one leg was full of feed, our Stockholm Township farmer needdd move the lever to allow the ground feed to flow down the other leg of the Y and to start filling the second sack. While the second sack was filling, he would remove the full sack and place it aside and attach another empty bag to the leg of the Y where the full sack had just been located.
The Model CC was used by our Stockholm Township farmer through out the Second World War. However, at the end of the war the old steel-wheeled tractor was considerably outdated by the newer faster and more powerful tractors that were being introduced. Attempts were made to upgrade the old Model CC for productive use in the post-war ear. The steel rims of the front and rear wheels of the tractor were cut off by Virgil Johnson, the blacksmith in Cokato. Then rims for the mounting of rubber tires were welded to the wheel centers. However, even with pneumatic rubber tires, the old tractor still was not an effective tractor to serve as the sole power source on a modern post-war farm. Accordingly, the old CC was traded in at the local Case dealership, by our Stockholm Township farmer, on the purchase of a new tractor. In 1990, the tractor was still running when it was offered for sale and purchased by Gordie Hahn.
Gordon Hahn was a collector and restorer of old farm tractors who had retired from farming and was living in the town of LeSueur Minnesota. He had retired from the farming operation originally purchased by his parents, Herman and Melvina (Bennett) Hahn.
Herman’s parents, John Frederick and Margaret Maria (Spreigel) Hahn were both born in Bavaria Germany, Just before immigrating to the United States John Frederick and Margaret Spreigel were married in Bavaria in 1883. Upon landing in Canada in the new world they immediately moved to Minnesota and settled on a 40 acre farm in Section 29 of Lake Prairie Township in Nicollet County, Minnesota. On this farm, their first-born child, John G. was born. A second son, Fred, was born and on July 12, 1886 a third son, Herman John Hahn, was born. This proved to be only the beginning, as six more sons and one daughter, were born to the family.
Herman Hahn grew up on the farm in Lake Prairie Township and eventually married a local girl, Melvina M aria Bennett, who was the daughter of a neighboring Lake Prairie Township family. Shortly after their marriage in 1916, Herman and Melvina moved to Minnesota and purchased a 180 acre farm in Lake Prairie Township, Nicollet County, Minnesota. Together Herman and Melvina raised wheat as a cash crop, corn as both a cash crop and feed for the pigs, oats and alfalfa hay for the horses and dairy herd. They also raised a few chickens for eggs and meat for use by the family. In 1921, their son and only child, Gordon S. Hahn, was born. The first tractor on the Hahn farm was a Ford Fordson Model N tractor. Herman purchased this tractor from the Weiland Ford Dealership in LeSueur.
The Fordson Model MOM had first been introduced in October of 1917. When the Fordson went into mass production in January of 1918, the tractor was designated as the Model F. When the Model F Fordson was tested at the University of Nebraska on June , 1920, the tests revealed that, using kerosene, the Hercules engine in the tractor could develop a maximum drawbar horsepower (hp.) of 9.34 hp. and develop 19.15 hp. at the belt pulley. In February of 1921, Ford started fitting the Fordson with a Ford-built engine. Tests of this later version of the Model F conducted in Nebraska on June , 1926, disclosed that while burning, a maximum 12.32 hp at the drawbar and 22.28 at the belt pulley could be obtained. However, in everyday use, the Fordson was found to have a disturbing and dangerous problem. There was a strong tendency when the tractor was engaged in hard pulling, for the front end of the tractor would rise up off the ground. Sometimes this tendency resulted in the tractor overtuning completely, pinning the driver between the tractor and the implement. To solve this tendency Ford engineers redesigned the Fordson with long fenders supported by a heavy framework behind the rear wheels. If the front end of the tractor ever started to rise up, this fender framework would strike the ground and prevent the tractor from overturning. In 1929, all production of the Fordson tractor was moved from United States to Cork, Ireland. At the same time, the Fordson was again upgraded with a number of changes. This new “improved Fordson” was designated as the Model N Fordson. Although produced in Ireland many of the Fordsons were imported into the United States. Even as late as 1939, 3,000
Fordsons were still being imported annually into the United States. However, in 1939, Ford introduced the new Model 9N tractor with the Ferguson 3-point hitching system which was produced in the Ford,s Rouge Plant near Detroit. Although the Fordosn continued to be produced in Ireland until 1945, importation of the Fordson to the United States dwindled down to nothing following 1939.
It was one of these imported Model N Fordson tractors that Herman Hahn used on his farm. However, popular as it was, the Ford Model 9N was not a tricycle style designed tractor with a narrow front end. To meet the growing demand for tricycle style row crop tractors, the Weiland Ford Dealership in LeSueur obtained an additional franchise from the J.I. Case Company to sell the new “flambeau red” model tractors that Case introduced in 1939. Visiting the Weiland Dealership, Herman became convinced that the Case Model SC two-plow tractor would eliminate the as that the , like so many other farmers, found that the new row crop tractor totally eliminated the need for slow animal power on the farm even for the tasks of cultivating corn and other row crops. Herman was fortunate in getting his new tractor when he did. In another year, the United States was involved in the Second World War and the government restrictions placed on the economy prevented nearly all farmers from obtaining any new farm machinery.
Following the end of the Second World War, there was a generation change on the Hahn farm in Lake Prairie Township in Nicollet County, just as there was on so many other farms in the United States. Young Gordon grew up and met and on January 18, 1944 married Evelyn Hornaman. Together Gordon and Evelyn took over the farming operations on the farm from Gordie’s parents. On January 15, 1945 a son, Jim, was born to Gordie and Evelyn. Some time later, on October 21, 1955, their other son, Danny, was born. In the post-war era, changing economic conditions in the agricultural sector of the economy of the United States meant that farmers in the modern post-war era needed to “get big” in their farming operations or get out of farming all together. Consequently, in 1950, Gordon traded the old 1941, Model SC Case into his local Case dealership on the purchase of the newer and larger 3-plow Model DC Case tractor bearing the serial number 5316977. Later in the 1950s, Gordon purchased another 40 acres to add to his farming operation bringing the total size of the farm to 220 acres.
Gordon continued farming with No. 5316977 until 1974. Although he and Evelyn continued to live on the farmstead they rented out the land. In 1978, the Gordon, Evelyn and young Danny all moved to the town of LeSueur where they purchased a home at 246 So. Elmwood Avenue. In 1982, their son, Danny, built a new house on the home farm and moved back out to the farmstead in Lake Prairie township. In retirement, Gordon became interested in the restoration of old farm machinery and joined the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association. Number 5316977 which Gordie used on the farm has been restored and remains on the home farm where it was used during all of its life. As noted above, Gordon purchased the Model CC tractor from a collector in Cokato, Minnesota. The tractor was exhibited for the first time at the annual show of the Pioneer Power Association in August of 1991, the very year that the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association hosted the summer convention of the J.I. Case Collectors Association. The Model CC was also exhibited at the Show the following year in 1992.
Sometime in 2001, the Model CC was sold at a consignment auction in New Prague. Thus, the old tractor was passed on to another collector and no doubt will continue to remind people row crop farming as it was conducted in the era just prior to the Second World War.