I was excited to get my first Whizzer at age 13. I traded an electric train that I had outgrown and $10 cash for it. I rode it slow around the yard so Dad could hear it running. A few days after I got it home, Dad could hear knocking (but I didn’t).
My dad had a lawnmower repair shop. He put me to work taking out the Whizzer’s side-plate screws. He made sure I kept track of them and that I put each screw back into the hole it had come out of.
I hitchhiked to the next town (Brazil), where there was a Whizzer shop. I bought new inserts (85 cents, if I remember correctly), came home and put it all back together. Before long it was knocking again. That time, Dad had me remove the crankshaft. He checked it and it was flat on top. He honed it back to round and then I put in oversized inserts. It lasted for many more miles for me and three subsequent owners.
Please note the clutch in this photo. It is a 2-speed automatic, the only one I ever saw. I don’t remember if it was made by Whizzer. I would twist the gas handle grip up and it would start; then I’d put it back to idle and it would shift automatically into high gear and away I’d go. It was explained to me a planetary gear that made the two speeds, which meant very little to a 13-year-old boy. I’ve worked on motorbikes, motor scooters, cars and lawnmowers all my life, but I still have never taken apart a clutch like that, so I still do not know how it worked.
I traded the Whizzer for a Cushman motor scooter. After I retired and entered my second childhood, I bought another Cushman; I am still riding it at age 77.
James Creek, 8100 S. St. Rd. 157, Clay City, Indiana
From Sam Moore: Thanks for the note about your Whizzer. At least you got one; I never did. According to a Whizzer website, the 1950 Sportsman was introduced with a “Bi-Matic” transmission, a 2-speed automatic that shifted up at about 15 mph. It sounds like that’s what yours had. It seems the Bi-Matic wasn’t very reliable; it was only made for about a year, which could explain why there are so few around.
It’s Dec. 24, 2014, Christmas Eve day. I just read the editor’s column in the January 2015 issue of Farm Collector. It’s about shucking corn by hand. It reminded me of something that happened to me a few years ago at the Half Century of Progress show in Rantoul, Illinois.
I grew up on a farm in Indiana and have been collecting and participating in farm shows for years. Part of what I do includes demonstrating work with Bob and Zues, our team of Percheron draft horses. Often I have the thought that, “this is only fun because we don’t have to do it this way anymore.”
Every once in a while I run into a farmer who has no interest in the old way of farming. I really never quite understood that. Well, a few years ago, at Half Century of Progress, we were enjoying the whole thing, including working the horses on a plow, mower, wagon, cultivator and Blackhawk check-row corn planter owned by a friend.
It was all very enjoyable. Then we went by an area where they were shucking corn by hand. My wife suggested that I give it a try. Shucking corn by hand, you’ve got to be kidding me! I did enough of that as a kid to last me a lifetime.
And then it hit me: the fellows who farm with current machinery – maybe that’s how they feel! They want no part of the traditional methods.
Dad’s 2-row pull-type corn picker unloaded to the left. That meant that when you opened the field, you were going to run over the first four rows of corn. The tractor would get two rows and the wagon would get two more rows. The choice was to pick those four rows by hand ahead of time or (an even worse option) pick ears up off the ground afterward. I didn’t like either choice.
I’m going to be 67 next week and plan to continue playing with the old tractors and horses. I may plant some corn with the horses again but have no desire to pick any of it by hand. I always enjoy getting Farm Collector and read it from cover to cover.
Larry F. Whitesell, 4314 S. 300 W., Tipton, IN 46072; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscriber Calvin Whitaker, Anderson, Indiana, shared the following article from a 1926 issue of The American Thresherman:
“An unusual threshing scene was observed 30 years ago (in 1896) in southern Missouri by Fred Feiker, foreman of Case’s thresher factory at Racine, Wisconsin, who described the affair of one hot August day while he gave some feeders their final tests.
“‘I had ridden the old Cotton Belt railroad from St. Louis southward,’ said Mr. Feiker, ‘and got off the train close to the Arkansas line. I started out into the country to see our customer. Soon I noticed the biggest watermelon field I had ever seen. In the middle of it was a threshing outfit surrounded by hogs.
“‘Fred crossed the field, which appeared to enclose hundreds of acres and was covered with watermelons. As he approached the machine he saw that the feeder had been removed. Pitchers were using their hands to toss melons so that these would break open, then be crushed to a pulp while the machine extracted the seeds.
“‘On the thresher was nailed a sign, “Eat all the melons you want but save the seeds.” Apparently this good news had been passed along to the hogs, which were fighting for vantage points where the pulp had dropped from the machine.
“‘Juice was standing almost knee-deep in spots around that machine,’ declared Mr. Feiker. ‘The rust must later have done a lot of damage to it. Water splattered in every direction. That was the first and last time I ever heard of watermelons being threshed for their seeds.’ He expressed hope that any reader who knows how this crop is now handled will write the editors a letter on the subject. He added that these melon seeds were dried on trays in the field, taken to laboratories and later used for medical purposes. Watermelons today are probably too valuable to be threshed in this manner.”
Editor’s note: Mechanical harvest of watermelons was not uncommon a century ago. From the St. Louis Glove-Democrat of Oct. 12, 1899: “This is the banner watermelon year of the West. The Sandhills of the prairies, and even the plains of the short-grass country, are producing the most magnificent, luscious melons ever known there. The farmers are at a loss how to dispose of them, as the shippers cannot find a market for the abundant supply. To utilize them, there has been constructed a novel machine for threshing the melons and securing from them the seeds, which bring a high price at the various seed houses. The machine has a large cylinder, from which strong spikes project. The melons have been cut open the previous day, so that they are soft, and as they are thrown into the hopper they break into pieces. The cylinder grinds them into a pulp, and as this substance is worked along a sieve the seeds fall through, with a little pulp attached to them. They are then shoveled into a large vat, water added, and the whole ferments. When this has taken place, the seeds are found at the bottom of the vat and are taken out and dried for shipment. As it is easy to get $100 worth of seeds from an acre of melons, this promises to open into a very profitable industry for the settlers of the plains.”
I enjoyed Sam Moore’s column on corn cribs in the October 2014 issue of Farm Collector. This crib, which was on the farm where I was raised south of Columbia, Missouri, was built before 1900. It is slatted on the inside with oak 1-by-4s and has 1-by-12-inch vertical oak siding with 1/2-inch by 3-inch oak strips on the outside. At one end of the crib is a narrow hallway about 4 feet long with a door that opens into what used to be a hog shed. On the other side of the hall is a 5-by-5-foot bin that held protein supplement.
The corn was carried out to the sows in a large wicker bushel basket and the supplement was scooped into a 40-pound Co-op grease bucket and carried out. Pappy kept 12 to 15 sows and fed them that way from when I can first remember up until the early 1960s.
This photo was marked “1950” on the back. My pappy, William Easley, and my grandpap, Edward Easley Sr., are in the wagon, and “Mr. and Mrs. Brown” are in front. I have no idea who the Browns were or why they were in the picture. Grandpap was close to 90 when this photo was taken but whenever Pappy pulled up by the crib to scoop off a load of corn, Grandpap would climb into the wagon and toss one or two ears at a time into the crib. It probably didn’t amount to more than two or three scoops full per load, but he always did what he could to help.
The old crib was filled with corn for the last time in 1964. It’s still standing but the only things that have been stored in it for years are a few rolls of barbed wire and some square bales of hay for my granddaughter’s horses.
Alan Easley, 8300 E. Turner Farm Rd., Columbia, MO 65201
I found my beloved Studebaker Zip-Van mail truck in an auction advertised in Farm Collector in April 2008. I flew from Connecticut to Oregon. I was the high bidder and brought it home from Oregon, a trip of 3,200 miles.
I am a retired mail carrier. I retired in 2004 after 42 years. I searched for four years and found my dream truck in your magazine. Just had to write and say thank you!
Frank A. Haines (AKA “Mr. Zip”), Seymour, Connecticut
According to my grandpap, the farm on our old home place was built when he was 18 years old, which would have been in 1882. In the south end of the barn are two cribs measuring 8 by 12 feet with small exterior doors through which grain could be scooped. At various times when I was growing up I saw the cribs filled with ear corn, wheat, rye, barley or oats.
Recently my two sons salvaged some oak siding from the old barn. This revealed an oak beam that ran under the cribs and supported the floor joists. Under one crib, the beam sat on a stack of large limestone rocks; under the other crib was a stack of rocks with this old gear on top of the stack.
The gear is cast iron, has 13 teeth and weighs 27 pounds. It is 4 inches deep and has a flange on one end measuring 8 inches in diameter. The teeth measure 7-1/2 inches and there is a hole in the center for a 2-3/4-inch hexagonal shaft. Two entire teeth and parts of two others have been broken off. Apparently the gear was damaged prior to 1882, and in true pioneer spirit, instead of being discarded, it was recycled as part of the main support under the crib.
My friend Bill Blackwell sandblasted the gear for me. I painted it black, and it’s now sitting by my front porch as a conversation piece. As I chipped some of the worst rust from the gear before taking it to Bill to be sandblasted, I discovered that it definitely didn’t fail for lack of lubrication. Between each set of teeth where they meet the flange, under a 132-year accumulation of farm dust, was a large glob of hard, black grease, almost like tar.
It would be really interesting to know what type of equipment the old gear came from and how it was damaged, but we’ll just have to use our imagination, because unfortunately that information has been lost to time.
Alan Easley, Columbia, Missouri
Top: The old gear as it looked when discovered under the barn.
Middle: Bill Blackwell, sandblasting the gear. "After all the rust and dried grease was removed, lots of sand holes showed up," Alan Easley says. "It was really a pretty poor casting, which may have had something to do with its failure."
Bottom: The painted gear sitting on Alan's front porch. "Everybody needs one of these to sweep around," he says.
I was wondering how old this meat grinder (above) is. I am 70 years old and it has been in the family as long as I can remember. I remember it being used before I was big enough to crank it.
When I was a kid we raised our own hogs and beef and ground our own sausage. We used this International Harvester corn sheller (below) for eight or nine years, morning and night, to shell corn for sheep.
My older brother, James, and I used it enough to wear it out but we couldn’t. We used to run it with a washing machine engine until we both got big enough to crank it ourselves, then the engine was done away with. It was also our job to pull the wool off of dead sheep to sell. We finally had to sell our sheep because of dogs killing them.
We also had a mowing machine like this one (below). This one is located in the Roundhill community in Butler, Kentucky. I can remember my dad cutting hay with our mower with a team of mules. He would make about two rounds and stop to let the mules rest. We were raised on a 200-acre farm in central Kentucky. We raised sheep and registered Hereford cattle, so we put a lot of hay in the barn. That was in the 1940s, ’50s and ‘60s.
This buhr mill (below) was manufactured by Williams Mfg. Co. It is well over 100 years old. It was bought new by my great-uncle, Roscoe Huff, who sold it to my dad, A.V. Haynes. It was shipped new to Caneyville, Kentucky, by rail. My great-uncle picked it up there with his team and wagon. Roscoe ran a grocery store where the mill was used every Saturday to grind cornmeal. My youngest brother, Stephen Haynes, bought it at our estate auction. He has stored it in his warehouse in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
John Haynes, 325 Jones Rd., Brownsville, KY 42210
Editor’s note: The word “buhr” refers to buhr stone, a form of tough, fine-grained sandstone once commonly used in production of millstones.