Category Archives: Haying

Articles which mention the farming process of hay making.

The Case Model NCM Baler and a Family’s Crucial Year

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The Case Model NCM baler and a Family’s Crucial Year


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Editorial Note

The following article was published in three different magazines.  Each version of the article approached the story of the 1947 wet year in a different way.  Accordingly, there are important differences in each version of the story and, therefore, each version has been included in this reproduced here for the reader to study these differences.

Case color advertisement 2

            As related in an earlier article, the Howard Hanks family had moved to LeRoy, Minnesota from Mapleton, Minnesota in 1945.  “The Wartime Farmall H,” Belt Pulley, July/August 1994, Vol. 7, No. 4, p. 13.  They had purchased the big 400-acre Bagan farm five miles east of LeRoy, Minnesota.  The payments on the newly-purchased farm were a big concern.  The expense involved with moving a family from a renting operation to ownership of a farm was no small matter.  Then there were the usual expenses entailed in raising a large family.  Furthermore, three of the oldest Hanks children were planning to be married in 1947.  What the family needed was a period of normalcy to consolidate their financial position; however, as 1946 ended, it looked as though the family was not going to get that period of normalcy.  The Second World War had ended and prices for farm products had fallen.  On the other hand, wartime price controls had ended and farm equipment prices immediately climbed.  Then, too, there was the weather.

The fall of 1946 harvest season was very wet.  The family had to borrow a Farmall M which belonged to Reuben Jacobson just to pull the big John Deere No. 7 combine through the soggy soybean fields.  The Hanks’ 1942 Farmall H, with its new cut down steel rear wheels which were now fitted with rims and rubber tires, was unable to pull the combine as it had in the fall of 1945.  The Reuben Jacobson Farmall M had wheel weights and fluid in the tires and thus was used to harvest soybeans on the home farm, as well as for all of the custom work.

The rains started in the fall of 1946. During the fall harvest that year the Hanks family had to borrow a Farmall model M tractor to pull the large John Deere No. 7 combine through the mud of the soybean field that year.


The rain continued throughout the fall of 1946, and in the spring of 1947 it started again with a vengeance.  By the time of the first wedding that year (Bruce Hanks and Mary Keller on April 2), the ground was a quagmire.  Even the roads were a mess, and the farm tractors were employed to help negotiate these roads.

More rain came all through the spring and early summer.  Field work had to be delayed to the point where the situation began to look grim.  By the time of the second family wedding that year (Lorraine Hanks and Robert Westfall on June 25), it was clear that even the garden had failed because of the continuing rain.  As with most families of the time, gardening was not a mere hobby, but was a real source of food for the family.  The failure of the garden meant that household expenses would be just that much higher for the summer and for the following winter.

The oldest son, Fred Hanks, who had been serving in the United States Army in Italy, arrived home just in time for the second wedding on June 25.  He was shocked to find that the soybeans were not yet entirely planted, even at this late date!  The family did not complete planting soybeans until July 6.  They felt as though planting soybeans so late in the season would be a waste of time and money, and 1947 was showing every sign of being a make-or-break year for the family.  In addition, they were counting on the income that would be derived from custom combining in the neighborhood, and prospects for that income were not good unless the rain stopped.

The third family wedding that year (Marilyn Hanks and Wayne Wells) was held on July 12.  Howard and Ethel Hanks, parents of the bride, were hosting the reception at their house on the Hanks farm.  Ethel Buck Hanks, mother of the bride, was distressed that she did not have any crystal or a matched set of glassware to make the reception dinner a formal affair, and the family’s dire straits held no promise that there would be money for even such a small luxury as this.  However, Howard went uptown and negotiated with the proprietor of the hardware store to borrow a set of gobbets and a matching set of sherbet stemware.  This crystal would be used for the reception, then packaged up again and returned to the store.  Ethel was extremely pleased with the goblets and sherbet stemware when Howard brought it home several days prior to the wedding.  Ethel carefully unpacked the goblets and sherbet stemware and washed each piece in preparation for the wedding reception.  She loved the beautiful glassware and wished that she could keep the goblets and the sherbets for the weddings in the family that she knew were coming up.  However, she knew that the glassware was only borrowed from the hardware store and the glassware would have to be returned.  Accordingly, following the wedding reception, she carefully washed each piece, wrapped it and sadly placed it back into the box for the journey back to town.

The new son-in-law, Wayne Wells, had taken over the farming operation on the 160-acre farm owned by his father, George Wells, which was two miles to the west of the Hanks farm.  Wayne Wells and the Hanks family were planning to cooperate in some farming activities, i.e., corn planting and haying.  They anticipated putting the loose hay in the barn as they had in past years; however, Wayne, who had been thinking of new ways to improve the efficiency of the farming operation, explored the possibility of baling the hay for storage in the barn.  He also saw the possibilities of doing custom baling in the neighborhood.  Many of the same farmers who paid to have their oats and soybeans combined may also pay to have their hay and straw baled.  Since there were very few pickup balers in the neighborhood, the Wells and Hanks families would have a monopoly on the whole market.  Furthermore, with daughter Hildreth, age 17, and son John, age 12, still living at home on the Hanks farm, Bruce and Mary living on the Tony Machovec farm about 1/2 mile south of the Hanks farm, and with Fred’s return from the Army, there would be more than sufficient people to outfit a baling crew and still keep up with the chores.

J.I. Case advertised their new Model NCM baler as the “modern way to befter hay.” Rather than storing hay loose in the barn, the new method harvested and stored hay in the form of square bales.

The Hanks family was receptive to the suggestion of purchasing a baler in hopes of earning extra income from custom baling.  Later, they saw an advertisement for a used Case NCM baler.  In the middle of the rainy summer, it seemed like a gamble considering all of the other pressing concerns.  However, as the old saying goes, “You have to spend money to make money.”  They decided to act.

A Case Model NCM hay baler.

Continue reading The Case Model NCM Baler and a Family’s Crucial Year

A 1950 Massey-Harris Model 22

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Forty Years with the Massey Harris 22


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April 1994 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Volume 7, Number 2

Massey-Harris 22 in parade at Racine, Minnesota 1993

As was noted elsewhere (The Belt Pulley, January/February 1994, Vol. 7, No. 1), the Howard B. Hanks family moved to the current Fred J. Hanks farm in LeRoy, Minnesota, in 1945.  In those days, the 400-acre farm was known as the “Bagan farm.”  As mentioned in the above-cited article, one of the restored tractors which are still used on the farm is a 1950 Massey-Harris 22.  (Serial No. GR6729).  Of all the tractors on the farm, the 22 has been there the longest time.

The 22 was purchased as a used tractor by the Hanks family from an International Harvester dealership in Austin, Minnesota, in 1954, and was put to immediate use.  At that time, the farming operation included three other tractors:  a 1935 John Deere D (pictured on the back cover of the January 1993 issue of Green magazine, Vol. 9, No. 1); a 1951 Massey-Harris 44 (The Belt Pulley, July/August 1993, Vol. 6, No. 4, p. 26); and a 1948 Ford 8N.  The farm was operated by Howard Hanks and his two sons; Fred, who had returned to the farm in June of 1947 from military service in Germany as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, and John, who had just graduated from LeRoy High School in 1953.

The daily tasks for the 22 included (and still includes) hauling of grain and manure.  During hay seasons, the 22 was and continues to be very busy hauling hay from the field.  Because the author’s father, Wayne A. Wells, cooperated with the Hanks family (his father-in-law and brothers-in-law) during hay season, the author, as a youth, had occasion to use the 22 to haul many of these loads of hay from the field himself.  Field work was generally limited to cultivating corn and soybeans with the two-row cultivator which came as part of the purchase package with the 22.  However, in the fall of 1956, some unusually hard plowing conditions existed and the 22 was hitched to the 1951 Massey-Harris 44 to give assistance with the plowing.  The stiff hitch connecting the two tractors was made of two 2 x 4 oak boards bolted together.

The 1950 Massey-Harris 22 provides some additional help to the 1951 Massey Harris 44 in plowing in the fall of 1956 on the Hanks farm in Beaver Township, Fillmore County in Mower County, Minnesota.

A special task for the 22 evolved in the mid-1950s.  About this time, farmers began to make use of herbicides on their crops.  Anticipating this trend, the Hanks family’s 22 was fitted with a mounted sprayer purchased from Sears, Roebuck and Company.  This sprayer looked identical to a mounted sprayer pictured in the 1949 advertisement by Massey-Harris included with this article, except that the Sears sprayer was not fitted with the optional drop nozzle attachments offered by Massey-Harris.  In the advertisement, the Massey-Harris sprayer is shown mounted on a 22.  Although no pictures have yet been found of the Hanks family’s 22 showing the front-mounted spray booms, the picture from the Massey-Harris advertisement looks identical to the Hanks’ 22 during those summers when it was employed for spraying herbicides.  As shown in the advertisement, the booms are located on the front of the tractor ahead of the driver.  The tank was mounted on the rear of the tractor.  The spray was pressurized by a pump connected to the power take-off.  The booms could be folded into an upright position for transport.

Because the Hanks family had always performed custom combining and baling in the neighborhood, it was almost inevitable that the sprayer, too, was employed for custom work.  This custom spraying became the domain of my Uncle Fred Hanks.  Each June and July in the late 1950s, we would see Uncle Fred on the 22 riding down some dirt road headed to another job.  Tractor tire marks evenly spaced across some immature oat field was sure evidence that Uncle Fred had recently been there!  Sitting in the back or our 1957 Plymouth, riding down the neighborhood roads, we children would scan our neighbors’ oat fields for any small scattering of yellow which would indicate an infestation of wild mustard flowers.  This would draw a comment from us.  “They better had give Uncle Fred a call.”  (A generation later we might have used the phrase “Who you gonna call?” from the movie Ghostbusters!).

Mustard is grown as a crop, however, in an oat field its persistent volunteer growth becomes a yield stealing menace.

The 22 was ideally fitted for this type of work.  The large rear wheels and high revving engine allowed the 22 to really scoot down the road.  A high transport speed was important for custom work so as not to waste time.  The large rear wheels were a selling point for the 22 in 1950.  (See A World of Power, a 1950 Massey-Harris promotional movie available from Keith Oltrogge, Box 529, Denver, IA 50622-0529, Telephone: (319) 984-5292.)  The large rear wheels allowed the 22 to reach a top speed of 13.02 mph.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests [1985] p. 145.)  However, this was at the 1500 engine rpm level.  The 22 had Twin-Power which had been available on earlier Massey-Harris models.  Twin-Power was a feature which reserved a special high range on the throttle control (from 1500-1800 rpms) to be used for belt work.  (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors (1987), pp. 46-47.)  The cast-iron quadrant for the throttle control lever behind the steering wheel on the 22 had a little block built into the quadrant which was intended to prevent the lever from being pulled down into the special 1500-1800 rpm range.  However, the throttle control lever could be lifted up and over this little block easily.  (C.H. Wendel, Massey Tractors, (1992) p. 67.)  The operator’s manual for the 22 warned against use of the 1500-1800 rpm range for drawbar work.  (Operating Instructions and Service Manual for the Massey-Harris 22 and 22-K, p. 5.)  Pulling a full load of hay at a speed of 16 mph down a narrow township road with steep ditches on either side could get a bit scary.  As youngsters, hauling loads of hay on the road from the fields to the barn, we were told not to experiment with the throttle in the range from 1500-1800 rpm on the 22.

We estimated, at the time, that the speed developed at 1800 rpm must have reached up to 20 mph.  This was twice the speed of the small rear-wheeled Farmall B, owned by the Wells family (See Farmall B and Equipment, a 1939 International Harvester movie), which often worked together with the 22 during hay seasons and, therefore, was the natural counterpoint for comparisons with the 22.  This 1941 Farmall B is featured in the story “The Family’s Second Tractor,”  The Belt Pulley, November/December 1993, Vol. 6, Issue 6, p. 30.  The B operated at the slower top engine speed of 1400 rpm which was common to most Farmalls.

Wayne A. Wells drives the Massey-Harris 22 pulling three full loads of hay on the Hanks farm during haying season of 1956.

Looking back now with the benefit of research materials, we can see that we may not have been too far off in our estimates of the speed of the 22 at 1800 rpm.  Both the 22 and its predecessor, the Massey-Harris 81, were powered by a Continental engine.  The 81 could develop a top speed of 16.0 mph at 1500 rpm.  The 81 also had the Twin Power feature for belt work up to 1800 rpm.  (Nebraska Tractor Tests, p. 136.)

Image result for massey harris 81 tractor

Larger Massey-Harris models offered contemporaneously with the model 81, like the Massey-Harris models 101, 201, and 101 Junior, were powered either with the 4-cylinder Continental MFA engine or the 6-cylinder T-57 503 Chrysler engine.  These models, too, could develop 1800 rpm; however, their top speed was 17.4 mph. (Nebraska Tractor Tests, pp. 113, 117 and 131.)  This was fast, even for the 1950s!  For the period of time from 1939 to 1946 when the 101 and 201 were manufactured, this speed must have been far in advance of the quality of the rural roads and the technology of brakes.  It may have been that the Massey-Harris company realized this and therefore made a conscious effort to gear the later models down so that even at 1800 rpm the tractor would not move so fast in road gear.  During this time, other tractor makers were busy increasing the range of speeds for their tractors.  With Massey-Harris decreasing their road speeds and other manufacturers increasing their road speeds, a happy common ground appears to have been reached in the 1950s which did not change substantially until the mid-1960s.

The Continental Motor Company of Muskegon, Michigan supplied a great number of engines to the Massey-Harris Company for installation in various Massey-Harris tractors.

            Massey-Harris used to advertise the 101 and the 201 as “fast tractors.”  Indeed, there is a scene from a 1941 Massey-Harris promotional movie which shows a Massey-Harris 101 Standard hauling a load of wheat to the grain elevator.  The tractor and wagon passes up a car which is pulling off onto the shoulder of the road. (Mechanized Agriculture Meets the Challenge, (1941) available from Keith Oltrogge, noted above.)  During this scene, the narrator notes that “the motorcar driver courteously yields to the fast-moving tractor.”  We often thought that the “motorcar driver” may not have been so much courteous as scared after seeing a ton-and-a-half load of grain and a 5700 lb. tractor bearing down on him at 17-18 mph.  He may have been justified in this fear, given the length of time required to stop that load!

The 22 continues to play an active role on the Hanks family farm, even after forty years of service.  In 1989 it was restored and repainted.  Since that time, the 22 has been exhibited and paraded at local tractor shows in the summer.  One such show is the Root River Antique Power Association Show held in mid-July of each year at Racine, Minnesota.  At the time of the repainting of the 22, the hubs of the wheels were mistakenly painted orange.  Current plans include returning these hubs to their original yellow color.

The 22 continues to be a fun tractor to drive and carries with it a lot of memories.  We hope its restoration will guarantee that this fun will be carried on to future generations.