Raising Poland China Hogs (Part II): The 1936 Farmall Model F-30
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.
In 1931, the year that the F-30 was introduced, 2,461 F-30s were built and sold. At this time, the United States economy was in the second year of the worst economic crisis in the history of the nation. Indeed, the darkest period of the depression for the agricultural sector of the economy occurred during 1932 and early 1933. Consequently, only 1,341 F-30s were manufactured during 1932—the first full year of production of the F-30. Production of the F-30, in the next year, 1933, rose only a little to 1,760 tractors because of the continuing effects of the economic depression. Even though the economy started to recover in 1934, production of the large F-30 fell again to only 1,296 tractors. However, during 1935, production of the F-30 picked up briskly. By the time of the 1935 Minnesota State Fair, International Harvester’s Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois had already turned out over 2,500 Model F-30 tractors. By year’s end, 4,832 Farmall F-30s would be built and sold during the calendar year of 1935.
Following the introduction of the F-30 in 1931, International Harvester introduced two additional Farmall models in 1932—the small Model F-12 tractor and the Model F-20 tractor. The new F-20 was a replacement for pre-1932 Farmall tractor. Significant improvements were incorporated in the new F-20 which were not present in the pre-1932 Farmall. For example, the new F-20 tractor delivered 10% more horsepower at the belt and the drawbar than did the old original Farmall and the F-20 had a four-speed transmission as compared to the three-speed transmission of the original pre-1932 Farmall. To clearly distinguish between the new F-20 and the old original Farmall, people began to call the pre-1932 Farmall tractor, the “Regular.” This unofficial designation has continued to the present day.
Accordingly, the 1935 State Fair, last August, had been the first real opportunity for our Byron Township Farmer to serious look at the F-30 tractor. The International Harvester exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair consisted of a large circus tent. A bed of sawdust had been laid down as a floor inside the tent. Tractors, plows, grain drills and corn binders were on display all around the site, outside as well as inside the tent. However, what caught the eye of our Byron Township farmer was the Model F-30 tractor which was parked just outside the one of the entrances to the large tent. This F-30 was fitted with a four-row Model 407-A mounted cultivator. Although a four-row cultivator, the Model 407-A remained a “steerable” cultivator just like the two Model 401 two-row cultivators that he and his father already had at home in Waseca County. (As noted previously, the Model 401 cultivator was re-designated as the Model 201 cultivator, to reflect the fact that the cultivator is actually a two-row cultivator and not a four-row cultivator.) Our Byron Township farmer could see that the Model 407-A cultivator shared many of the same identical parts as the two-row cultivators he already had on his farm.
During the production run of the new line of Farmall tractors, design improvements continued to be made to the tractors. One of the most important of these design improvements occurred in late 1934, with the F-30 bearing the serial number 7032. Starting with No. 7032, every subsequent F-30 produced by International Harvester, was fitted with a new worm-gear type of steering, instead of the old enclosed bevel gear and sector plate type of steering that had been present on all previous F-30 tractors. Our Byron Township farmer recognized that this bevel and sector plate type of steering was like the steering found on both his and his father’s 1928 Farmall Regulars with which he already familiar.
However, the bevel and sector plate steering found on the F-30 was enclosed in an oil bath Our Byron Township farmer had noted, with interest, the introduction of the new worm-gear type steering. He knew, first-hand, that the worm-gear type steering represented a real improvement over the bevel-gear and sector-plate type of steering that he and his father had to contend with on their Farmall “Regulars” at home. Many times he had to struggle to maintain control of the cast-iron steering wheel when driving his Regular over rough ground.
In addition to the new type of steering, our Byron Township farmer was intrigued with the idea of cultivating four rows at a time. Inside the large International Harvester tent at the State Fair last August, he had seen a movie that showed the F-30 and the four-row cultivator at work in some rather tall corn. (This movie is called “Farming the Farmall Way” and is currently available on Disc #1 on DVD, or VHS Tape #1 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies collection.) That movie claimed that the four-row cultivator could cover from 40 to 60 acres of corn per day. Despite his skepticism about this claim, regarding the actual number of acres that would be covered by the F-30 with a four-row cultivator, our Byron Township farmer knew that, clearly, the four-row cultivator would go a long way toward fixing the largest summertime bottleneck in his farming operation—the cultivation of the large amounts of corn he raised every year. In the recent past, even with his father and the assistance of temporary hired help in the summertime, keeping both Regulars and their two-row cultivators busy all during cultivation season, he remained hard-pressed to get the corn cultivated, then cross cultivated and then cultivated again a third time before the corn became too tall for cultivating.
Ever since the State Fair, our Byron Township farmer had been seriously contemplating the purchase of an F-30 tractor and a four-row cultivator. However, there was much to consider. The suggested retail price of the basic F-30 on steel wheels, front and rear, was $1,075.00. However, our Byron Township farmer knew that the tractor would only be part of an entire package of new machinery, he would need. There was the four-row cultivator, but that, still, was not all. Switching from a two-row cultivation system to a four-row system would require the additional purchase of four-row corn planter, as well. A four-row cultivator could not be used on corn planted with a two-row corn planter.
Additionally, our Byron Township farmer was not intending to trade in either of the two Farmall Regulars on the purchase of this new farm equipment even though this might have reduced the amount of out-of-pocket cash that he would need to put down on such a large purchase. One of these Regulars actually belonged to his father and, he knew that his father would not want to give up his tractor. Consequently, our Byron Township farmer intended to keep both Regulars. The F-30 would be an addition the farming operation. Even though a four-row cultivator could not be used on corn planted with a two-row corn planter, a two-row cultivator could be used on corn planted with a four-row corn planter. Thus, both Regulars with their two-row cultivators could continue to be useful for cultivation of the corn in the new four-row operation. These were the thoughts that our Byron Township farmer was going over in his mind during that winter of 1935-1936.
Meanwhile in the afternoon of on December 10, 1935, a particular Model F-30 tractor, bearing the serial number 11772, rolled off the assembly lines at the Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois. No. 11772 was configured with steel wheels in the front and in the rear. Steel lugs for the rear wheels were shipped with the tractor, but were not, as yet, bolted onto the rims of the rear wheels. This would be done when the tractor was “prepped” at the dealership prior to delivery to the farmer/purchaser of the tractor. Thus, almost as soon as No. 11772 was driven out of the factory under its own power, the tractor was immediately assigned and shipped out to the Mankato district block house in Mankato, Minnesota (1930 pop. 14,038). A train of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad carried No. 11772, and a number of other Farmall tractors, on the trip from the factory in Rock Island to the freight depot in Mankato. Arriving in Mankato, No. 11772, along with the other Farmall tractors, were taken the International Harvester block house located at 426 North Front Street in Mankato. No. 11772, and the other tractors and farm machinery, were parked in the inventory yard in back of the block house building. There No. 11772 awaited an order coming from a local dealership within the district of southern Minnesota.
On Christmas Eve, 1935, as previously noted, “the snow storm of the century” blew up. The storm lasted for a number of days. Like his neighbors, our Byron Township farmer was snow-bound on his farm while the storm blew itself out. Only when the roads were finally cleared, did our Byron Township farmer and his wife finally get a chance to get into New Richland (1930 pop. 777) to get a few necessary supplies. It was a relatively warm day in the second week of January 1936, when the family headed down the driveway of their farm in their Model A Ford sedan and drove out on the township road headed for town. While in town, our Byron Township farmer stopped by one of the newest businesses that had been established in New Richland. This was the Tyrhom Implement dealership owned by the Tyrhom brothers–H.A. and William A. Tyrhom. This was the fourth IHC dealership that was now serving the farming public of Waseca County. (As noted in the pervious article, two of the other three IHC dealerships in Waseca County were the Malone, Bathe and Brown Implement dealership located in the city of Waseca [1930 pop. 3,054], the county seat of Waseca County and the Robert Schmidt Implement dealership located in the small village of Waldorf, Minnesota [1930 pop. 183]. A third dealership, the J. P. Breuer Dealership was located in Janesville, Minnesota in north western Waseca County.)
Being a new dealership, the Tyrhom dealership tended to carry only the tractors and farm machines that had proved to be the most popular sales items. In the years since 1931, only 9,906 Model F-30 tractors had been manufactured and sold as compared with 32,215 Farmall Model F-20 tractors and 48,159 Formal Model F-12 tractors built and sold during the same period. Over three times as many F-20 tractors and nearly five times as many Model F-12 tractors had been sold as had Model F-30 tractors. Thus, the Tyrhom dealership, like many other small local dealerships, generally featured F-12 and F-20 tractors in their display as part of their dealership inventory, but not large F-30 tractors. The Tyrhom dealership needed to keep overhead as low as possible. Thus, the Tyrhom dealership did not have a Model F-30 Farmall on display on the day that our Byron Township farmer walked into the dealership.
With this visit to the Tyrhom dealership, however, our Byron Township farmer began a process of negotiation which unavoidably stretched over much of the winter. He had, originally, intended to return to the Tyrhom dealership a week later, but all plans for a trip to town had to be postponed when the cold weather returned in the third week in January. Temperatures during that week reached down to a record low of -34°F. The very cold temperatures persisted through February and were accompanied by even more blizzards and snowfalls.
Accordingly, it was well into March of 1936 before our Byron Township farmer could resume negotiations with the Tyrhom dealership over the F-30 tractor. By the time of this visit, the Tyrhom brothers had already written up a proposed sales agreement, which included an F-30 tractor, a McCormick-Dearing Model No. 407-A four-row cultivator and a McCormick-Dearing Model FA-112 four-row corn planter. To take full advantage of the large horsepower output of the F-30 tractor, our Byron Township farmer amended the sales agreement to also include a McCormick Dearing No. 8 “Little Genius” three-bottom plow with 14” bottoms mounted on steel wheels. The sales staff at Tyrhom’s assured our Byron Township farmer that the F-30 was able to pull this three-bottom plow even in the rich black gumbo soil of Waseca County.
The price of this package deal offered by the Tyrhom brothers was so favorable that our Byron Township farmer could not refuse the deal. Consequently, in March of 1936, he signed a sales agreement which included an F-30 tractor, the four-row mounted cultivator, the four-row corn planter and a No. 8 “Little Genius” three-bottom plow.
After the sales contract had been signed, the Tyrhom brothers sent a message off to the IHC block-house/warehouse at Mankato, Minnesota, requesting that a Model F-30 tractor from the inventory of the block house be shipped to the Tyrhom dealership. Located at 426 North Front Street in Mankato, the company-owned district block house served as a warehouse for all the southern Minnesota dealerships. However, unlike most block houses, the Mankato block house also served the Mankato area as a retail sales outlet for International Harvester equipment.
John A. McGran had been the manager of the Mankato district block house since the mid-1920s. Although now 46 years of age, he had been an employee of the International Harvester Company since he was 27 years old. He had started with the International Harvester Company as a part-time cashier in a company-owned store in St. Cloud, Minnesota (1920 pop. 15,873). When the order for an F-30 came into the block house from the Tyrholm dealership in New Richland in late-March of 1936, John McGran knew that he had could fill this order quickly. He had at least one F-30 in the inventory at the block house—No. 11772. Since Byron Township was only 30 miles south and east from Mankato and New Richland was another five miles east from Byron Township, the Tyrholm brothers requested that the block house staff deliver No. 11772 directly to our Byron Township farmer’s farm. Therefore, John McGran had the staff at the block house “prep” No. 11772 and bolt the cast-iron lugs onto the rims of the rear wheels of the tractor.
As soon as the shiny new battleship-gray colored F-30 was delivered to the farm, our Byron Township farmer and his whole family, especially his two young sons, were anxious to see the new tractor at work. Even in April, there was still no field work to perform. The ground was still much too wet. So our Byron Township farmer put No. 11772 to work on the wintertime chores of hauling the daily manure from the barn to the fields.
However, there was another winter time chore for which our Byron Township farmer used No. 11772. This was grinding of feed for the hogs. As usual, for this time of year, grinding feed was becoming a frequent activity. Traditionally, he weaned the baby pigs when they were about 56 days old. Weaning of the baby pigs had been delayed this year because of the extremely cold weather. At weaning all the baby pigs had been isolated in the northeast corner of hog house. There the baby pigs had access to the pen located on the north side of the hog house. Meanwhile the sows were isolated on the south side of the hog house. There the sows would have access to the pig yard on the south side of the hog house. Keeping the sows as far from the little pigs as possible, he hoped they would soon forget each other and reduce the stress of weaning time.
Watching the baby pigs become adjusted to their new independent life without their mothers could be humorous at times. Everything was new for the little weanlings. During this stressful period of time they were extremely skittish. They seemed to be afraid of their own shadow. Furthermore one little pig could set off a panic the entire pen. One little pig might let out a grunt and run to the opposite end of the pen. Without hesitation all the rest of the little pigs would set off running in the same direction in a panic. On some warmer days in early spring, our Byron Township farmer would open up the door of the northeast pen and allow the little pigs to go outside. At this point, rather than scurrying to the other end of the pen the little pigs would run outside. They would temporarily get jammed up at the door as they all tried to go through at the same time. After a while, it became a game, whereby one pig would notice the reaction that he or she could set off by sounding a single grunt and running for the door. Once outside all the pigs became very still. Then, with a single grunt, the little troublemaker would scamper back indoors with the panicked mob close on his heels. Once inside the process would start all over again. The weanlings seemed to enjoy “scaring themselves” in this way. It was play. Our Byron Township farmer smiled as he recognized this behavior from previous years. It happened with each new batch of weanlings.
Ordinarily while doing the chores in the hog house, our Byron Township farmer tried to move slowly around the hog house to keep sincere panic among the weanlings at a low level. Even opening the door of the hog house to enter was one of the things that sometimes startled the weanlings. He developed the habit of whistling as he walked toward the hog house so that the pigs would here him coming from some distance. Then, he opened the door of hog house very slowly so as not to startle the weanlings.
As the baby pigs grew, their appetite grew proportionately. When they were first weaned, each pig ate about 1.2 pounds of ground feed per day. By March they were eating 2.5 to 3 pounds of feed per day. April arrived. The early spring weather mellowed into a warm anticipation of the coming summer. Now weighing around 125 pounds the feeder pigs were referred to as “shoats” and were eating 4 to 5 pounds of feed per day. It was expensive in terms of the amount of shelled corn he was using and it would become even more expensive. Even now in mid-April, he was grinding feed for the pigs on a weekly basis. In the summer, as they neared market weight, they would be eating 6 to 7 pounds of feed per day. Additionally, feeding the pigs was expensive in terms of the time that he would have to spend grinding feed. The fields were still too wet, in April of 1936, to begin the spring field work, but in a couple of weeks, when he would start the field work, grinding feed would directly interfere with the time needed for the field work.
While waiting for the fields to dry sufficiently to begin field work, our Byron Township farmer employed No. 11772 on the feed grinder. Lining No. 11772 up to the feed grinder, our Byron Township farmer then dismounted the operator’s seat and removed the long drive belt for the feed grinder from its place on the shelf under the lean-to. He looped the belt over the pulley on the feed grinder and, then, unrolled the belt out in a straight line to where No. 11772 was waiting all lined up. Before looping the belt over the 14⅝ inch diameter steel pulley of the F-30, the belt was given a half twist. This would allow the pulley on the feed grinder to revolve in the right direction. The F-30 was then backed up until the drive belt became tight. With the tractor properly “leaned back into the belt” sufficiently, the hand brake was locked to “hold the tractor to its work.” This was where one of the shortcomings of the F-30 became apparent. Standard equipment on all F-30 was a single hand brake located on the left side of the tractor. No. 11772 was fitted with the optional hand brake on the right side. (Oscar H. Will and Todd Markel, The Collector’s Originality Guide for the Farmall Regular and F-Series [Voyaguer Press: St. Paul, Minnesota, 2007] p. 57). Still the locking mechanism to set the brake was available only on the hand brake on the left side of the tractor. With the belt pulley located on the right side, it would have been better if the hand brake on the right side of the tractor had been designed to lock in place during belt work. Consequently, when No. 11772 was leaned back into the belt, a rock was stuffed under the front of the right rear wheel to keep the right wheel in place and keep the belt tight. (Even advertising prints used by the International Harvester Company which picture an F-30 performing some belt work clearly show the left hand brake locked and a rock or board wedged in front of the right rear wheel.)
Then our Byron Township farmer crawled up on the operator’s seat of the new F-30, pushed in the foot clutch with his left foot and reached out with his right hand to engage the belt pulley control lever and then he released the clutch to engage the belt pulley. Then he throttled the engine up to the proper speed for the feed grinder. Then he dismounted the tractor and began shoveling shelled corn out of the back of the wagon into the hopper of the feed grinder. Every so often he would take the shovel and go over to the truck and scoop up a shovel full of oats and dump it into the hopper of the feed grinder. The feeder pigs needed the protein in the oats for growth at this time. However, over the next month or so, every time he ground feed for the pigs, our Byron Township farmer would decrease the amount of oats in the ground feed mixture until, by late-spring and summer the ground feed mixture would be almost entirely corn. Corn was high in calories and was needed to quickly “finish” the pigs by bringing them quickly up to market weight.
With more than 30 horsepower delivered to the belt, No. 11772 did not “break into a sweat” while powering the feed grinder. However, our Byron Township farmer was searching for excuses to use the large F-30 tractor. It was hardly an efficient use of the power of the new tractor, but the whole family was anxious to see how the tractor worked. The feed grinder was located under roof attached to the hog house. The feed spout of the feed grinder protruded through the outside wall of the hog house. Inside the hog house, this spout piled the newly ground feed in a mound on the floor of the feed room inside the hog house. His hog house chores now included filling the large self-feeders located in the feeder pig pen on the north side of the hog house. Once filled, the self-feeders allowed the feeder pigs to eat any time they wanted throughout the day. Usually, the pigs began reaching their market weight market weight of between 230 to 260 pounds in July and August. By that time, there was usually a lull in the field work, the corn was too tall to be cultivated any more, the hay had been harvested and was in the haymow of the barn and the oats were just starting to ripen. It was during this traditional lull that our Byron Township farmer hoped to make a number of trips down to the Wilson Company meat packing plant in Albert Lea, Minnesota ( 1930 pop. 10,169) to market the pigs. (For a further description of these trips, see the previous article in this series carried in the May-June 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)
Finally, in May of 1936 it became warm enough and the soil became dry enough to allow the field work to begin. This is where the F-30 was finally put to work on tasks requiring full capacity of the tractor. Our Byron Township farmer finished the plowing that he had not completed last fall. With its three 14-inch bottoms the Little Genius plow covered 42 inches of sod with each crossing of the field. Traveling along at 3¼ miles per hour (mph) in third gear, the plowing was soon completed. No. 11772 worked like a charm with the three-bottom plow. A shortcoming was the fact the F-30 was a thirsty tractor that used a good bit of fuel. He would fill the large 21 gallon fuel tank with kerosene in the morning and then have to top off the tank at noon to make it through the entire day’s worth of work.
The new three-bottom plow with its red frame, dark blue mold boards and cream white wheels made a particularly attractive scene as he pulled it across the field. Indeed the plow was more colorful than the battleship-gray colored tractor. Some times he noticed cars of his neighbors stopping along the township road just to admire the new tractor and three bottom plow as our Byron Township farmer turned No. 11772 around at the end of the field.
After the fields had been plowed and smoothed with the disc and drag harrow into a perfect seed bed, it was time to plant corn. After doing the chores one morning in late-May, our Byron Township farmer went to get No. 11772 out of its new spot in the machine shed. The morning air remained cool. However, the temperature was slowly rising as sun started to come overhead. Still our Byron Township farmer closed the radiator curtains on the new tractor to restrict some of the flow of air through the radiator. He turned the fuel control valve under the fuel tank to shut off the kerosene tank. Then he opened the valve under the small gasoline tank to allow gasoline to flow down the copper fuel pipe to the carburetor. After making sure the carburetor was full of gas and not kerosene, he removed the starting crank from its location near the tool box and stepped to the front of the tractor. He applied the choke, and positioned the starting crank in its low position and pulled up on the crank. The engine fired on one cylinder but did not start. Then he released the choke and pulled up on the starting crank a second time. This time, the engine fired again and came to life. “Two ups and a start” our Byron Township farmer noted happily to himself.
It was expected that once started on gas, the F-30 would quickly warm up to 200°F, sufficient for the engine to be switched over to the less expensive kerosene fuel. Partially closing the radiator curtains in front of the radiator would accelerate the process of heating the tractor engine. As he drove No. 11772 around the yard to hitch up to the new Model FA-112 McCormick-Deering corn planter and take it to the fields, our Byron Township farmer carefully watched the temperature gauge attached to the steering support located just in front of him as he sat in the in the operator’s seat.
Out at the yard and toward the field he carefully drove the tractor pulling the wide four-row planter through the twelve foot gate of the field he intended to plant. Once in the field, however, he pulled the planter to the corner of the field and backed the planter up against the fence at the side of the field. This was his first opportunity to try out the new Model FA-112 McCormick-Deering four-row corn planter. The Model FA-112 corn planter, offered by the International Harvester Company, was really two smaller Model 102 two-row corn planters which were linked together with a rigid frame and hitch. Both of these two row planters were “wire check” planters. However, the wire checking mechanism on both planters were connected so that the planter could be used for wire-check planting four rows of corn at a time. Currently, however, our Byron Township farmer was planting the “end rows” across the width of the field. He intended to “drill” these end rows into the ground. Thus, he set the planter to drill the kernels of seed corn into the ground at spacings of 15 inches apart.
By this time, the temperature gauge indicated that the engine temperature had reached the requisite 200°F, so our Byron Township farmer turned on the valve under the fuel tank to allow kerosene to start flowing down the fuel line to the carburetor. Climbing back up into the operator’s seat of No. 11772, he reached forward and turned off the small brass valve attached to the small gasoline tank in front of him. Soon the engine would burn all the gas in the carburetor and in the fuel line and there would be a seamless conversion over to the less-expensively priced kerosene which was flowing down the fuel line immediately behind the gasoline.
Then our Byron Township farmer reached back behind him to pull one of two ropes attached to the corn planter hitch. This released the left side marker attached to the planter. The marker swung out and hoe at the end of the marker struck the ground about 80 inches from the left side of the planter. The Model FA-112 corn planter could be adjusted to plant crops in rows set at distances of 36 inches, 38, inches, 40 inches or 47 inches. Currently, this particular planter had been adjusted to plant 40 inch rows—the traditional spacing for corn. Thus, being set at 80 inches, the hoe at the end of the marker would scratch out a line in the seed bed that would mark the exact center of the next four rows of corn to be planted on the next trip across the width of the field. Our Byron Township farmer would steer the front wheels of No. 11772 straight down the scratch on the return trip across the width of the field. Following this scratch would assure that the distance between the last row on the edge of the corn planter on the first trip across the field (row number 4), would be positioned 40 inches from the first row of the return trip (row number 5).
After planting eight rows in two swipes across the end of the field with the new planter, our Byron Township farmer, positioned the planter on the side of the field. Then he pushed one of the wire tightening stakes into the sod near the fence line at the end of the field. Attaching the end of the check wire from the roll of wire on the planter to the tightening stake in the fence line behind the planter, he then set about carefully driving the tractor and planter to the other end of the field. This trip across the field was made merely to unroll the check-wire over the entire length of the field. Thus our Byron Township farmer made this first trip with all the planting units of the planter raised.
Reaching the opposite end of the field, our Byron Township farmer placed the second check-wire stake solidly in the ground near the fence at this end of the field. Then pulling the check-wire as tight as possible, he attached the check wire to the tightening stake and tightened the wire with the mechanism on the stake. Now the check-wire was stretched tightly across the entire length of the field. The check wire had a button fixed at locations every 40 inches along the wire. After drilling the “end rows” on this end of the field, he set the planter for “wire check” planting. The planter was, once again, lined up along the fence row on one side of the field where the check wire was located. Then our Byron Township farmer locked the check wire into the tripping mechanism on the side of the planter, making sure the wire was fitted into the tripping fork.
Now the tractor engine was operating at a consistent 200°F and was running smoothly on the lower-cost kerosene and so, before mounting the operator’s seat again, he opened the curtains in front of the radiator to allow the radiator to operate at full capacity. May of 1936 had been warmer than usual. Day time temperatures for the first two weeks of the month were above 70°F. Now in the second part of the month, consistent high temperatures were reaching nearly 80°F, well above normal for the month of May in Minnesota. Thus, our Byron Township farmer knew that the air would be getting hotter as the day progressed and as the sun rose more directly overhead. Although the engine needed to be hot while operating on kerosene, he did not want the engine to overheat and “boil over.” After fully opening the radiator curtains, he slipped back up into the driver’s seat of the tractor. Reaching around behind himself, he then pulled the one of the two rope controls that released the marker on the side of the planter farthest from the fence row. The row marker was released and unfolded outward into the field. As noted above, the long scratch made in the dirt by the hoe at the end of this marker would make a path which he would follow with the front wheels of the tractor on the next trip across the field. Then he lowered all the planting units on the planter and started across the field.
As the planter moved along, the check wire slipped through tripping fork on the side of the planter, every button on the wire would catch in the fork and cause the checking mechanism to trip. When tripped, all four planting units on the planter would simultaneously release seeds into the ground. This would happen every 40 inches because the buttons on the wire were spaced 40 inches apart along the check-wire. Ideally, then, on every trip across the field the seeds were placed in the ground at the same location along the wire. Later as the corn sprouted, these locations became hills of corns. The hills of corn would form a grid across the field. Not only was the corn planted in straight 40 inch rows lengthwise in the field, but the hills within each row were 40 inches apart. This grid allowed for straight rows across the length and the width of the field. This would allow our Byron Township farmer to cultivate the corn both length-wise and cross-wise.
Returning to the front end of the field, again, after planting the first four rows of corn along the fence row, our Byron Township farmer stopped the planter just short of end rows and reached around behind him to raise the planting units on the planter with the two lever controls on hitch of the planter. Then he tripped the check-wire attachment on the side of the planter to release planter from the check-wire. He, then, turned the tractor and planter around on the end rows to line the front wheels of the tractor up along the scratch in the seed bed made by the marker on the previous trip across the field. He pulled the planter up to the point where the planting units were just beyond the end rows into the unplanted seedbed of the field. He lowered the planting units into the ground. Dismounting from the operator’s seat, he walked back to the fence line at the end of the field where the check-wire stake was located and pulled the stake out of the ground. He moved the stake, still attached to the check-wire, laterally along the end of the field to a position behind the planter and pushed the stake securely into the ground, again. The stake was fitted with brackets on which he could place his feet and stand to help force the stake a full 18 inches into the ground at the fence line. While repositioning the stake and then attaching the check-wire to the tripping mechanism on the side of the planter, our Byron Township farmer tried to avoid the urge to “sling the wire” over to toward the planter. He knew from experience that such slinging of the wire could cause a misalignment of the cross check he was trying to achieve. He would let the planter, itself, pull the wire across the previously planted rows of corn. Wire-checking corn with his two-row had been difficult enough. There were so many things to be aware of and to watch. Obviously, he needed to drive the tractor as straight as possible down the scratch left by the marker on the previous trip across the field, but he also needed to carefully watch the check-wire as it was pulled diagonally across the previously planted rows of corn and he needed to watch the wire as it passed through the check mechanism on the side of the planter.
There was always the possibility of the wire catching on a snag on the ground or snagging as the wire passed through the tripping mechanism on the side of the planter. If this happened and if he did not immediately catch it in time to stop and unhook the snag, the wire would be pulled out of place and this would ruin the “cross check” he was attempting to create in the field. The chances this occurring were bad enough with the two row planter where the wire was pulled across two rows at a time. However, with the four-row planter the check-wire was being pulled across the four previously planted rows—twice as far as with the two row planter. This increased the chances of a snag in the wire, proportionately. For this reason our Byron Township farmer planted corn with No. 11772 shifted into first gear. At a speed no faster than 2 mph, he felt he was able to keep track of the all the things going on with the planter.
Even if the planter seemed to be moving smoothly along the wire and tripping every 40 inches, there still was no guarantee that everything was operating the way they should. Some problems were invisible. There was the possibility of something jamming one or more of the planting units itself and the seeds not actually being planted in the ground. If not checked, a jammed planting unit might fail to plant an entire row of corn across the whole length of the field. Thus, our Byron Township farmer stopped periodically during this first couple of trips across the field and walked around to the rear of the planter, found a button on the check wire and uncovered the spaces lateral to that button in all four rows. He did this in order to see that the seed was actually being placed in the ground. He wanted to see two to three seeds in each hill.
Being new and being properly lubricated, the four-row Model FA-112 McCormick Deering planter was somewhat immune to many of these problems. Still there was much to worry about as he planted his corn. As slowly as he was moving across the field, the four-row capacity of the planter still allowed him to plant his corn in about half the time as compared to using the two-row planter as in previous years. This was fortunate because the rains in May of 1936 were so frequent that their was only one short period of time between rains that allowed him to get into the fields with the planter. However, if he had complained about the rains and the wet soil in May, our Byron Township farmer soon had reason to regret any such complaints. In June, 1936, the rains were much less frequent. From late June though early August scarcely any moisture, at all, fell from the skies. The growing season was turning out to be a very dry season.
Needless to say, then, cultivation was completed without interference from the weather. Our Byron Township farmer, like all corn farmers tried to cultivate the corn three times. Cultivation of the corn seemed to take all summer and the four-row cultivator remained mounted on No. 11772 for most of the summer. He started cultivating when the corn was just peaking up through the ground. At this stage the cultivator was fitted with shields. The shields protected the little shoots of corn from being covered over by the dirt stirred up by the cultivator shovels passing on either side of the rows of corn. As compared to cultivating with the Regulars—two rows at a time—the four-row cultivator really made good time in the corn fields.
The second time through the corn was the “cross cultivation.” Cross cultivation was an attempt to get the weeds between the plants within the lengthwise rows. At this stage, the corn was tall enough that the shields on the cultivator could be removed because there was little danger of the dirt covering over the corn plants.
The old saying “knee high by the Fourth of July” was the bench mark indicating a normal growing season for the corn crop. However, the late planting of the corn in the spring and the draught conditions, of June 1936, was starting to stunt the growth of the corn. Rather than being lusciously, dark green and fully open, our Byron Township farmer observed that the leaves of the individual corn plants were rolled up like spikes as they passed through the cultivator during cross cultivation. The corn plants were under stress and the rolled up leaves was an attempt to retain as much internal moisture as they could under the baking hot sun. It looked as though the corn yield this year would be troublesome unless the rains came soon.
When cross cultivating our Byron Township farmer would pull No. 11772 and cultivator right up to the fence row. Pressing in on the foot clutch he would shift No. 11772 into neutral, raise both front sections of the mounted cultivator with the hand levers, then do the same with the rear section and then he would shift the tractor into reverse. Then he would back around through the sharp 180° turn to line up on the next four rows to be cultivated. By backing through the turn-around, our Byron Township farmer hoped to relieve some the pressure on the front wheels caused by the weight of the cultivator on the front end of the tractor.
As the large F-30 tractor made its way across the field during cross cultivation, the front end of the tractor “bobbed” up and down as the front wheels rolled over the ridges of dirt made by the first length-wise cultivation of the corn. Instinctively, our Byron Township farmer maintained a strong grip on the steering wheel as No. 11772 “bobbed” across the width of the corn field. It was a habit developed from driving his Regular under similar conditions. He also knew from experience, to grip the steering wheel without protruding his thumbs through the inside of the steering wheel. “Always grip the steering wheel with your thumbs on the outside of the steering wheel where your fingers are,” he would tell the hired man. With its open bevel gear and sector type of steering, if the Regular struck a rock in the field with one of the steel front wheels, the steering wheel would fly out of control so fast that the driver would lose his grip on the steering wheel. With his thumbs protruding through the center of the steering wheel, the spokes of the steering wheel would strike the thumbs very hard. The operator could quite likely sustain a broken thumb in one of these injuries.
However, the worm gear steering on the front of No. 11772 greatly cushioned the effect of the front wheels hitting a rock or other obstruction. Thus, it was much more relaxing to drive No. 11772 with the new worm-gear type steering when cross cultivating, as compared to the Regular. Not only was the enclosed and oil bathed worm-gear type steering much safer to operate in the field, but the steering itself, when turning around at the end of the rows, was much more easily accomplished. Despite the large, bulky size of No. 11772, especially with the additional weight of the mounted four-row, the F-30 still seemed a pleasure to operate as opposed to the Regular under conditions like these.
The third cultivation of the corn was another lengthwise cultivation. As the corn grew, our Byron Township farmer could move along with the tractor and cultivator at a faster rate of speed. With the corn so tall that the individual plants were bent over by the frame of the cultivator, there was little risk of knocking over or covering over the individual corn plants with loose clods of dirt rolled up by the shovels. Consequently, our Byron Township farmer could shift the tractor into high gear and speed through the third cultivation at 3¾ mph. At this speed, the four- row cultivator really could cover 60 acres in a day—just as our Byron Township farmer had heard advertised at the State Fair. By this time, during a usual year, the corn plants were on the verge of tassling. In a normal year the corn would really getting too tall to cultivate without damage to the plants. In 1936, however, because of the late planting of the corn in the spring and because of the lack of almost any rain from mid-June until mid August, the corn plants were still not as far along in growth as in usual years.
As it became apparent that the growing season was going to be a very dry season, a gloominess swept over the commodity market at the Chicago Board of Trade regarding the prospective corn yield in the coming fall harvest. Thus, the price of corn, which had been in doldrums since the previous year, began to rise. From the low of 61¢ per bushel as a monthly average for the month of December 1935, the price of corn rose to 70¢ per bushel in June 1936 and then rose briskly to 92¢ per bushel in July. In August of 1936, the price of corn shot up to $1.22 per bushel—a price not seen since February of 1925. Our Byron Township farmer really wished that he had some corn to sell. However, what precious little shelled corn he still had on the farm was “spoken for.” He needed it to “finish” his feeder pigs for market. All during August, he had been selling the feeder pigs. He was still getting a fairly good price (9.68¢ per pound) for his hogs at Wilson’s meat packing plant in Albert Lea, Minnesota. With his corn yield in considerable doubt, it appeared that his pig operation would have be his prime source of income for the year.
However, just when all seemed to be lost, the rains returned. There was a nice ½ inch rain in the second week of August. This was followed by an 1½ inch rainfall and another 1¼ inch rainfall in the third week of August. It was glorious, but our Byron Township farmer wondered if the rains were coming too late in the growing season to save the corn. As it turned out, the late planting of the corn in the spring had actually delayed the growing season enough so that these late rains could actually still help the corn crop.
The fall corn harvest in Waseca County for 1936 revealed an average yield of 34 bushels per acre. This represented a 13.4% drop from a normal yield. This was bad, but not as bad as it could have been without the mid-August rains. After the ear corn had dried in his corn crib all winter, our Byron Township farmer was able to shell out the corn and sell part of the shelled corn for the very good price of $1.22 per bushel in March of 1937. He could not sell a great deal because he was still counting on the hog prices remaining high. Corn prices could not be depended on, he felt. In another year, he thought, there might be a normal, or even bumper, crop of corn and corn prices would fall precipitously. Thus, our Byron Township farmer planned to raise another twelve (12) litters of baby pigs in the coming year and save the corn to feed them rather than cutting back to eight (8) litters and selling more corn now.
In its first year on the farm, No. 11772 had proved itself in efficiency. Together with the four-row planting and cultivation system, the tractor had really done the work of two tractors. In future years, No. 11772 would continue to provide efficient power to the farming operation and, during the war years, our Byron Township farmer would be well-positioned to take full advantage of the high wartime prices for corn, pork and lard that were the main products of his farming operation.
As time passed, however, the shortcomings of No. 11772 became apparent. Our Byron Township farmer attempted to keep No. 11772 up to date. In 1939, he had the steel wheels in the front of the tractor cut down and fitted with rims for mounting 6.00 by 16 inch rubber tires. This improvement made the tractor as easy to steer as the new streamlined Model M and Model H tractors that were introduced by the International Harvester Company the same year.
Also in 1939, our Byron Township farmer replaced the four-spoke cast-iron steering wheel on No. 11772 with one of the new Sheller Manufacturing Company three-spoke steering wheels that were now being installed on all new Farmall Model M, Model M and the other “letter series” tractors introduced in 1939. These steering wheels were covered with a hard rubber or “Bakelite” composition around the outer rim of the steering wheel. The International Harvester Company recognized the discomfort of using the cast-iron steering wheel in the winter time. Consequently, as early as 1937, International Harvester abandoned production cast iron steering wheels and entered into a contract with the Sheller Manufacturing Company of Portland, Indiana to supply steel steering wheels with composite covering for installation on all their new tractors. Initially, the three spoke steering wheels obtained from Sheller were entirely covered with the composite hard rubber (spokes and all).
These steering wheels were used on the F-series tractors manufactured in 1937 and 1938. This composite covering was much warmer to grip in the winter time than cast-iron steering wheel previously installed on all F-Series tractors. In 1939, when Farmall “letter series” of tractors were introduced, the tractors were all fitted with Sheller Company steering wheels. However, these steering wheels used on the “letter-series” tractors had composite, hard rubber, or “Bakelite” covering only the outer rim of the steering wheel. The steel spokes were left uncovered. International Harvester dealerships now offered these steering wheels as after-market replacements for cast iron steering wheels on the older F-series tractors. It was one of these steering wheels that our Byron Township farmer obtained for No. 11772.
Following the Second World War, our Byron Township farmer had the steel wheels on the rear of No. 11772 cut down and fitted with 32 inch rims for mounting of 13.50 by 32 inch rubber tires. Rubber tires on the rear as well as the front sure made for a smooth riding tractor. However, this smooth ride had the effect of emphasizing the slow range of speeds (2 mph, 2¾ mph, 3¼ mph, and 3¾ mph) available on No. 11772. Post-war farmers were now starting demand tractors with a wider range speeds and particularly faster speeds and they wanted modern tractors fitted with hydraulic systems, modern power take-off shafts, batteries, electric lights and electric starting. All of these improvements were missing from No. 11772. Accordingly, it was inevitable that No. 11772 would be replaced as the main power source on the farm of our Byron Township farmer and so, in 1950, our Byron Township farmer traded No. 11772 in on the purchased of a new McCormick-Deering Famall Model M.
No. 11772, remained on the dealership used machinery lot until purchased by a “tractor collector.” The actual organization of antique farm shows and the hobby of antique farm tractor restoration never really got started until the late 1970s or early 1980s. Before that time, there were only individual collectors, who took it upon themselves to purchase old tractors and store them, in order to save then from being cut up for scrap iron by a salvage dealer. Collecting old tractors was a lonely existence, not easily understood by the public at large. Only in the 1980s when the antique tractor collection and restoration hobby really got started was their sufficient interest in restoring these old tractors.
One such collector of old tractors was Robert Walter (Toby) Winkler, who owned and operated a Mobil Oil Company gas station in Eagle Lake Minnesota, (1960 pop. 506). The town of Eagle Lake is located just across the western border of Waseca County into Blue Earth County, Minnesota. (Toby Winkler later became a long-term member of the City Council of Eagle Lake. During his long service on the City Council, Toby Winkler was often opposed, on nearly all issues facing the Eagle Lake City Council, by another long time city council member—Adlor Cresswell Olson. The disagreements between these two council members at council meetings entertained the community of Eagle Lake for many years. They seemed to be linked together in disagreement. Ironically, they both died in late 2007, Adlor passed away on September 22, 2007 and Toby passed away a few weeks later on November 2, 2007. They argued until the very end. Their last city council meeting together featured a disagreement over which one of them was older than the other. Ancestry.com birth records reflect that Toby Winkler was born on October 21, 1918 and Adlor Olson was born on December 25, 1919.)
Toby Winkler seemed to specialize in the collection of F-30 tractors. Any person driving east headed into Waseca County and passing through Eagle Lake on U.S. Route 14 in the mid-1960s, could not have missed Toby Winkler’s Mobil service station on the right side (the south side) of the highway. The service station was surrounded by a number of Farmall F-30 tractors—recognizable because their large 21-gallon fuel tanks. No. 11772 may well have been one of these tractors.
However, No. 11772 passed from the possession of one tractor collector to another and ended up in on the farm of yet another tractor collector near Ellendale, Minnesota, (1970 pop. 569). In the mid 1980s, No. 11772 was purchased by the late Jim Ellis, also of Ellendale. Jim Ellis, who also favored F-30 tractors, stored No. 11772 on another farm east of Ellendale.
In 1993, No. 11772 was purchased by Bill Radil of Howard Lake, Minnesota (1990 pop. 1,343). No. 11772 was restored to operating condition and was paraded at the 1995 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show. Following the show, No. 11772 was purchased by Mark Wells of Wells Family Farmalls. The tractor was in need of a detailed and complete overhaul. Restoration of No. 11772 was begun and continues to the present.
When restored and made part of the permanent exhibits at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Showgrounds, No. 11772 will serve as a memorial to all those persons connected with the manufacture, sale and use of this large pre-war tractor. However, there will be a large debt owed to those individual F-30 collectors, like the late Toby Winkler and the late Jim Ellis, who undertook to save these large row-crop tractors which were made in relatively limited numbers, but which brought three-plow power and introduced four-row capacity to Midwestern farms before the Second World War. The F-30 tractor and other International Harvester tractors and farm equipment will be celebrated at the 2008 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show to be held on August 22 through 24, 2009. This show will host the summer convention of the Minnesota State Chapter of the International Harvester Collectors Association.