Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part 2 of 2parts)

Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township (Part 2 of 2 parts):

The 1944 Farmall Model H Tractor


Brian Wayne Wells

Fuzzy little pods of a soybean plant. Each pod is filled with three or four individual soybeans.

As noted, previously, Butternut Valley Township is located in the extreme northwestern corner of Blue Earth County, Minnesota.  (See the first article in this series called “Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township [Part 1]” also published in the blog section of this website.)   Also, as previously noted, in 1942 Butternut Valley Township was the home of a particular diversified 160 acre family farming operation.  Our Butternut Valley Township farer and his wife had lived on this farm since they were married in 1919.  As a diversified farming operation, he and his wife milked a Holstein dairy herd, raised pigs and had a chicken flock.  They sold milk and eggs off the farm for regular income.  Each summer they marketed the pigs they had raised to provide cash income in the summer.  In the fields, they raised oats and hay.  Originally the oats were raised to feed their horses as well as their chickens and the hay was used to feed both the cows and the horses.

Diversified farming in Butternut Valley Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota.


Since obtaining a “used” 1929 Farmall Regular tricycle-style tractor in 1937, he had greatly reduced the number of horses his farm.  Thus, he had been able to reduce the number of acres planted to oats and hay each year.  The largest crop on the farm was corn.  Part of the corn crop was cut in August each year, while it was still green.  This corn was then fed into the silo filler and blown into the silo which stood next to the barn.  The silage in the silo would be used all winter to feed the dairy herd.  The remaining corn would be picked in the late autumn and the ears of corn would be stored in the corn crib.  Part of this corn would be shelled and saved to fatten the pigs for market.  The rest of the corn would be sold to provide cash income in the winter.  Consequently, the corn was a cash crop as well as source of animal food.

Image result for Cattle eating silage in a trough 1940s
A Holstein dairy herd being fed corn silage from a silo.


Since the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December of 1941, a new market for plastics had arisen.  Soybeans was the main raw product used in making plastics.  Accordingly, since 1941,. the market price for soybeans had been soaring.  Because he now planted less acres in hay and oats, our Butternut Valley Township farmer decided to plant that extra acreage to soybeans in the spring of 1942.  The growing season of 1942 was almost perfect.  Both soybeans and corn were bumper crops.  Furthermore, the price of these two farm products rose to high levels.  Consequently, our Butternut Valley Township farmer had one of his best years in terms of farm income.  As a result, he seriously think about upgrading his farming operation by trading the old 1929 Farmall Regular in on the purchase of a new modern farm tractor.

The gray Farmall with red-colored wheels.


After selling his corn, our Butternut Valley Township farmer was able to pay off all his debts and find that he still had a comfortable balance of funds in the bank.  As a result, he again visited the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership.  He had heard rumors that more Famall H’s with rubber tires were starting to be manufactured, again, due to the fact that more rubber was starting to be released by the government for civilian production.  This time he told the staff at the Fesenmaier dealership to place his name on the list for a rubber-tired Farmall H.  However, he told them he only wanted a Farmall H with rubber tires, electric starting and hydraulics.  He needed the new tractor now more than ever before.

Wartime advertisement of the Farmall Model H.


In the spring of 1943, our Butternut Valley Township farmer increased the amount of acreage he planted to soybeans.  He kept waiting for his Farmall H to arrive at the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership.  However, very few Farmall Model H tractors arrived at the dealership in New Ulm, Minnesota in 1943 because the manufacturing capacity of the International Harvester Company was still being dominated by government-military contacts.  By 1943, ⅔ or 66.6% of the Company’s sales contracts were for military hardware.  (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester  p. 71.)  Consequently, production of farm tractors by the IHC declined even more.  Although already greatly curtailed, production of the Farmall Model H fell off by another 6% in 1943 when compared with the previous year.  Rubber pneumatic tires for the Farmall H had been almost totally unavailable since July of 1942.  However, starting in July of 1943 rubber tires for the Farmall H started to become available again on a limited basis.  (Guy Fay and Andy Kraushaar, Farmall Letter Series Tractors [MBI Publishing Co.: Osceola, Wisconsin, 1998] p. 73.)  Thus, the rumors that our Butternut Valley Township farmer had heard in the early spring of 1943, that rubber tires were once again becoming available for Farmall tractors, proved to be a bit premature.

Although he was disappointed about the new tractor, he did make one improvement in his farming operation over the summer of 1943, and it was a significant improvement.  Our Butternut Valley Township farmer obtained a second-hand J.I.Case Company Model A-6 combine at an auction held in his neighborhood.  It had been an “expensive” auction.  Farmers could not obtain new farm machinery.  Accordingly, their pent up demand drove up the price of used machinery especially at these neighborhood auctions.  Of all farm machinery, combines were most in demand right now.  The rise of the soybean as a crop on farms had created this demand for combines.  Our Butternut Valley Township farmer felt that he had spent more money than he should have to obtain the combine at the auction.

Case Model A-6 combine working in the soybean field.


When introduced in 1938, the Case Model A-6 combine had cost $695 when fitted with a power take off (pto) shaft to allow the combine to be powered by the tractor towing the combine. When fitted with its own power source—a Wisconsin Model VE-4 four cylinder air-cooled engine, the cost of the Model A-6 rose to $890.  Here he was spending a “new combine” price for a combine that was five years old.

The optional Wisconsin air-cooled engine which could be used to power the Case Model A-6 combine.
The optional Wisconsin air-cooled engine which could be used to power the Case Model A-6 combine.  Here it is seen on a Case Model NCM baler.

However, he expected the combine to pay for itself in savings when he harvested his soybeans in the fall.  First, combining soybeans required much less man-handling of the soybeans than did the cutting, binding and threshing of soybeans.  While threshing the soybeans the year before he had become very much aware of the amount of soybeans that were lost merely getting the bundles of soybean plants to the stationary thresher.  Soybeans were much more brittle and fragile than wheat or oats.  His attempt at threshing soybeans in 1942 had involved too much waste.  If he had been unable to purchase a combine himself in 1943, our Butternut Valley Township farmer felt that he would have to hire someone combine his soybeans.  Better that, than trying to thresh the soybeans again.

Our Butternut Valley Township farmer also knew that if he had his own combine, he could also use the combine in the middle of the summer to harvest the small amount of oats that he still raised for animal feed on his farm.  This would save valuable time, because he would no longer have to wait for the neighborhood thresher to make the rounds of his neighbor’s farms and finally arrived on his farm.  Additionally, he would no longer have to spend a great deal of time away from the farm following the thresher around the neighborhood serving as part of the threshing crew.  Many of his neighbors were also realizing the necessity of combining rather than threshing soybeans.  Accordingly, when the growing season in Blue Earth County in 1943 was marred by a total lack of rain and very hot temperatures during the crucial month of June and the rest of the summer was drier than normal, soybean actual soybean yield was reduced.  However, because of the widespread use of combines rather than threshers in harvesting the soybean crop in Blue Earth County in 1943, average recorded soybean yield in Blue Earth County (in terms of the amount of soybeans sold brought to market) fell off only slightly to 17 bushels per acre in 1943.  Use of the combine made a below-average harvest of soybeans look respectable, because the combine saved much more of the soybeans that would be wasted when threshing with a stationary thresher.

Nationwide, the production of soybeans in 1943 set another new record of 190,133,000 bushels.  Consequently, one might have expected the price of soybeans to drop in the fall of 1943.  However, wartime demand for soybeans kept growing by leaps and bounds.  Thus, despite the flood of soybeans coming onto the market, soybean prices did not decrease.  Instead the price continued to increase.  Our Butternut Valley Township farmer was able to sell his soybeans at the grain elevator in Lake Crystal, Minnesota in November of 1943 for the price of $1.81 per bushel.


Lake Crystal in the post-World War II era. In the skyline of the background can be seen the local grain elevator where our Butternut Valley Township farmer sold his soybeans. 


The winter of 1943-1944 passed.  Spring planting in 1944 came and went and the summer cultivation of the corn and soybeans was all completed on the farm.  Here it was, August of 1944 and still our Butternut Valley Township farmer heard nothing from the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership regarding a new tractor.

Robert Fesenmaier, the owner and operator of the Fesebmaier dealership in New Ulm, Minnesota in a picture taken in 1946.
Robert Fesenmaier, the owner and operator of the Fesebmaier dealership in New Ulm, Minnesota in a picture taken in 1946.

Meanwhile, in that same month of August, 1944, more raw materials became available across the nation for production of both war material and civilian farm machinery (“guns” as well as “butter”).  At the IHC Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois, production of the various Farmall tractors was increasing for the first time in four years.   The two-plow Farmall H still led in sales among all the letter-series Farmall tractors, and thus, production of the Farmall H in 1944 rose to 20,660 tractors—approximately half the pre-war production levels.  As a result of both the continuing military contracts and the recent gradual increase in civilian production, the total value of the production of all goods  by the IHC passed the half a billion dollar mark for the first time in the history of the company in 1944 (actually reaching $640.5 million). (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester  p. 71.)

Production of the Farmall Model H in the Farmall Works continued to rise until it reahed the level of 3,634 tractors for the single month of August of 1944—an average of 158 Farmall H tractors manufactured each day during the 23 working days of the month.  Each one of these tractors began on the assembly line as a simple frame onto which a rear end differential assembly was mounted.  On Monday, August 7, 1944 one particular frame and chassis moving along the assembly line bore the Serial No. 173093 stamped into frame of the future tractor.  A metal plate with the same number stamped on it was attached to the cast-iron bell-housing covering the fly-wheel and the clutch on the left side of the tractor.  As No. 173093 moved along the assembly line an engine and a radiator were added to the frame.  Then the frame was fitted with IHC’s cast iron drop center wheels front and rear.  The cast-iron drop centers meant that No. 173093 was destined to be fitted with rubber tires front and rear.  Even a year after the return of rubber tires as an option for the Farmall tractors, it was an uncommon sight for the workers along the assembly line to actually see a tractor being equipped with rubber tires.  At a later station along the assembly line, after the tractor was painted and dried, the silver colored rims mounted with 10.00 x 38 inch rubber tires were rolled into place and attached to the cast-iron centers on both rear wheels.  At the same time the rims containing the smaller 5.50 x 16 inch rubber tires also mounted on silver colored rims were attached to the front wheels of the tractor.

The current author takes the 1944 Farmall Model H bearing the serial No. 173093 on a round of plowing on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association.
The current author takes the 1944 Farmall Model H bearing the serial No. 173093 on a round of plowing on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association.

Additionally, No. 173093 was fitted with a battery, electric lights, an electric starter, and the Lift-All hydraulic system.  These features were optional equipment during the war, but following the war they would be universally added to almost every Famall H produced in the post-war period.  Accordingly, as No. 173093 was being constructed on the assembly line, it was being fitted with options that would make the tractor a thoroughly modern tractor even in the post-war era.

No. 173093 was fitted with yet another option that was quite rare—disc brakes.  (As discussed in an earlier article, this option was so unusual that some observers of the restored No. 173093 have alleged that the tractor is a really a Farmall Super H rather than a wartime Model H.  (See the article called “The Wartime Farmall H” in the July/August 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  However, as discussed in that article, the external linkage connecting the brake pedal with the housing containing the brake discs is entirely different from the linkage used on the disc braking system of the Super H.  (Ibid.)  With its disc brakes, however, No. 173093 was a tractor of the future that anticipated some of the equipment that would be standard equipment on the Super-series tractors which would be introduced eight and a half (8½) years in the future, on December 12, 1952.  (Guy Fay and Andy Kraushaar, Farmall Letter Series Tractors p. 77.)  Fitting No. 173093 and a limited number of other Farmall H tractors, with the optional disc brakes may have been a test that IHC made of the popularity of the disc brakes themselves with farmer/consumers prior to the release of the Super series.  Thus, No. 173093 was not only was a tractor of the post-war era but was a tractor that anticipated the introduction of the Super series in the 1950s.

The 1944 disc brakes used on No. 173093 are quite different from the disc brakes used on the Super series Farmalls manufactured in the 1950s. However, the linkage for the disc brakes appear quite similar to the linkage for the band brakes.
The 1944 disc brakes used on No. 173093 are quite different from the disc brakes used on the Super series Farmalls manufactured in the 1950s. However, the linkage for the disc brakes appear quite similar to the linkage for the band brakes.


There was, however, one small feature that is a reminder that No. 173093 really is a wartime tractor.  Unlike the pre-war Farmalls, the gear shift stick in the middle of the operator’s seat was threaded—in order to accept a steel gear shift knob.  Before the war, the gear shift knobs on the Farmall letter series tractors had all been made of rubber which were merely pressed on the unthreaded gear shift stick.  However, with the rubber shortage, the Farmalls made during the war were fitted with steel knobs of the same shape.  Even after the limited return of rubber tires as an option for Farmalls in July of 1943, the steel gear shift knob would remain as a feature of wartime tractors until the end of the war in September 1945.  There may have been enough rubber to introduce reintroduce rubber tires for the Farmall in 1943, but the use of rubber for something so superfluous as a gear shift knob was not regarded as a good use of rubber during war time.

Reaching the end of the assembly line, on August 7, 1944, No. 173093 faced its final and most important test—starting the engine.  The engine on the tractor started and No. 173093 was driven under its own power off the assembly line.  When No. 173093 was driven out of the Farmall Works Factory under its own power for the first time, it was immediately assigned to IHC’s district “block house” located in Mankato, Minnesota.  The Mankato block house served as a warehouse facility for IHC dealerships all across south central and southwestern Minnesota.  No. 173093 was loaded onto one of the railroad flat cars setting along side the loading docks outside the Farmall Works factory ready for shipment to Mankato.

The loaded railroad flat car bearing No. 173093 was hitched to a Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (Milwaukee Road) train that was being formed to head north out of the “Quad Cities.”  (Moline [pop. 37,397] and Rock Island [pop.49.461], Illinois were adjacent to each other and directly across the Mississippi River were Davenport [pop. 74,549] and Bettendorf, Iowa [pop.5,132].  So economically integrated were these four towns that they functioned as a single economic unit and, thus, were called the Quad Cities.)  The long Milwaukee Road train heading north across eastern Iowa was loaded predominately with war materials headed for the Pacific theater of war through the port of Seattle, Washington (pop. 467,591).  (Seattle was currently mushrooming in growth not only because the sea port which shipped exports to the Pacific, but because of the growing aircraft industry headquartered in Seattle.  Leading the way in this industry was the Boeing Aircraft Company designing and manufacturing the B-17 bomber and later the B-29 bomber for the war effort.  Following the war Boeing provide a strong manufacturing base for Seattle as they became a large manufacturer of passenger aircraft.  One particular Navy pilot returning from the war would settle in Seattle and start working for Boeing in the post-war era.  This returning veteran was Donald Wells, late uncle of the current author.  Consistent readers of Belt Pulley magazine will recognize Donald Wells, as a young high school graduate working on this father’s farm as mentioned in the article called “The Wartime Farmall H” on page 15 of the July/August 1994 issue and in the article called “A 1931 Farmall Regular at Work” on page 34 of the in the March/April 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)

Just as the farm equipment industry was impacted by wartime economic restrictions, so too were the railroads affected by the war.  Before the war Milwaukee Road had been a pioneer among railroads in the United States in conversion from steam power to diesel-powered locomotives.  Since 1939, the Milwaukee Road railway had been busy replacing their steam power locomotives with 600 horsepower diesel units made the American Locomotive Company (Alco) of Schenectady, New York.  However, the since the start of the war, Milwaukee Road railway had been unable to replace any of their aging inventory of steam engines.  Suddenly in 1944, the War Production Board allowed ten (10) new S3 Class 4-8-4 (the term “4-8-4” refers to the wheel arrangement under the steam engine e.g. four (4) weight-bearing coaster wheels at the front of the engine, eight (8) huge driving wheels under the middle of the engine and four (4) coasters in the back of the under the engineers cab) freight steam locomotives to be manufactured by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and to be delivered to Milwaukee Road.  These ten (10) engines proved to be the last steam-powered engines ever to be purchased by Milwaukee Road.

It was one of these new steam engines that now set about towing the long Milwaukee Road train with the flat car bearing No. 173093 across eastern Iowa through the towns of Oxford Junction (pop. 663), Monticello (pop. 2,888), Delhi (pop. 383), Fayette (pop. 1,469)  and New Hampton (pop. 3,323), Iowa.  The route taken by the train skirted around the small manufacturing city of Waterloo, Iowa (pop. 65,198) where IHC’s rival in the tractor manufacturing industry, Deere and Company, had their main tractor works.  The train did, however, pass through the small town of Charles City, Iowa (pop. 10,309), where another rival, the Oliver Farm Equipment Company had their tractor works.  The train passed through countryside dotted with small farms.  The fields of those farms that bordered the tracks were lush with the corn.  As the leading state in the production of hogs in the nation, it stood to reason that Iowa was also a leading producer of corn.  Corn and hogs were grown together on most diversified farming operations.  Ground shelled corn was used to feed the pigs and fatten them for market.  However, now in 1944 as the Milwaukee Road train made its journey, a surprising number of the fields along the tracks had been planted to another crop—soybeans.

The Milwaukee Road train passed through the counties of Clinton, Jones, Delaware, Fayette, Chickasaw, Floyd and Mitchell  counties in Iowa.  In some of the counties, soybean planting had not made a big impact yet, i.e. in Clinton County farmers on average still allotted 18.1 acres for the production of corn for every acre of soybeans they planted.  In Jones County the ratio was 15.8 acres to 1 and in Delaware County it was 12.7 acres to 1.  However, in other counties along the route, the average production of soybeans had encroached much more into the domain of corn.  The ratio in Fayette County was 3.9 acres of corn for every acre of soybeans, in Chickasaw County the ratio was 2.7 to 1, in Floyd County it was 2.4 to 1 and in Mitchell County it was 2.2 to 1.  Iowa did not surrender its position as a leading state in the production of corn, but it was clear that the soybean was becoming a significant cash crop—more so than flax or barley had ever been.

Leaving Mitchell County, Iowa, the Milwaukee Road train proceeded north and crossed the Iowa/Minnesota border near the village of Lyle, Minnesota (l940 pop. 513).  Ten miles north of Lyle, the train entered the small city of Austin, Minnesota (1940 pop. 18,307).  Here, one of the flat cars bearing the some of the other Farmall tractors were detached and placed on a siding at the freight depot.  Delivery of the Farmall tractors on this flat car would be made to the International Harvester Company dealership located at 1303 East Oakland Street in Austin.  As mentioned in an earlier article, this dealership in Austin was company-owned dealership rather than a franchise-owned dealership.  (See the article, cited above, called “A 1931 Farmall Regular at Work” contained in the March/April 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  A single flat car of Farmalls was a pretty sparse delivery for a dealership like the one in Austin, but it was a sign of the times.

After the stop in Austin, the freight train moved on headed west across southern Minnesota and arrived in the village of Wells (1940 pop. 3,217).  Here the flat car bearing No. 173093 was detached from the main train, which then continued west.  The detached flat car was then attached to another Milwaukee Road train that served the branch that extended into Mankato.  This train passed through Minnesota Lake (1940 pop. 526), the gateway to Blue Earth County.  Passing though Mapleton (1940 pop. 1,070), the train arrived at the freight depot in Mankato (1940 pop. 15,654) where No. 173093 was unloaded.  No. 173093, along with the precious few other Farmall tractors that had arrived as part of this shipment, were was picked up by the staff of the Mankato IHC block house and transported back to the Mankato block house located at 426 North Front Street in Mankato.

The Mankato block house was a warehouse facility that served a number of dealership all across southwestern Minnesota.  Currently, there was no shortage of dealerships begging for Farmall tractors—or indeed, any new farm machinery at all—from the Mankato block house.  Every Farmall tractor in this new shipment of tractors, including No. 173093, had already been assigned to a few lucky dealerships with in the district according to the date of the requests for tractors.  The rubber-tired No. 173093 was assigned to being assigned to the Fesenmaier Hardware Dealership in New Ulm, Minnesota, to satisfy a long-standing request from that dealership for a Farmall H equipped with factory-rubber tires front and rear, electric start, electric lights and the optional Lift-All hydraulic system.  This particular request was nearly two years old and so the staff at the block house took a great deal of pleasure in being able to fill this request at long last.  When the block house staff contacted the Fesenmaier Dealership they learned that the buyer who was taking delivery of this particular tractor actually lived on a farm northwest of Lake Crystal.  This was the farm of our Butternut Valley Township farmer.  Because his farm was actually located between Mankato and New Ulm, Fesenmaier Hardware made arrangements with the Mankato blockhouse do the final “prep” work on the tractor and to make actual delivery of the tractor to our Butternut Valley Township farmer, rather than delivering the tractor all the way to New Ulm and then have Fesenmaier’s back track toward Mankato to deliver the tractor.  Accordingly, No. 173093 was brought in the garage area in the back of the Mankato block house building to be prepped for final delivery to our Butternut Valley Township farmer.

Besides functioning as a warehouse facility for other dealerships in the southern Minnesota district, the Mankato blockhouse also served the immediate Mankato area as a company-owned retail dealership.  Indeed, at about the same time that No. 173093 was being prepped for delivery in the rear of the block house/dealership building, two young brothers were walking into the front door of the dealership.  As noted in another article, Fred and Bruce Hanks, brothers from Mapleton, Minnesota wanted to purchase a pair of cast-iron drop-center front wheels and some rims for rubber tires for a 1942 steel-wheeled Farmall Model H they had purchased from A.E. Rehwaldt of LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752). (See the article cited above called “The Wartime Farmall H” in the July/August 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  The Hanks brothers, too, had become aware that more rubber tires were now available for Farmall tractors and they now sought to update their own newly purchased wartime Farmall H by mounting rubber tires on at least the front wheels of the tractor.

No. 173093 arrived on the farm of our Butternut Valley Township farmer in late August, 1944.  Cultivation of the row crops and most field work was already complete.  Consequently, the first time he had a chance to get into the field with the new tractor was in the late fall when he headed to the field with the new bright red tractor and the old A-6 combine.

The 1944 growing season had been good.  Planting of the soybeans had been completed in mid-May of 1944.  So, by mid- September, the soybeans had reached 120-day maturity, witnessed by the fact that the leaves of the soybean plants turning yellow.  Now our Butternut Valley Township farmer had only to wait for a frost.  Both corn and soybean plants are killed by air temperatures reaching down to a mere 29°F.  He did not have long to wait.  There was an early “killing frost” that arrived on the night of October 9, 1944 as temperatures reached down to 27°F.  Following the frost, the leaves on the soybean plants now dried up, turned dark brown and eventually fell off the plants.  The frost on the night of October 9 proved to be a “snap frost.”  The rest of the month of October warmed up with no more frosts at night.  Indeed some days toward the end of the month reached highs of above 70°F.  So the soybean pods became very dry and brittle.  The leaves fell off the soybean plants so thoroughly that nothing was left of the soybean plants except a brown stalk sticking up out of the ground with the pods attached to it —perfect for combining.  There was no rain at all in October.  Thus, the fields remained dry for the tractor and the combine.

Once in the soybean field, our Butternut Valley Township farmer stepped down from the tractor and walked around combine and lifted the grain tank up into its operating position.  (The high gravity-flow grain tank on the Model A-6 combine folded backward and down into a transport position for transport of the combine and for storage in low ceiling buildings.)  Now with the grain tank locked in place, he adjusted and secured the grain elevator leading up to the tank.  Then he crawled up on top of the A-6 combine and started the Wisconsin Model VE-4 air-cooled engine with the little crank that was provided with the engine.  Once the engine was started, he crawled down off the combine and walked around to the tractor again.  Then he engaged the clutch of the Wisconsin engine and the combine began to shake and come to life.

Because the combine was a pull-type implement the tractor had to run along side of the combine.  Consequently, our Butternut Valley Township farmer crawled up on the operator’s seat of No. 173093 and steered the tractor around so that the front wheels of the tractor moved down the pathway between the rows one 1 and 2 of the eight end rows planted cross-ways across this end of the field.  This meant that the cutter bar and platform of the pull-type A-6 combine was positioned to cut rows 3 and 4 of the eight rows planted across the end of the field.  Then our Butternut Valley Township farmer reached around behind him to grab the platform height control lever and adjusted the platform and 6-foot cutter bar to a height as close to the ground as possible.  He wanted the cutter bar to “shave” the ground in order to cut the dried soybeans so close to the ground that he would get all the pods on each plant—even the low hanging pods which were only a couple of inches off the ground.  Next, our Butternut Valley Township pressed in the foot clutch of the tractor and shifted No. 173093 into second gear and carefully released the clutch to start forward movement of the combine.  The combine harvested rows 3 and 4 leaving only short stubble where the soybean plants used to be.  The soybean plants were taken into the  combine and the soybeans were removed from the pods and the naked, creamy colored, round little soybeans were elevated up into the grain tank.  Reaching the other side of the field our Butternut Valley Township farmer backed the combine around to harvest rows 1 and 2 nearest the fence.  Then he made two more sweeps across the end of the field to combine rows 5 and 6 and rows 7 and 8.

Now he had room at the end of the field—almost 24 feet—to turn the combine around at the end of this end of the field.  Additionally, he had room to bring the Farmall Regular and his wagon out to the field.  He parked the Regular and the wagon on the soybean stubble at the end of the field.  Before, he headed headed across the field on his first length-wise round, our Butternut Valley Township farmer pulled the combine up next to the wagon and crawled up into the wagon and reached over and lowered the chute attached the gravity flow tank on the combine.  The chute now hung over the center of the wagon and when he opened the sliding door on the gravity flow tank, the creamy white colored soybeans began to flow out of the tank and into the wagon.

With the grain tank on the combine now empty, he pulled the combine around to the edge of the field and aligned the cutter bar and platform of the combine with the third and fourth length-wise rows of the field.  This meant that the front wheels of No. 173093 would be steered down the pathway of the first and second length-wise rows at the edge of the field.  The tractor would be passing over un-harvested rows over the entire length of the field.  He hated the idea of passing the tractor over these two un-harvested rows because he knew that some of the brittle soybean pods would be disturbed causing an unavoidable loss of soybeans on the ground.  The first row of dried brown skeletons of soybean plants might pass easily enough under the left rear axle housing of No. 173093.  That was their only obstacle.  However, the second row would pass under the right rear axle of the tractor, but would also have to pass under the hitch and also the axle of the combine which was much lower to ground.  He expected a significant loss of soybeans from these two rows with a greater loss on the right side row.

Before turning the combine around at the other end of the field and starting the combine back across the field, he needed to combine all the soybeans in the eight rows planted cross-wise across the far end of the field.  Accordingly, he would definitely need to unload the grain tank on the A-6 combine before he headed back across the field.  Therefore, he had his wife follow the combine across the field driving their Ford 1½ ton grain truck.  Once our Butternut Valley Township farmer had combined all eight end rows on the far end of the field, his wife leave the truck parked at a convenient location on the stubble ground on the far end of the field.  Now he could unload the grain tank on the combine at either end of the field as necessary.  After making the return trip back across the length of the field, he pulled the combine up to the middle of the field.  In opening up the middle of the field he would, of course run over another two rows of un-harvested soybeans.  Furthermore, he would have run over two additional rows of soybeans at the opposite side of the field.  The losses incurred in running down these rows would reduce the overall yield from his soybean harvest, but these losses were minimal when compared to the losses he had incurred in 1942 while attempting to cut and bind soybeans in the field and then load the dried soybean bundles onto flat-rack wagons to be hauled to the stationary thresher and then unload the bundles into the thresher.

Once the soybean field was totally “open” with both ends and both sides of the field harvested and with the field divided into two “lands” because of  the four-row strip harvested stubble ground up the middle of the field, the combine would really begin showing its true efficiency.  Our Butternut Valley Township could now head No. 173093 across the field on the one side of the center strip and return back down the other side of the in the center strip.  The whole time, both the tractor and combine tires would be rolling along on ground that was already harvested—no more running over the crop.  Skids on either side of the combine platform would slide along the ground to help keep the platform and cutter bar steady at the height desired to get all the soybeans.  The large reel was adjusted to speed slightly faster than the ground speed of the combine.  In this way, the reel turned just fast enough to allow each one of the six bats on the reel to gently pull the un-harvested soybean plants over the platform of the combine a moment before the sickle in the cutter bar cut the soybean plants off about an inch above the ground.  With the soybean plants bent over the platform when the plant was cut, assured that any pods broken loose or soybeans accidentally shelled in the process of cutting the soybean plants would then fall onto the platform.  There the rapidly moving canvas “apron” which extended across the entire inside of the platform would quickly move the loose soybeans and pods, together with all rest of the un-harvested soybean plants up the incline to the mouth of the threshing component of the combine.

There the cylinder threshed everything and allowed the soybeans to fall through the concave under the spinning cylinder.  For threshing wheat or oats, the Instruction Manual that came with his combine recommended a cylinder speed of 1,100 revolutions per minute (rpm).  However, soybeans were more fragile than the oats he had combined earlier in the fall, and much more susceptible to splitting than was oats or wheat.  Accordingly, our Butternut Valley Township farmer slowed the cylinder speed down to about 650 rpm.  Furthermore, because the soybeans were larger than grains wheat or oats, he opened up the clearance space between the cylinder and the concave from the 3/8 of an inch (which was used for combining oats) to a clearance setting of between 1/2 of an inch and 5/8 of an inch (the suggested setting for soybeans).

Passing through the concave, the threshed soybeans were then hit with a blast of air from the cleaning fan to blow off any light weed seed or bits of straw that had come through the concave with the soybeans.  Meanwhile, the stems and branches of the soybean plants (the straw) passed between the cylinder and the concave and onto the shaking straw racks of the separating unit of the A-6 combine.  Here additional soybeans were shaken loose from the straw and fell through sieves and onto the grain pan of the combine, where the soybeans were moved forward to the elevator leading to the grain tank.  Any un-threshed soybean pods and other “tailings” were separated both from the straw and from the threshed soybeans and were moved to the lower part of the separating unit where they would be picked up by the “tailings elevator” and would be taken up forward again to the cylinder for re-threshing.  The straw passed through the combine and out the rear, where a turning straw spreader would spray the straw out evenly over the ground rather than leaving it fall in a windrow behind the combine.  The efficiency of the A-6 combine seemed positively miraculous.  If soybeans made it to the platform of the A-6 combine they were sure to be trapped and sooner or later end up in the tank rather than being wasted dropping to the ground during the process.

Driving No. 173093 up one side of the center strip of harvested stubble ground in the field he no longer was running over un-harvested soybeans.  The Farmall H rolled along on stubble ground created by the combine on the previous round.  The ground was covered with a thinly spread layer of straw and shelled soybean pods from the previous round.  Reaching the other end of the field, our Butternut Valley Township farmer would turn the tractor and combine around on the stubble ground of the end rows, empty the grain tank into the wagon and back across the field on the opposite side of the of the ever-widening center strip of stubble ground he was creating in the middle of the field.  Everytime he completed a round, up and back along the center strip, the center strip of stubble ground in the middle of the field grew wider by 12 feet.  Soon he was able to make a shorter turn around at the end of the field by going up the center strip and returning on the outer side near the fence row side of the field rather than pulling the combine all the way across the width of the center strip.

Fitted with a muffler, the quiet Farmall H allowed our Butternut Valley Township farmer to actually hear the combine working and to hear if the little Wisconsin engine was under stress.  He did not want to plug the cylinder of the combine and cause the Wisconsin engine to stall out.  The air-cooled engine was notoriously hard to start when warmed up.  (See the article called “Wisconsin Built Engines” in the September/October 2004 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  If the four-cylinder Wisconsin engine were allowed to stall, he would be forced to waste time letting the engine cool before he could start it again.  Clogging or plugging the combine would usually begin when a large weed became wrapped around the cylinder and reduced the cylinders ability to thresh the soybeans.  This was exactly why he spent so much time in the soybean field in the summertime, hoeing out every last weed.  The frost had not killed the weeds as it had the soybeans.  So the weeds were still “green” and tough.  Consequently, rather than passing through the cylinder and out back of the combine with the rest of the straw.  The green weeds tended to become tightly wrapped around the cylinder requiring our Butternut Valley Township farmer to stop the combine and pull the weeds free from the cylinder by hand.  Usually the weed was a thistle or a cocklebur which would make the task even more delicate because of the thorns and prickles on those plants.  Thus, he usually attacked this job with a heavy pair of leather gloves a pocket knife and a pair of pliers.

Harvest of the soybeans in 1944 went smoothly in the warmer-than-average October temperatures that year.  In the distance our Butternut Valley Township farmer had noticed his neighbors also combining soybeans.  Among his neighbors was Louie Carlson.  (Later Louie Carlson would retire from farming and sell the arable land of his farm to Fred Lantz.  However in 1974, he would sell the building site on his farm to Carolyn and Scott Shrewsbury, a couple of Political Science professors from Mankato State University.  The current author is an alumnus of Mankato State University and Scott Shrewsbury was the current author’s advisor for his entire college career.  In the winter of 1974-75, the current author and his family including newborn infant daughter J’aime Arron Wells, visited Carolyn and Scott Shrewsbury on this farm.)

The warm weather of the fall of 1944 continued into November and allowed our Butternut Valley Township farmer, not only to harvest the soybeans, but also to get all of his corn out of the field and safely into the corn crib.  The soybeans, he sold directly from the field to the grain elevator.  The elevator delivered the soybeans to the soybean processing plant in Mankato.  In 1942, the soybean processing plant had been sold to a farmer-owned cooperative called the Washington Egg and Poultry Association.  Since that time the soybean processing plant had been operating at full capacity crushing the soybeans for the soy oil which was employed in the manufacture of plastics and soy meal which was being sold as enriched animal food.  The price of soybeans in 1944 continued to set new record highs and surpassed $2.00 per bushel.  (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service page on the United States Department of Agriculture website.)  Our Butternut Valley Township farmer sold his soybean crop in November, 1944 for $2.05 per bushel.  It was an unbelievable price.

In 1945, our Butternut Valley Township farmer was able to employ No. 173093 every type of field work that the growing season required.  He found that that the Lift-All hydraulic eased a number of chores—especially cultivation of the corn and soybeans.  No longer did have to stand and strain to lift the cultivators at the end crossing of the field.  A mere pull on the Lift All hydraulic lever with his right hand was sufficient to activate the hydraulic cylinders on both sides of tractor to raise the gangs out of the dirt.

In September of 1945, the war ended with the surrender of Japan.  It was great news to hear that their two Navy boys would be returning home to the United States unharmed.  They certainly looked forward Christmas when all four sons and their families and grandchildren would all gather together again.  However, in the back of his mind our Butternut Valley Township farmer was worried.  He expected that with the end of the war, farm commodity prices would also start a decline after all the same thing had happened at the end of the First World War.  Thus, it a total surprise to him and other farmers when prices did not decline as then expected.  The return of the peacetime economy created a large and hungry consumer’s market plastics of all sorts created from soybeans.  Soybeans were used to make a great many plastic items for the peace time consumer market.  As a result, soybean prices continued to rise despite the end of the war.  In November of 1945 our Butternut Valley Township farmer sold his soybeans for $2.10 per bushel.  In 1946, Blue Earth farmers responded to this continuing increase in soybean prices by planting 46,000 acres in the county to soybeans—44% more acres than the 1945.  On that 46,000 acres, Blue Earth County farmers raised a record 966,000 bushels of soybeans—68% more soybeans than the previous year.  This record production was brought about by a record yield of 21 bushels per acre.

After the very wet year of 1947 when there was decrease in soybean production (see the article called “The Case NCM Baler: A Family’s Crucial Year” on page 31 of the January/February 1995 issue of Belt Pulley magazine), 1948 saw another new Blue Earth County soybean production record of 1,500,000 bushels established and another new record yield of 24 bushels per acre in the county.  The weather of the record growing seasons of 1946 and 1948 was not significantly better than the glorious growing season of 1942.  Fertilizers were not used on soybeans during any of these years.  Accordingly, the only reason for the dramatic increase in soybean yields in the post-war period has to be that more soybean farmers were turning to combines as a means of harvesting their soybeans as opposed to using threshers.  On the farm of our Butternut Valley Township farmer, credit was given to the combine for the greater efficiency in the harvesting of this new cash crop, but credit was also given to No. 173093 for easing physical labor and shortening the hours spent in the field growing the soybeans.

Meanwhile the soybean processing plant located in Mankato which had, suddenly,  become profitable during the war, was purchased by a couple of brothers engaged in entrepreneurial activities—Dwayne and Lowell Andreas.  They owned a series of feed mills in Iowa under the name Honeymead.  Accordingly, when they purchased the soybean processing plant in Mankato in 1949, the Andreas brothers did so in the name of the Honeymead Products Company.  Lowell Andreas introduced to the Mankato plant a new revolutionary soybean oil solvent to remove the soy oil from the soybeans.  This new revolutionary process replaced the old process of crushing the soybeans to obtain the soy oil.  Dwayne Andreas, later, became the Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the agriculture conglomerate Archer-Daniels-Midland Corporation.  He moved out of Mankato and took up residence in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  In that new position, he was noted for political contributions he would make to candidates for national office.  By far the most famous political contributions he ever made, was a $25,000 cash contribution he gave, in 1972, to Kenneth Dahlberg, the Midwest Coordinator of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (Nixon).  Kenneth Dahlberg converted the cash into a cashier’s check in a bank Boca Raton, Florida.  He then gave the cashier’s check to Maurice Stans, the Secretary of the Treasury in the Nixon cabinet and also the Finance Chairman of the Committee to Re-Elect.  As noted in the 1976 movie called All the President’s Men, the cashier’s check eventually ended up in the bank account of Bernard Barker, one of the Watergate burglers.  (In the movie All the President’s Men the character of Kenneth Dahlberg is heard mentioning over the telephone that he has been stressed out over the kidnapping of the wife of one of his neighbors.  This was an allusion to the kidnapping of 49-year-old Virginia Piper of Wayzata, Minnesota, which occurred on July 27, 1972.   A large ransom was paid and Virginia Piper was found alive three days later in a dense forest in a state park handcuffed to a tree.  Arrests were made in the case but no conviction was ever obtained.)

On farms all across the nation, tractors became the sole source of power for those farming operations.  The Farmall Model H became one of the most popular tractors sold in the United States as many farmers in the Midwest purchased Model H tractors for their farms.  Many farmers within Butternut Valley Township, itself, purchased Farmall Model H tractors for their farming operations.  Many Farmall Model H tractors had long, active life in many farming operations.  To this day, Ralph Campbell, a current farmer in Butternut Valley Township, still owns three Farmall H’s which are still in use in his farming operation.

Our Butternut Valley Township farmer retired and sold his farming operation in the 1970s.  At the auction No. 173093 was purchased by Fred Netz.  Fred and Jan Netz live on a small farm in Traverse Township in Nicollet County across the Minnesota River from Blue Earth County.  Although Fred and Jan both taught school for the Nicollet, Minnesota, school system, they also did some farming on the side.  They used No. 173093 on their small farm to put up hay, to feed their horses and beef cattle in the winter.

In the summer of 1993, however, Jan and Fred Netz sold No. 173093 to the late Wayne A. Wells.  However, this was by no means the end of the active life of No. 173093.  The tractor was painted and decaled in the summer of 1996 in preparation for the Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Show that year.  The 1996 summer show hosted the summer convention of Chapter #15 (Minnesota chapter) of the International Harvester Collectors Association.  Thus, No. 173093 played an active part in the 1996 show.

Wheat is planted on the 100-acre showgrounds owned by the Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Show each spring.  Threshing of this wheat is a major field demonstration each August at the annual show.  Shortly before the show each year, the wheat is bound with grain binders that are kept on the showgrounds.  Usually, “bull-wheel” binders with 6-foot cutter bars are favored for this work. Bull wheel binders are powered by a large ground wheel which operates the binder as the binder is pulled along the ground.  Accordingly, bull wheel binders need a certain amount of dry ground for traction to operate the binder.  However, in July of 1997, the torrential rains which occurred just before the wheat was to be harvested, assured that no bull wheel binder could operate in the wheat field on the showgrounds.  For a while, it looked as though there would be no threshing of wheat at the 1997 annual show.

However, a 10-foot McCormick-Deering “tractor-powered” grain binder saved the day at the show that year.  This particular grain binder had been donated to the Pioneer Power Association by the late John and Mary Depuydt of Mankato, Minnesota.  (The “Depuydt binder” was mentioned in an article called “Deering and McCormick Grain Binders” contained in the May/June 1997 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)   As a tractor-powered binder, the Depuydt binder was powered by the power take-off shaft of a tractor rather than by a bull wheel.  The current author and his brother, Mark Wells, and his father, the late Wayne A. Wells had been restoring the 10-foot Depuydt binder, throughout the spring of 1997.  When the need for a tractor powered binder arose, the restoration of the Depuydt binder was stepped up.  Finally in July, 1997, the Depuydt binder was ready for the field.  No. 173093 was employed to power the Depuydt binder in the field that year.  Thus, No. 173093, again, played an important role at the 1997 Show—this time, in actually, saving the wheat crop for the 1997 Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Show.

Since 2004, No. 173093 has taken on another role as a “service” or “utility” tractor around the Pioneer Power Showgrounds.  The restored 1890 Melounek-Deutsch Sawmill, located on the Showgrounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association, saws logs every year at the annual Show as a field demonstration for the public.  Sawing the logs produces a great deal of lumber that can be used by the Pioneer Power Association.  However, the sawing also produces a great deal of waste “slab wood.”  The saw mill crew “cross cuts” the that operates the sawmill needs to get rid of slab wood which the branches of trees that are attslab wood into 18 inch to 24 inch pieces that can be marketed and/or used for firewood.  Consequently, a cross cut or “buck” saw was mounted on the front of No. 173093 for use in sawing up the slab wood for fire wood.    Accordingly, No., 173093 has really never stopped serving as a real source of power in a commercial activity—albeit, this time, in a non-profit setting.  This is totally fitting for a tractor like the Farmall H which played such a large part of the “home front” in the United States during the worst armed conflict of the nation’s history.  This is a fitting tribute to those members of the “greatest generation” that built, sold and used No. 173093 and all the other Farmall Model H tractors that have served and continue to serve American Agriculture.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *