Egg Raising in Dryden Township, Sibley County Minnesota (Part 1)

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A McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow at Work in

Dryden Township, Sibley County, Minnesota 

(Part 1 of 2 Parts)

 by

Brian Wayne Wells

(This is a new article that was never published in

Belt Pulley Magazine)

Mark Wells working with the Trebesch plow in the fields on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Assoc. in 1994

The more a person works at restoration of an old farm tractor or a farm implement the more one begins to ponder the history of that farm implement.  One wonders, who originally purchased the farm implement.  What kind farming operation was the implement used for?   If curiosity is sufficiently aroused the person restoring the tractor or implement may start making telephone calls back to the person who sold the tractor and may start attempting to establish a chain of ownership of the tractor or implement back to the original owner.  However, the process of establishing the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult as time passes and memories fade.  Furthermore, when purchases of tractors and farm implements are made, as many are, at swap meets and/or auctions and when such purchases are made for cash from individuals unknown, the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult to reconstruct.  (Just how difficult it is to start reconstructing the history of a tractor when time passes is described in the two-part series of articles contained in the July/August 2008 and November/December 2008 issues of Belt Pulley magazine which deal with a 1937 Farmall Model F-20 tractor.)  Thus, it is often important to collect history of a particular tractor or implement at the point of sale or at least collect telephone numbers to call back at a later date.

 

The 1937 F-20 bearing the Serial No. 71355.

 

Such pondering over the history of the history of a particular implement was particularly true during the restoration of one particular McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms.  (The actual restoration of this plow is described in the article carried on page 11 of the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine [Vol. 7, No. 5.  This article is called “The McCormick-Deering  Little Genius Plow” and has also been posted on this website.)  This particular plow was purchased by Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet.  Luckily, Mark Wells had written down the name and address of the seller of the plow–Larry Hiles of rural Arlington, Minnesota.

Arlington, Minnesota is located in eastern central Sibley County.

 

Contact was established with Larry Hiles in 1995.  Larry Hiles was living in Arlington Township in Sibley County.  The homestead was located just south of the village of Arlington.  This particular Little Genius plow had been discovered by Larry Hiles parked in the grove of trees that formed the wind break for this homestead.  The farm on which the homestead was located had been originally owned by Earl Nagel.  While living on the farm, Earl Nagel was actively engaged in farming the land.  In about 1956, the homestead on the farm was sold to Raymond Kraels, who was a rural mail carrier.  Raymond Kraels was not actively engaged in farming the land.  On July 12, 1974, Delmar and Bonnie Mae (Kopishke) Trebesch rented and moved onto the homestead on the Nagel/Krael farm.  During the years that the Trebesch family lived on the farm, they had a large garden.  The garden was so big that they needed a tractor plow to turn the soil of the garden at the conclusion of each growing season.  Accordingly, sometime after moving onto the farm, Delmar Trebesch purchased a McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow at a local farm auction.  This was the same McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow that was later sold by Larry Hiles to Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet and became known as the “Trebesch plow.”

Sibley County is located in the rich farm land of southern Minnesota.

 

As described in the article in the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley, cited above, this particular Little Genius plow was fitted with 14 inch bottoms and originally had been a steel wheeled plow fitted with McCormick-Deering’s own “round-spoke” steel wheels.  However, the front wheels on this particular plow had been cut down and rims for rubber tires had been welded onto the round spokes of the front wheels.  As noted in the above-cited article, although the “furrow wheel” on the right side of the plow had been fitted with a rim for a 6.00 x 16 inch rubber tire, the land wheel on the left side of the plow was fitted with a rim for a 4.75 x 19 inch tire.  This seemed a rather odd pairing of tires sizes for the front of the plow.  If a farmer were having the steel wheels of the plow cut down to mount rubber tires on his plow, why would he not make the tires on both sides of the plow the same size?

Before the Second World War very few farm implements were sold from the factory with rubber tires.  Nonetheless, as noted in the 1994 article, the International Harvester Company (IHC) had been offering the Little Genius plow to the farming public with the option of rubber tires as early as the 1930s.  Rubber tires were not a common option on the Little Genius plow in the pre-world War II era.  However, during the “pre-war” era, IHC had a contract with the French and Hecht Company (F.& H.) of Davenport, Iowa, to supply rims for all the rubber-tired equipment sold under the McCormick-Deering name.  Pursuant to this contract, F.& H. supplied their familiar “round spoke” wheel rims to IHC.  When the option of rubber tires were requested on the Little Genius plow, IHC fitted the plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel.

This followed the design pattern of the original steel-wheeled Little Genius plow, in which the land side wheel was bigger in diameter that the furrow wheel. The reason for this wheel configuration was that the land wheel was the wheel connected to the clutch of the plow.  The clutch on the land wheel was the mechanism that lifted the entire plow out of the ground when the trip rope was pulled at the end of the field.  Consequently, it was thought that a larger diameter wheel was needed to provide the traction and leverage necessary to pull the plow out of the ground in some heavy soil conditions where the surface of the ground was slippery.  This was the situation when plowing succulent green vegetation (green fertilizer) into the soil.  The land wheel rolling along on the vegetation could become slippery from the succulent plant life crushed under the land wheel.  Then when the trip rope in pulled the land wheel might slide along the surface of the ground rather than continuing to turn and lifting the plow out of the ground.  Accordingly, it was decided that the land wheel should be larger in diameter so as to provide more leverage when the clutch was engaged to pull the plow out of the ground.  As a result, the steel-wheeled version of the Little Genius plow was fitted with a 30 inch steel wheel on the land wheel side of the plow and a 24 inch steel wheel on the furrow wheel side of the plow.

The 30 inch steel wheel that was the original standard equipment wheel on the left side (land side) of the plow.

Thus, when the optional rubber tires were installed on the Little Genius plow at the factory in Canton, Illinois, the plow was fitted with a land wheel and tire of a larger diameter than the furrow wheel of the plow.  During the immediate pre-war era, the 6.00 x 16 inch tire was becoming the most commonly used tire on automobiles.  However, the 4.75 x 19 inch tire was also a well-known and popular size tire, it was the size of tire that was used on the very popular Ford Model A car.  Thus, the configuration of a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel became the standard configuration for Little Genius plows sold with rubber tires before the Second World War.  A 1941 picture of the showroom of the Johnson Bros IHC Dealership of Taylorsville, Illinois bears this out.  In the foreground of the picture is a new rubber-tired version of the Little Genius plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel side of the plow.

 

Inside the showroom of a typical McCormick-Deering dealership in the immediate pre-war period of 1940 and 1941.

 

During the Second World War hardly any rubber was available for civilian use.  Consequently, IHC reverted to steel wheels on its new farm equipment.  Some time during the Second World War, the contract with F.& H. was terminated and IHC signed another supply contract for rims with the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois.  The wheels provided by the Electric Wheel Company were “disc-type” wheels.  Thus, the “post-war” McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow becomes distinguishable from the “pre-war” Little Genius plow fitted with rubber tires, in that disc-type wheels characterized post-war Little Genius plows and F.& H. round-spoke wheel rims characterized pre-war Little Genius plows fitted with rubber tires.   Thus, when cutting down the steel wheels of the Trebesch plow, someone had done a lot of work to make the plow appear as though it came from the factory as a rubber tired plow during the pre-war era.

The left side (land side) wheel on the Delmer Trebesch 2-bottom plow that was fitted with a 19 inch by 4.75 inch Model A Ford car tire.

By 1974, when Delmar Trebesch ended up being the highest bidder on this particular “Little Genius” plow, the increased size of the average farming operation and the larger equipment used on the average farm had definitely made this two-bottom tractor trailing plow into an “antique” from a bygone era.  However, there was a time when this particular Little Genius plow had been a new object of attention for a particular farmer looking to modernize his farming operation. 

In the late-1930s, this particular farmer and his wife operated a 160-acre farm located in eastern Dryden Township in Sibley County.

Dryden Township, the upper left of the four Sibley County townships shown here,  includes only the northern part of Gaylord, the county seat of Sibley County.

 

Purchasing this farm in March of 1935 had been the culmination of their dream of theirs.  As a young couple, they had started their married life on a rented farm.  However, they had saved all the money that they could, in order to purchase this farm.  On this farm, our Dryden Township farmer and his wife milked a small herd of milk cows.  The milk from the cows was a cash crop, supplying the young couple with a steady and regular monthly income.  They also raised some pigs.  The raising of the baby pigs into feeder pigs was another cash crop and brought a large amount of income to the couple when the pigs were marketed in the summer.  This large annual income from the pigs was usually applied against large debts like the mortgage payment and for purchases of farm machinery.  Additionally, they raised corn which could supply some cash income in the winter when the corn crib was shelled out.  However, this cash income from corn was dependent on the size of the corn harvest and dependent on how much of the corn crop had to be kept on the farm as feed for the pigs.  Oats and hay were also raised on the farm, but the entirely of these crops was used as feed for the cattle, horses and chickens on farm.

 

A typical scene in the hen house at feeding time on a small family farm in the 1940s.

 

Having spent their childhoods on diversified farms themselves, both his wife and he were familiar with practice of raising chickens.  Chickens were a part of both of their parents’ farming operations.  However, on both their parents’ farms the chickens were a small part of their respective farming operations.  Indeed, on their parents’ farms, the chickens themselves and the eggs they laid were generally used only as food for the immediate family.  Rarely were either the eggs or the butchered chickens sold off the farm.  Even if a regular market for the eggs could be found it would require nearly daily trips off the farm by their parents to deliver the eggs to a local grocery store or some other buyer.  In other words, neither the chickens themselves, nor the eggs they laid, were ever considered a “cash crop” on either of their parents’ farms.  Moving onto this farm, our Dryden Township farmer and his wife had realized that the close proximity of the farm to the H.M. Noack Company—a large wholesale buyer of eggs and chickens.  Located in nearly Arlington, Minnesota (1930 pop. 915) Noack’s  graded and “candled” the eggs they purchased from the farmers of the neighborhood and sold the eggs to markets in the eastern United States.  Noack’s  also butchered and sold chickens that they purchased from area farmers.  The close proximity of their new farm to Noack’s proved to be a happy circumstancefor our Dryden Township farmer and his wife.  It suddenly became possible for them to derive another source of income from their diversified farming operation—raising eggs and chickens for sale to Noack’s.

 

The egg and chicken buyer–the H. M. Noack Company located in Arlington, Minnesota.

 

Ever since at least 1921, the Noack Company owned its own fleet of trucks which made regular trips to the farms of the area around Arlington to pick up the eggs raised by the farmers and return them to the Noack factory in Arlington.  With the Noacks “egg truck man” arriving every Wednesday and Saturday, the young couple had soon discovered that with a little organization, the income they could receive from their laying hens might become consequential.  Furthermore, this was income which did not require the couple to leave the farm just to sell the product.  This compared favorably with selling hogs.  Marketing hogs did bring in a large amount of income.  However, since he did not have a truck, our Dryden Township  farmer always needed to arrange for a “dray service” or a person with a truck for hire to come to the farm to pickup the hogs he wished to sell.  Thus, eggs were easier to get to market than were the hogs.

Indeed, since purchasing and moving to this farm on March 1, 1935, they had become aware that they could expand the number of chickens they had on the farm to 200 to 250 laying hens—far more chickens than either of their parents had raised on their respective farms.  Around 200 laying hens was about the maximum number of chickens they could have on the farm and still get their other chores done and do the field work in the summer.  In the five growing seasons since that time, they had done away with the single small portable chicken house that was on the farm when they arrived.  That hen house had been too small.  Additionally, that small chicken house (or hen house) had a wooden floor and was mounted on 6 inch by 6 inch beams which were attached to the bottom of the chicken house.  These beams were to act as skids so that the whole chicken house could be moved if needed.  However, the lack of a foundation under the chicken house allowed a place for woodchucks, raccoons and other egg predators to gather and live.  Now they had a large chicken house with a cement floor and tile-block walls.  The new chicken house had been built close enough to the house, so that our Dryden Township farmer and/or his wife could hear any unusual squawking or disturbance in the night which might indicate a fox or some other predator in the hen house.

There were plenty of windows in all sides of the new chicken house to allow fresh air to flow in and out of the chicken house to help carry off the twelve gallons of water that the 200 chickens would give off each day in perspiration and breathing.  The windows were designed to open at the top to allow the fresh dry air from the outside to circulate into the chicken house, even in the winter, without causing drafts to blow directly onto the birds.  Chickens could tolerate cold conditions better than hot conditions, but drafty conditions inside the hen house were worse than either hot or cold conditions.  There was chicken wire covering the entirety of each window to keep out predators and sparrows and other disease-carrying wild birds even when the windows were open.  During the summer, the windows would be removed altogether to allow the maximum cooling in the hottest season.  When the new hen house had been built, the chicken yard was also expanded to handle more chickens.

 

A chicken house which opens onto a large yard where the chickens can come out and scratch in the dirt for insects.

 

Several little doors along the bottom of the chicken house could be opened in the morning to let the chickens out to do some scratching in the yard.  In the evening, the chickens would be herded back into the chicken house and the little doors would be closed to protect the chickens from any night time predators.  Sometimes on hot evenings some chickens would resist going back into the chicken house.  During the winter and on cold days of the early spring, the hens would not be let out of the chicken house at all.

The most important part of raising eggs was to gather the eggs on a frequent basis—at least twice a day.  Our Dryden Township farmer and his wife liked to gather the eggs three times a day when they were able.  This is where the money began.  Most days began like this particular day in the second full week in March of 1940.  Our Dryden Township farmer got up early before the sun came up.  He headed to the barn to get the milking done.  The winter of 1939-1940 was a snowy one.  During most of the winter there had been at least 6 inches of snow on the ground.  However, now in mid-March 1940, the warm weather had made quick work of the remaining snow accumulations.

About a half an hour after our Dryden Township farmer left the house for the barn, his wife picked up the wire baskets and made  her way to the hen house.  The sun was lighting up the sky overhead now and chickens had noticed.  They were busy cackling away inside the chicken house.  She talked to the birds in conversational tones as she approached the chicken house.  The chickens heard her approach.  Thus, there would be no huge panic as she passed the windows of the chicken house.  Before entering the main door of the hen house, however, she opened the little doors of the hen house that allowed the chickens to come out into the yard.  Soon a line of hens were making their way down the planks outside each door and hopping off onto the ground. She did not like to let the chickens out of the hen house when the ground was wet.  Dirty feet on the hens meant dirty eggs when they hopped up into the nests to lay an egg.  However, it looked like another unusually warm day was in the offing which would certainly help dry the ground of the chicken yard.

 

Wintertime is usually the peak time for egg laying.

 

Her flock of chickens were of the White Leghorn breed.  White Leghorns had been introduced to the United States in 1821 and since 1900 the breed had become the most popular breed of chicken in the United States.  White Leghorns were large chickens, which meant that they were good as “meat chickens.”  However, they were also known for high egg production.  So they were also good as “egg chickens.”

 

A couple of White Leghorns hunt for insects in the hen yard.

 

As she slowly opened the door of the chicken house, she was struck by a cloud of moisture vapor which rolled out into the cool morning air.  The 200 or more White Leghorn chickens in the confined space of the hen house created a great deal of warmth and humidity even in the depth of winter.  As she entered the hen house, she let out a short low whistle, just loud enough to capture the attention of the chickens still remaining in the hen house.  As always, a temporary silence settled over the whole hen house as the chickens diverted their attention and curiosity toward the source of the whistle.  During this short silence, our Dryden Township  farmer’s wife listened for any sneezes, coughs and/or other unhealthy sounds—signs of respiratory diseases.  This morning, she noted with satisfaction, she did not hear anything during the silence.  The silent pause soon ended, as the hens resumed cackling again in their usual conversational notes.

Also as she entered the hen house, she took notice of the ammonia odor in the hen house.  Some ammonia odor, emanating from the manure, was normal, the sign of a healthy flock.  However, if the ammonia odor became so strong that it burned her eyes or caused her nose to run, she knew the manure was too damp and was creating a condition that could lead to ammonia poisoning of her chickens.  She also checked the litter under her feet for the proper degree of “wetness.”  Too much moisture in the litter was unhealthy for the birds.  However, she knew that too dry and/or too dusty a hen house was also unhealthy.  Her husband often encouraged her to reach down and grab a hand full of litter and squeeze it and then let go.  If the litter broke apart and does not stick to her hand, he said, the litter was too dry.  If the litter in her hand formed a ball and did not break apart, the litter was too wet.  Ideally, the litter in her hand should break apart readily as she opened her fist and some litter should stick slightly to her hand.  Well, she preferred to let him perform that test of the litter, if he wanted to.  She felt that she could keep informed about the condition of the litter without getting all that close to it.

If the litter were too wet, ıt was usually do to some external cause—like a leaky waterer.  Part of the maintenance of the hen house included keeping an eye on the watering units to make sure they were not leaking.  Periodically, our Dryden Township farmer and his wife dump another bushel basket of ground corn cobs to the chicken litter on the floor of the hen house to keep the litter absorbent.  Occasionally, she would take a four-prong hand cultivator, from the garden, into the hen house to stir the litter and prevent any “crusting over” or matting of the litter.  She wished to keep the litter as crumbly as possible.  The process that was occurring in the litter on the hen house floor was actually composting.  Her working of the litter with the garden cultivator was, actually, the equivalent of “turning a compost pile” to assure a good blending of the carbon (the ground corn cobs) with the nitrogen (the chicken manure itself).

She also kept her eye open for any tell-tale signs that the chickens were suffering from chicken mites.  Like bed bugs, the chicken mites were active at night.  The mites resided on the under side of the roosts during the day.  At night as the chickens slept on the roost, the mites would crawl up the legs of the sleeping chickens and through the feathers of the hens to the surface of the skin where the mites would live off the dead skin and feathers on the host chicken.  Late fall and winter were the favorite times for mite infestations.  The female mite would lay her eggs in bunches, or nits, of 50 to 300 eggs at the base stem of the feathers on the host chicken.  The nits would hatch out and give the host chicken a worse infestation of mites.  A typical infestation would cause the host chicken to loose weight and her feathers would begin to take on a “moth eaten” appearance.  Most importantly, the egg production of the affected hens would fall off.  Additionally, the mites would quickly spread from bird to bird throughout the entire flock.  A severe infestation of the mites or lice could really cut into the profits that our Dryden Township farmer’s wife was expecting to make—especially during the layers’ most productive period of time—the winter months.

Our Dryden Township farmer’s wife would occasionally catch a chicken, usually one that was still in the box nest as she was collecting the eggs.  She would hold the wings of the chicken to keep the hen from flopping around in panic.  Then she would carefully inspect the chicken for any mites or other problems.

Painting the roosts in the hen house with “Carbolineum” was a way of preventing an outbreak of mites.  Carbolineum was really nothing more than an oil-based creosote.  The creosote would keep the mites off the chickens as they slept on the roosts at night.  During the late fall and winter she painted the under sides of the roosts with Carbolineum.  Our Dryden Township farmer’s wife was careful to apply the Carbolineum only to the underside of the 2 inch by 2 inch rails of the chicken roosts in the hen house.  That way, there should be little likelihood of the Carbolineum coming into contact with the feet or even “toe nails” of the hens as their feet grasped the rails while they slept all night long on the roosts.  By applying the Carbolineum to the underside of the roosts, she hoped to kill off any infestation of mites while, at the same time, keeping the chickens feet clean.  Anything on the chickens’ feet would be transferred to the eggs they laid and creosote would create stains on the shells of eggs which would be very difficult to clean.

Recently, our Dryden  Township farmer’s wife had been hearing about some new insecticide called Black Leaf 40 which was supposed to be very effective against lice in the hen house.   She had obtained a bottle of it and had applied it to the bottoms of the rails on the roost in the hen house.  It really did seem to get rid of any lice almost totally.

 

A very small amount of Black Leaf 40 seemed to keep the hen house free of lice for almost the entire year.

Black Leaf 40 appeared to be working much better than Carbolineum.  The hen house seemed to be almost entirely free from lice for the whole winter.

 

Black Leaf 40 was advertised to work on feather mites and lice while the chickens perched on the rails of the roosts in the hen house.

 

Black Leaf 40 was a powerful poison made largely from tobacco by products and other powerful compounds.  Consequently, the product contained strong warnings.  (As the years passed more research was done on Black Leaf 40 and the side effects of this product were found to be severe indeed.  Black Leaf 40 was found to cause birth defects in the humans that were around the chickens.  Finally in 1992 Black Leaf 40 was banned from the U.S. market.)

 

The worsening side effects that were discovered as the years went by finally caused the Environmental Protection Agency to banned Black Leaf 40 in 1992.

 

Now she took one of the wire baskets, and began gathering the eggs from the nests that hung along the wall of the hen house.  On average a hen will lay two eggs every three days.  However, at the peak of the laying season a heavily producing hen might be laying one egg every day.  Eggs were not laid at night.  The hen sleeps all night from the time that the sun set in the evening until the first crack of light in the morning.  Usually the first sounds in the hen house in the morning were the roosters crowing.  When the hens awoke, their first order of business was to lay an egg.  Most eggs were laid by the flock between sunrise and 2 pm each day.  Since there are far fewer nests than there were hens in the chicken house, the hens took turns laying their eggs in the nests.

Frequent gathering of the eggs reduced chances that the eggs would get dirty from the sucession of hens visiting the nests.  Also, they wanted to gather the eggs from the nests to preserve freshness.  Freshness was important.  Our Dryden Township farmer’s wife knew that freshness was directly related to the money that she would receive for her eggs.

When just laid, an egg is 100˚ F, the body temperature of a hen. When first laid, an egg will have no air pocket on the inside of the shell.  However, as the egg cools the inside of the egg shrinks.  As a result of this shrinkage, an air pocket is formed at the large end of the egg when air is drawn through the porous shell of the egg.  If this fresh egg is cooled immediately, the air pocket that is formed will be no more than 1/8th of an inch thick.  Like other egg buyers, Nowack’s  graded the eggs they purchased and paid for the eggs on a three-tier pricing system—Grade A, Grade B and Grade C.  A fourth class of eggs were called “inedible.”  However, these eggs were not marketable  (In more recent times, this grading system has been replaced with a system of new classifications—Grade AA, Grade A Grade B and “inedible.” Grade C has been eliminated and eggs that were once regarded as Grade C are now regarded as Grade B).  “Freshness” was a major determining factor for classifying the eggs into the three marketable grades.  Our Dryden Township  farmer’s wife knew that an egg with an air cell measuring 1/8th of an inch in thickness or less was a Grade A egg.  She could receive 17¢ per dozen for all her Grade A. eggs.  However, the longer the egg remained in the warm environment under a hen, the larger the air pocket would be.  An air pocket measuring between 1/8th and 3/16th of an inch would be a Grade B egg.  She could receive 13¢ per dozen for all her Grade B eggs.  Any egg with an air pocket over 3/16th of an inch in thickness was a Grade C egg.  Our Dryden Township farmer’s wife would receive only 11¢ per dozen for her Grade C eggs.  Thus, the amount of money she received for her eggs could be reduced by as much as 23.5% if all her eggs were Grade B eggs or as much as 35.3% if all her eggs were Grade C eggs.  Frequent gathering and quick cooling of the eggs was the best way to assure that her eggs would be Grade A.

Noack’s determined the freshness of the eggs it received by “candling” and grading each egg received at their egg plant.  Candling was performed by holding each egg up to a bright light, with the big end of the egg upwards, to observe the inside of the egg.  With the big end of the egg facing upwards, the candling worker at Noack’s could measure the size of the air cell that had formed inside the egg and determine how long the egg had remained under a hen before the individual egg was gathered.  These eggs that she was now gathering would soon cool in the wire basket.  A wire basket allowed the eggs to cool down twice as fast as a pail.  Cooling the eggs would keep the air cell in the eggs as small as possible.  The secret then was for the hen to lay her egg in the morning and then get out of the nest to leave room for the next hen to lay her egg.  Some hens would tend to remain in the nest long after they had laid their egg.  These hens were attempting to “brood” the eggs as if she were wanting to hatch the eggs.  This was a characteristic known as “broodiness” in hens.  The tendency toward broodiness was a natural tendency but it was harmful to the freshness of eggs because the hen kept the temperature of the egg high the longer she laid on the egg.  The White Leghorn hens were known as a breed with less tendency toward broodiness than other breeds.  Having less nests than laying hens in the hen house meant that the hens, in their urgency to lay an egg would tend to drive broody hens out of the nest.

Even without broody hens, frequent gathering of the eggs throughout the morning was necessary to preserve freshness.  The collective body heat of the succession of hens visiting a typical nest, tended to keep the first eggs laid in the nest close to 100ºF.  As she gathered the eggs from the nests and placed them in the basket, our Dryden Township farmer’s wife could feel that some of the eggs were still warm to the touch.

Besides maintaining freshness, another advantage of gathering the eggs frequently was that there would be less chance of the eggs being cracked or broken in the nest, as the succession of hens visited the nests and laid their own eggs.  Hens moving around in the nests could cause the eggs to collide together and crack or break entirely.  Cracked eggs could not be shipped to Noack’s.  They would be clearly be regarded as culls by Nowack’s and would be discarded.    Thus cracked eggs were kept at home for use by the family.  At most times around her kitchen, our Dryden Township farmers wife had a collection of cracked eggs placed in cups to prevent further breakage or drainage until she could use them for her cooking.  Slightly misshaped eggs and eggs that were too large to sell, were also kept at home.  All these eggs were kept in the ice box to be used by her husband and herself.   Sufficient straw in the nests was another way to avoid the cracking of the eggs.  Furthermore, fresh straw in each nest along with frequent gathering would help keep the eggs clean.

There were some abnormalities in eggs that our Dryden Township farmer’s wife could not see.  The candling test at Noack’s also provided a check for double yolks, “meat” or blood spots in the egg.  Any eggs that were found to have abnormal shells, minor meat spots or minor blood spots or would have other minor defects would all be consigned to the Grade C category.  Grade C eggs would not be sold on the retail market to grocery stores, rather Grade C eggs would be sold to bakeries or companies making powdered eggs or cake mixes.  Double yolk eggs would be discarded as culls.  The farm family was not paid for any eggs that were “culls” or inedible, for whatever reason.  Thus, our Dryden Township farmer and his wife knew that they might as well keep all elongated or eggs with some other external irregularities at home for their own use.  Elongated eggs are “misshaped eggs” and regarded as culls.  Unusally large eggs or elongated eggs also have a strong possibility of being double yolk eggs.  Our Dryden Township farmer’s wife candled some eggs at home to sort out the double yolks eggs and other culls.  There was no use sending an unmarketable egg to town.  These eggs would be culled at Nowak’s and she would not be paid for the eggs.  There was really nothing wrong with a double yolk egg.  Indeed, she remembered that, as a child, a double yolk egg was regarded as a surprise treat on her breakfast plate.  Better to keep these eggs at home and use them for the immediate family.

Any eggs with soft leathery shells were also saved for use by the couple themselves.  Indeed, these leathery shells were an indication that the hens did not have enough calcium in their diet.  Consequently, each day, our Dryden Township farmer’s wife made sure that the oyster shell dispenser/self-feeder was full.  During the winter, it was important to keep this dispenser full as ground oyster shells were main source of calcium for the hens.  She and her husband had to purchase the ground oyster shells from the A.M. Timm and Sons Elevator uptown in Arlington.  So ground oyster shells were an “out of pocket expense” that had to be made in order to maintain the flock of hens.  However, with the coming of spring she expected this expense to decrease.

In the spring and summer, the bugs that the hens found in the chicken yard, especially the hard-shelled beetles, were an important source of calcium.  At this point, the oyster shells would become only a supplementary source of calcium to the bugs they might find in the chicken yard.  This early in the spring, the bugs were not yet out, however.  Still already this morning, some hens were busy outside in the chicken yard scratching away at the ground with great anticipation of finding something to eat.  Later in the spring, when the “june bugs” made their appearance, the hens would quickly snatch up any bug or worm that might be foolish enough to show itself in the hen yard.

 

Chickens out feasting on insects in their hen yard.

 

Spring would also mean savings in another feeding expense—marble grit.  Chickens have no teeth.  They swallow their corn and oats whole.  They must rely upon the muscles of their gizzard to grind up the corn and oats they are fed.  To aid in this grinding process, chickens intentionally swallow small pebbles or stones to store in their gizzards.  These small stones act like little mill stones for the reducing the corn and oats to a digestive food mixture.  The little pebbles would stay in the gizzard and keep processing food until they were worn away to such a small size that the worn pebble would be passed through the digestive tract of the bird and discarded with the waste manure.  Thus, the bird would continually need to periodically replace the pebbles in the gizzard.  In the summer, the chickens would be pick up these small pebbles while doing their daily scratching in the chicken yard.  However, in the winter, these pebbles needed to be provided for the chickens.  This was another out of pocket expense.  The marble chips or “grit” had to be purchased in 50 pound bags at the A.M. Timm and Sons Elevator in Arlington.  Just like the oyster shells, the grit was made available to the hens by means of a self feeder that hung on the wall of the hen house.  Although the grid feeder did not need to be filled as frequently as the oyster shells feeder, our Dryden Township farmer’s wife also checked the grit self feeder on a daily basis.  Just like oyster shells, however, our Dryden Township farmer’s wife would notice welcomed decrease in the consumption of grit once warmer weather arrived and the chickens started spending more time outside in the chicken yard.

 

Ground granite chips which are being fed to the chickens here is one of the most common grids sold to poultry growers.

 

With 200 laying hens at the height of their productivity, like now, our Dryden Township farmer’s wife found that she would nearly fill two wire baskets of gathered eggs.  .  As noted above, hens lay their eggs in the hours between sunrise and 2:00 PM.  Thus, she would return to the hen house to gather eggs again at about noon or shortly after.  After about 2 PM, all the hens wanted to do was to get outside and do some scratching.  Still she might return to the hen house in afternoon to gather any eggs that might have been laid late in the day.

She took the eggs to the house and placed both wire baskets up on a table in the porch.  Here the eggs would cool, while she finished the morning chicken chores.  Feeding the hens meant carrying two five (5) gallon buckets filled with oats from the granary located a short distance away to the chicken house.  Leaving one bucket full of oats safely outside the door of the hen house where it would not be bothered by the chickens, our Dryden Township farmer’s wife entered the chicken house door and moved carefully to the first long feeder.  These feeders were for full-grown chickens and were about 18 inches up off the floor with rails on either side for the hens to stand on while they ate.  The feeder also had a wire cover to allow the hens to stick their heads through to peck and eat the oats.  The wire cover was to prevent the hens from crawling right into the feeder itself and dirtying up the feed with their feet.  The chickens crowded around our Dryden Township farmer’s wife as she poured the oats into one of the long feeders.  The chickens were hopping up onto the rails on either side of the feeder and pressing in around her, fighting for a good position at the feeder.  After all night, they were ready for their breakfast.  Our Dryden Township farmer’s wife had to “shoo” the birds out of her way with her feet as she moved along the feeder pouring out the oats.  After emptying the first pail of oats, our Dryden Township  farmer’s wife went back to the door of the hen house and traded the empty pail for the full pail outside the door of the hen house.  Then she filled the second long feeder in the hen house.

 

Gathering eggs in the hen house.

 

Oats were high in protein and the laying hens needed all the protein that they could obtain.  Corn on the other hand was high in calories and was necessary for young growing chickens.  Corn was less necessary for laying hens.  Laying hens did not need all the calories that were contained in shelled corn.  Still the hens needed some calories and, therefore, some corn was made part of their diet.  Consequently, our Dryden Township farmer’s wife emptied two cans of oats and then returned to the granary to fill one of the pails with corn and would fill the third long feeder in the hen house with shelled corn.

 

Self-feeders and self-waterers allow the chickens to provide for themselves nearly all day.

 

Next she would have to water the hens.  She hauled water in old milk cans from pump house located at the foot of the windmill to the hen house.  All winter she had been using a sled to pull the milk cans filled with water across the yard on the snow.  Now, however, there was no snow left and she now used the big-wheel milk-can hauling-cart.  The waterers for the hens were galvanized columns which were filled with water and had a dish around the bottom.  This dish at the bottom of the waterer filled automatically to allow the chickens to drink from the dish at any time during the day or night.  The galvanized waterers were suspended from the ceiling.  Cone-shaped lids covered the top of the cylindrical waterer.  These lids kept dust and debris out of the hens drinking water.  The cone-shape of the lid prevented chickens from roosting on the watering units.  Our Dryden Township farmer’s wife poured some water out of the milk cans on the hauling cart into watering pails that she kept near hen house.  Two of these pails would usually fill one of the cylindrical watering units.  She made repeated trips out to the hauling cart to fill the pails enough times to fill all the watering units.  As she did so, the hens would eagerly crowd around the waterers and stick their beaks in the water in the dish at the bottom of the watering unit, take a mouthful of water and look up at the ceiling to let the water drain down their throats.  After filling the galvanized waterers in the hen house, she pushed the cart with the remaining water down to the brooder house where the next generation of chickens were already being raised.

 

Most brooder houses were made with long skids underneath which allowed the brooder house to be moved.

 

This brooder house was still very new.  After the old brooder house literally collapsed of its own accord, two years ago our Dryden Township farmer and his wife had enlisted the L.P. Dolliff Lumber Company of Arlington, to build this present brooder house.  These baby chicks were only the second crop of chicks to be raised in this new brooder house.

Ideally, our Dryden Township farmer and his wife sought, each year, to have a flock of 200 laying hens.  However, they also wished to have 20 breeding males in the flock to maintain an optimum breeding ratio of one breeding rooster for every 8 to 12 laying hens.  Furthermore they wished to have about 30 capons, which were “sexed” or “caponized” males.  This would mean a total population of around 250 chickens.  In order to achieve this ideal size, however, our Dryden Township  farmer and his wife had taken 400 eggs in town to the hatchery.  It was expected that some of the eggs they took to the hatchery would not hatch.  Additionally, there was an allowance for the normal 5% mortality rate of baby chicks over the first seven (7) weeks of life (perhaps 2½ % mortality occurring within the first two weeks of life).  Some of the chickens would be butchered over the course of the summer.  Thus for al these reasons, our Dryden Township  farmer’s wife knew that she needed to start with 400 eggs delivered to the hatchery in February to end up with a laying flock of 250 chickens in September.  Our Dryden Township farmer and his wife agreed that they needed go through the additional expense of letting the professionals at the hatchery/nursery uptown hatch all the baby chicks.  Trying to hatch 400 eggs themselves at home was difficult work.  The cost involved in having the hatchery/nursery do the job was well worth the price.

It would take 21 days for the baby chicks to hatch from the eggs at the hatchery.  Thus, back in February when our Dryden Township farmer and his wife had first taken the eggs to the Hatchery, they knew they did not have a great deal time to prepare for the arrival of the baby chicks.  Accordingly, they set to work immediately.  Our Dryden Township  farmer had hitched the horses up to the Minnesota Prison Industries manure spreader and pulled the manure spreader around by the brooder house and cleaned out all the left-over litter and debris from the previous year—cleaned the brooder house right down to sweeping out the entire floor of all dust.  Then they mixed up a strong lye and water solution and brushed down the entire brooder house—floor, inside walls and ceiling—with the lye solution.  This lye solution would kill germs and bacteria to give new baby chicks as clean an environment in the brooder house as possible.

Next they spread the fresh litter on the floor.  The litter on the floor of the brooder house which had been provided for the baby chicks was nothing more than ground up corn cobs.  Sometimes, they used sawdust from one of the local sawmills.  The sawdust was usually free for cost of hauling it off from the sawmill and our Dryden Township  farmer and his wife found that saw dust was very fluffy and absorbent—especially pine wood sawdust.  However, this winter had been heavy with snow and had made it difficult to get the sawdust.  Instead, during one of the breaks in weather that winter, our Dryden Township farmer was able to get the corn crib shelled out.  After filling the shelled corn bin in the granary, they had sold all the rest of the corn to the A.M. Timm and Sons Elevator located uptown in Arlington.

As a by-product of the shelling operation, they had a huge pile of corn cobs in their yard near the corn crib.  As usual, our Dryden Township farmer ground up the entire pile of corn cobs.  He had one of the feed bins in the hog house full to over-flowing with “coarse ground” corn cobs—anticipating that the cobs would be used as bedding either the brooder house, the hen house or the hog house itself.

Now our Dryden Township farmer hitched the team of horses up to his grain wagon.  For winter time use, he had, previously, taken the double grain box off the wheeled wagon gear and placed the box on a sled.  He loaded his grain wagon with a pile of ground corn cobs out feed room in the hog house.  He did this by shoveling the ground corn cobs into a bushel basket and hauling the bushel basket out to the wagon/sled.  Then he drove the team and pulled the wagon up in front of the door to the brooder house.  Then he shoveled the metal bushel basket full and took the full bushel basket into the brooder house and began to cover the floor of the brooder house with a two (2) inch layer of ground corn cobs to serve as litter for the baby chicks.  Then they set up the brooder stove and filled the kerosene tank out side the brooder house with kerosene.  They tested the brooder house and set the thermostat that controlled the burner in the brooder stove to the temperature of 95ºF just to see if the burner and thermostat could maintain the required initial brooder house temperature of 95ºF.  Everything was all set for the baby chicks.

 

 

Newborn baby chicks huddling together at the local nursery in Arlington.

About a week after the baby chicks were hatched at the local baby chick nursery in Arlington, our Dryden Township farmer and his wife went to town to get their baby chicks.  The stove in the brooder house was put through its paces the first night as the temperature outside the brooder house had reached down to nearly 0ºF.  The baby chicks needed to be kept in an environment which was heated to 95ºF.  The thermostat had to work accurately. A rise in temperature to even l03ºF inside the brooder house would become hazardous to the health of the baby chicks.

 

Picking up the baby chicks from the Nursery in their cardboard baby chick crates.

 

When she and her husband brought the baby chicks home in cardboard baby chick crates, they had made sure that all the cardboard crates were safely inside the brooder house and that the temperature of the brooder house was up to 95°F before they began opening the crates.  They then took the chicks out to release them one by one inside the brooder guard—a circular protective corrugated paper ring about 12 inches tall—that en-circled the chicks in the brooder house keeping them huddled close around the kerosene-fired brooder stove located in the center of the brooder house and keeping them away from any cold drafts that might infiltrate the brooder house.  The immediate problem was to get them watered.  A baby chick can survive for only about 48 hours after hatching before it needs a drink of water.  However, the earlier the chick drinks water the less stress they will have during this crucial early part of their lives.  Consequently, as each chick was taken from the crate, they had their beak dipped in the water in the trough of the base of one of the quart jar waterers located inside the brooder guard.  Not only did this give the chicks their first drink of water, but it helped familiarize the birds with the watering unit.  Soon the chicks had the technique mastered.  Like the older hens in the hen house, they began to dip their beaks into the water to get a beak-full of water and then they would look directly up toward the ceiling to let the water drain down their throats.

 

Now in the warm brooder house on the farm, the baby chicks, still bearing their fuzzy exteriors, are gathered around the water fountain raising their heads to let the fresh water drain down their throats.

 

Now a week later, the chicks were still very young—cute little balls of yellow fur running around inside the brooder guard.  Attached to the brooder stove was a hover hood which helped keep the heat produced by the stove low to the floor where the chicks lived.  Because they were already a week old, our Dryden Township farmer’s wife reached over and set the thermostat down to 90ºF.  She would keep turning the temperature down by 5ºF each week as the chicks grew.  As important as the correct temperature was for the growing baby chicks, their need for space was more important.  When first born and up until they are two weeks of age, each single baby chick requires only a space of 3-1/3 inches by 3-1/3 inches—for a total of 10 square inches per chick.  The circle enclosed by the brooder guard was seven feet across, which was enough room for 500 newly hatched chicks.  Thus, the 400 chicks had an abundance of room for their first 2 weeks of life.  However, after only the first week in their new home, life was already getting chaotic in the brooder house.  The baby chicks were getting adventuresome.  They were starting to jump up on top of the 1-quart jar waterers that were placed through out the area inside the brooder guard.  Furthermore, the brooder guard itself was becoming a hazard to the chicks as some of them chicks began to jump up on top of the brooder guard to perch and then jumped or fell on the outside of the brooder guard.  These chicks would be running around and around the brooder guard trying to figure out how to get back inside the brooder guard near the warmth of the stove, the water, food and their friends.  Indeed, our Dryden Township  farmer’s wife had entered the brooder house just this morning to find two chicks running around outside the brooder guard peeping their protests.  She carefully scooped up both scared chicks and returned them to the area inside the brooder guard.  Eagerly they raced to get directly under the brooder stove to warm quickly.

 

The circular cardboard brooder guard (here pictured in a “cut away” format to show the chicks waterers and self feeders) with the heat source in the center, is designed to keep the chicks confined near the heat source for the first few days of life.

 

Feed for the baby chicks was another “out of pocket” expense.  Rather than trying to feed the baby chicks some ground feed processed on the farm itself, our Dryden Township farmer and his wife both felt that it was better to purchase the baby chicks feed.  Since 1935, Purina Feed Corporation had made a baby chick feed called “Startena.”  In addition to containing the necessary ingredients that the baby chicks needed, Startena also contained medicinal ingredients which helped the baby chicks fight off diseases during that crucial period of time—the first two weeks of life.  Our Dryden Township farmer and his wife both felt they could not avoid the extra cost of this feed in order preserve the health of their newly hatched flock.

 

An advertisement for the Purina Company’s “Startena” baby chick feed.

 

After feeding and watering the baby chicks, our Dryden Township farmer’s wife hurried back to the house.  Her husband would be coming back to the house from the barn after having completed the milking and barn chores.  They would eat breakfast together and then she would have to start cleaning and packing the eggs that she had gathered just this morning.  Today was Wednesday and the Nowak’s egg truck driver would soon be pulling into the yard to pick up the crates of eggs that she had ready to go.  It was a good thing that both she and her husband liked eggs, because double yolk eggs, elongated and/or other misshapen or cracked eggs were a staple at breakfast each morning.

Bacon was cut in strips from the slab that she had in the ice box.  The strips were placed in the black cast iron fry pan.  Then the potatoes would be sliced and fried and, finally, the eggs would be fried, all in the same cast iron fry pan.  She and her husband would have raw milk to drink with the breakfast.  Nearly the entire breakfast was made up of products taken directly from their farm.  The only out-of-pocket, expense was the white bread for their toast and the coffee that accompanied breakfast.  Earlier in the winter the potatoes that she was now cooking might also have come from the garden.  However, it now being March, they had used up all their own potatoes which had been stored in the cellar.  Consequently, the potatoes being cooked this morning were from the grocery store in Arlington.

After breakfast, she and her husband pulled out the partially full case of eggs that they had been filling yesterday.  Together they sat down on short stools gathered around the egg crate on the kitchen floor.  They started to remove the eggs one at a time from the wire baskets and inspect them before placing them in the egg crate.  The egg crate was divided into two sides.  At the very bottom of cardboard crate they placed a soft cardboard separating unit which held 36 (three dozen) eggs in the first level.  Once that level was full of eggs, a square piece of card board was placed over eggs.  This piece of cardboard rested on the separating unit and not on the eggs themselves and acted as a ceiling for the first level of eggs and as a floor for the second level of eggs on that side of the egg crate.  They inspected each egg by hand and candled only a few suspicious eggs that they suspected might have double yolks.  Although, our Dryden Township farmer’s wife had the ability to candle eggs at home, she did not waste time trying to candle every egg.   There was nothing she could do about the insides of the egg now.  Fortunately, blood spots affect only about 1% of all eggs and meat spots are even more rare. Rather she and her husband concentrated on the outside of the egg.  Eggs with any stains on the shells would be classified as a Grade C egg no matter how fresh the egg was.  Thus, she worked on cleaning the eggs as much as possible to raise the eggs up out of a potential Grade C classification to the full Grade A classification price for each egg.  In this effort, she had a battery of tools close at hand.  A rag wet with cool, but not cold water was used to remove any water soluable material on the egg shell.  Warm or hot water was not used because of the fear that warm water would raise the temperature of the eggs and cause the air pocket in the eggs to enlarge and decrease the “freshness” of the eggs they were cleaning.  However, she was aware that the shell of the egg was porous.  Thus, the water used for cleaning the eggs should not be too cold.  If the water used on the rag was colder than the temperature of the inside of the egg, water and air would be “sucked” into the egg through the shell as the temperature of the egg was reduced.  Our Dryden Township farmer’s wife put a bit of chlorine in the cool water that she used to clean the eggs.  Chlorine killed germs on the shell of the egg.  She also employed an old sharp knife in cleaning the eggs.  This knife could be used to scrape off any bits of straw from the nest that adhered to the shell of the egg.  For stubborn stains on the shells, she used an emory board or emory cloth on the shells of the eggs.  She did not soak or routinely clean every egg.  To clean an egg excessively or to soak the egg would remove the “bloom” of the egg which tends to preserve the freshness of the egg.

Cleaning the hard spots on the eggs with the rough side of a sponge.

 

Our Dryden Township farmer and his wife continued cleaning and placing the eggs in the egg crate, filling one level after another until they had filled all six levels on one side of the egg crate.  That was 18 dozen eggs.  Filling the other half of the egg crate made a total of 36 dozen or 432 eggs.  At the peak of the laying season, like right now in March, when the hens were about a year old and had been laying for about seven (7) months, our Dryden Township  farmer and his wife were packing up nearly two crates of eggs every Wednesday and about one and a half crates every Saturday.

Cleaning eggs and packing them into a 432-egg capacity “double crate.”

 

Today, there were only a few dirty eggs that needed their attention.  She dipped her cleaning rag into some to water and chlorine mixture.  She carefully rubbed the straw and dirt off the off the dirty eggs. Cleaning the egg shell and trying to remove every stain was the means by which she attempted raise an egg out of the Grade C category and to get as much money for her eggs as possible.  The separation of Grade A eggs from Grade B eggs would occur at the Nowack’s plant as a result of the candling process and was based entirely on the freshness of the egg as determined by the size air cell.  The only way our Dryden Township  farmer and his wife could influence the determination of whether an egg was a Grade B or a Grade A was to keep gathering the eggs on a frequent basis.

Cleaning eggs by hand with a sponge.

 

Thus, when they had one wire basket empty her husband put on his coat, took the wire basket and went out to the hen house to make one more sweep of the nests.  Ordinarily, they did not gather eggs at this time of day, but today was “egg truck day.”  They might as well get as many fresh eggs off to Nowack’s as possible when the truck arrived.   Usually the truck arrived at about 9:00am.  They would still have time to pack any newly laid eggs also.  Sure enough, when her husband returned from the hen house, he had enough eggs to complete another level in one side of the second egg crate.  The eggs were clean too.  This was evidence that the each of the nests in the hen house contained sufficient fresh straw.  As long as she kept bringing fresh straw from the threshing stack over to the hen house and kept refreshing the nests with the straw, she would find that a great number of the eggs did not need cleaning.  Today our Dryden Township farmer and his wife would send off two 432 egg capacity “double  crates” full of eggs off to Nowack’s.

 

This is a sturdy wooden egg shipping crate.  However, this is a “single” 216 egg capacity crate.

Currently, the hens were laying eggs at their maximum rate.  However as the weeks went by and summer came, the hens aged and their egg production decreased.  Every year, in the late summer our Dryden Township farmer and his wife would sell all the old hens from the chicken house to Nowacks for butchering.  For this reason, a new flock of laying hens needed to be raised every year from baby chicks.  Every year this new flock would replace the old layering flock in the chicken house.

Warm weather was late in arriving in the spring of 1940.  Our Dryden Township  farmer had made arrangements to shell out the corn in his corn crib on Friday, March 15, 1940.  However, a huge two-day snow storm, in the middle of March, dumped 17 inches of snow on their farm.   The shelling date had to be changed to a later date.  As a consequence, the sheller did not arrive on the farm of our Dryden Township farmer until Wednesday, April 10.  The snow from the recent storm was rapidly disappearing.  However, a late-season cold spell brought temperatures of 10°F. The ground remained frozen.  Field work was still a long way off as the sheller pulled into the yard of his farm on shelling day.

The 1939 corn harvest had been a bumper crop on his farm.  The average Sibley County yield in 1939 reached 50 bushels per acre up a full 24.7% over the average yield in a normal year—40.1 bushels per acre.  Our Dryden Township farmer had corn stored every where on his farm.  The corn crib was full to capacity and he had erected a round “snow fence” crib in the yard, to hold the remainder of the 1939 corn crop.  Thus our Dryden Township farmer had plenty of corn to sell.  The only trouble was that the nation as a whole had also experienced a bumper crop of corn in 1939.  Normally, this indicated that a glut of corn would appear on the market and drive prices down.  Our Dryden Township farmer expected that any day the price of corn would begin to decline under the weight of the expected glut in the market.  The price of corn was already low enough.  It was still attempting to recover from the recession that had occurred in the nation’s economy in late-1937 and early-1938.  Unexpectedly, however, prices appeared to be going up rather than down.  The average price of corn for the whole month of April, 1940, rose to 67¢ per bushel—up an entire nickel per bushel from the March price.  This was a price that had not been seen since October of 1937, before the recent recession.  Thus, the snow storm in March turned out to be a blessing.  The delay in shelling out the corn on his farm forced our Dryden Township farmer to sell at the April, 1940 higher price rather than selling at the lower price in March of 1940.

He shelled out the round temporary snow fence “corn crib” and elevated that shelled corn up into the large bin in the granary.  Then he filled one of the bins in the hog house with shelled corn.  Filling both the large bin in the granary and one of the bins in the hog house, our Dryden Township farmer was sure to have enough of the shelled corn for feeding the chickens and the pigs for another entire year.  He could now load the rest of the shelled corn onto trucks to be hauled to the Arlington elevator to be sold.

Sale of this bumper crop of corn to the elevator yielded a larger check than in an average year.  With this check, our Dryden Township farmer began to contemplate the idea of getting a farm tractor to improve his farming operation.  On one particular trip into the village of Arlington in the spring of 1940, he noticed that his local IHC dealership—Thomes Bros. Hardware in Arlington, had a used 1935 Farmall F-20 parked in their used machinery lot.  He learned that the dealership had just taken the F-20 as a “trade-in” on the purchase of a new Farmall H.  The Farmall H and the other letter-series Farmalls had been introduced on July 3, 1939 as a replacement for the F-series tractors.  However, as a young farmer with only limited reserves available to him, our Dryden Township farmer did not seriously entertain the idea of purchasing one of the new letter-series tractors.  Rather he turned his real attention to the used F-20 tractor at the dealership.  This F-20 was fitted steel wheels in the rear, but had 5.50 x 16 inch rubber tires in the front.  These front wheels were mounted on F. & H. “round spoke” rims.

 

Although originally painted gray, the 1935 Farmall F-20 at the Thomes Hardware and Implement dealership had been repainted the more modern red color and had completely “reconditioned the tractor in 1940 to be ready for sale to our Dryden Township farmer.

 

The keen radar of the sales staff at Thomes Bros. Hardware could tell that, unlike his previous visits, this time our Dryden Township farmer was seriously considering the purchase of a tractor.  Thus, the sales staff swung into action, pointing out to our Dryden Township farmer that this was a late 1935 Model F-20 and, thus, the tractor was fitted with the worm/gear type of steering rather than the enclosed bevel gear and sector plate style of steering that had been fitted on all the earlier F-20 tractors.  The worm/gear type of steering was just like the steering found on the new letter series tractors and made the tractor much easier to steer in the field.  Especially, when the tractor was being used on the loose soil of the corn field with the front end of the tractor burdened with the weight of a mounted cultivator.  The staff at Thomes Bros. Hardware did not have to tell our Dryden Township farmer about the hazard presented by the bevel gear and sector plate style of steering when working the tractor on rough plowed ground or when one of the front wheels hit a rock in the field.  Our Dryden Township farmer had heard too many horror stories from his neighbors about broken or dislocated thumbs as a result of the steering wheel spinning rapidly out of control on those occasions when one of the front wheels hit a rock or another obstacle in the fields.  Our Dryden Township farmer knew that the worm-gear type of steering was a vast improvement over the bevel and sector plate type of steering of the pre-1935 F-20 tractors.  Our Dryden Township farmer reasoned that the rubber tires on the front wheels and the worm-gear steering should make this particular F-20 tractor as easy to steer as a new Farmall H.

As a further enticement to our Dryden Township farmer, the staff at the Thomes Bros.  dealership offered to “recondition” the F-20.  The sales staff offered to repaint the tractor from its current rusty “battleship” gray color to the new red color that the IHC had been using on all its tractors since November 1, of 1936.  In this way, the 1935 F-20 would look like one of the “newer” red F-20 tractors that had been made after November 1, 1936.  Additionally, Thomas Bros. offered to sell our Dryden Township farmer the 1935 F-20 tractor in a package deal which included a new McCormick-Deering Model No. 221-G mounted two-row cultivator.  This cultivator had been introduced in 1936.  The Model 221-G was a “transition” cultivator that could be fitted on either the Model F-20 or the Model  F-30 tractors of the F-series, but could also be fitted on the new Model H and Model M tractors of the letter-series tractors.  Indeed, the Model 221-G was proving to be IHC’s most popular tractor cultivator.  During its production run, from 1936 until 1942, more than 62,500 individual units of the Model 221-G cultivator were made and sold.  The Model 221-G cultivator was one of the patented McCormick-Deering “steerable” cultivators in which the front gangs of the cultivator were directly attached to the steering system of the tractor.  In this way the operator could steer the gangs of the cultivator around individual corn plants in the corn field. (Cross-cultivating with a McCormick-Deering “steerable” cultivator mounted on a Farmall tractor is described in the article called “A 1931 Farmall Regular at Work in Mower County, Minnesota” contained in the March/April 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)

Also included in the package deal, offered by the Thomes Bros. dealership to our Dryden Township farmer was a McCormick-Deering No. 8 “Little Genius” two-bottom mold board plow with 14 inch bottoms and steel wheels.  The tractor and this new plow would transform and accelerate up his farming operation.

 

A McCormick-Deering Little Genius No. 8 two-bottom plow with 14 inch bottoms mounted on steel wheels.

 

(In the second and final article in this series, we will see our Dryden Township farmer’s wife continue to raise the new baby chicks into mature chickens which will form the next laying flock on the farm in the winter of 1940-1941.  Meanwhile, her husband will put the 1935 Farmall F-20 and the new McCormick-Deering  Little Genius plow to work in the fields on his farm during the growing season of 1940.)

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