This is a photo of my dad, Edgar York, who lived in Four Mile Township, Morris County, Kansas. He is shown here, harvesting wheat with his Oliver 88 tractor and 6-foot Oliver combine. The combine had a Continental 4-cylinder engine. The engine was water-cooled, but had no water pump; it cooled by convection.
Clarence York, Knoxville, Tennessee
These pictures show a Fuller & Johnson horse-drawn corn planter dating to the late 1880s. The planter was donated to the Badger Steam & Gas Engine Club by the Curtis family of Lodi, Wisconsin.
When we received the corn planter, it was rusty. Its wooden parts were well-deteriorated, but intact enough that copies could be made of white oak. Metal parts were sandblasted, primed and painted. A cast iron seat was found and reproduced. “Bonanza” was the trade name for this planter.
Club members Verne Kindschi and Lyle Opperman took over this project and had a lot of fun with it. The planter, Fuller & Johnson gas engines, implements and machinery are displayed at the Fuller & Johnson Museum at the Badger Steam & Gas Engine show grounds on Sand Road north of Baraboo, Wisconsin. For more information, visit the member page established by Lyle Opperman and Verne Kindschi on the club website: Badger Steam and Gas Engine Club.
Lyle Opperman, Baraboo, Wisconsin
In November 2013, Farm Collector had an article on Iowa State University students restoring a mist green Oliver 880. I don’t have a mist green Oliver, but I do have two Oliver 880s painted meadow green. I have had one for 32 years and the other for 20 years. They have all the options Oliver offered at the time: power traction hitch, power booster drive, power shift wheels, power steering, independent PTO and front and rear weights.
John Wiggins, Springfield, Tennessee
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; email@example.com
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