Spend a day with Paul Cummings and it's obvious he knows his vintage farm equipment. In fact, Paul has memorized nearly all the serial numbers from his 62 antique tractors, and a quick glance at a random machine part is all he needs to identify the piece.
Many of Paul's collected machinery have stories. Some are rare models of antique International Harvester Farmall, McCormick and John Deere tractors and equipment, and most are restored to their original shine.
'If these tractors could talk, they'd have some great stories,' Paul says.
Perhaps Paul's most unique collectible is an 1890 McCormick Daisy folding reaper, a machine used to cut and bind grain into shocks for separation of the seeds from chaff. Paul and his wife's uncle found the reaper while on an old-iron 'treasure hunt.' After hitting several sales in one day, their journey ended at a barn in Colony, Kan. Inside, they found the reaper disassembled, but in pristine condition. The owner had planned to restore the reaper, but didn't have the time. Even though it was in near-pristine condition, Paul says they got a good deal and brought it home on a flatbed trailer in April 2000.
'It's only been off the trailer twice since I brought it home,' Paul says of the unusual find.
Paul began collecting antique farm equipment in 1992, and stores the treasurers on his farm in Amsterdam, Mo. He bought his first vintage machine - a Farmall F-12 tractor - at a salvage yard, and has been collecting since. Today, Paul serves as vice president of the IH Collectors Missouri State Chapter.
'Once you get one, it gets in your blood,' Paul admits. 'But my shed is getting full, so I'm getting more particular about what I buy.'
A royal reaper
Dubbed 'Queen of the Reapers,' by farmers who found it superior to other reapers, the McCormick Harvesting Co. produced Daisy reapers from 1890 to 1905. It was invented by Cyrus McCormick and was a culmination of the first McCormick 'Virginia' reaper and later McCormick models (see 'A Reaper Revolution' on page 26).
Early reapers featured a rake that swept across a wooden platform at regular intervals and gathered grain bundles for later removal. The Daisy version included a platform, but also a bonus feature: an adjustable latch for regulating bundle size. As a result of the new design, a farmer could adjust the speed at which the rakes gathered the grains and still make even-sized shocks when he came to the end of a field or along a timberline where grain tends to grow sparsely.
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