Letters to the Editor: Rembering the Harvest Brigade

1940s Massey-Harris Harvest Brigade made farm hand late for school.

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I'd like to comment on the article "Start of a New Era" in the August 2007 issue of Farm Collector. I was 14 in 1944 and was working for a genius of a farm shop operator/farmer. He decided to join the Massey-Harris Harvest Brigade and hired me and another older guy to help. He, his wife and us two hired "men" headed out to custom harvest with the Massey-Harris, a 1935 Ford grain truck, a shop-made trailer and a small house trailer pulled by a '35 Ford car.

We started cutting near Enid, Okla. Then we cut our wheat and some custom harvesting acres here in north central Kansas. The boss, Everett Sexton, made some serious innovations on the axles of the combine, and we headed north into South Dakota and on up to North Dakota, ending up at Rugby, N.D. By that time it was the end of September and I was very late for school, so I headed home by bus and train while they stayed on for some time.

That was quite an experience for a kid. We cut a lot of wheat and picked up a lot of swaths in the Dakotas. The engine was underneath the separator and was subject to a lot of heat that caused us to lose two engines, but somehow the boss had priority as a member of the Brigade and was able to replace the Chrysler engines and keep going. One good thing about the engines being underneath - they were easy to service and replace.

I didn't think of the Harvest Brigade as a big part of the war effort until I read about it in a periodical a few years ago, and I was very pleased to see your article on it. I have been looking in fencerows over the years hoping to find a Harvest Brigade Massey, but no luck.

Of course, my mother and the school were not very pleased with my tardiness, but it was an adventure that I remember happily. I went on to a hitch in the Army, got my degree at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., and had a 50-year career as a stockbroker and dealer in commercial lawn-and-garden equipment.

In the past few years I am back doing some farming and I am amazed at the changes in technology. We farmed with horses in the 1930s and early '40s. It is a different world now with most everything mechanized and hydraulic. Memories of the hard work we endured are dim at age 79, but I regard it all fondly, and with nostalgia.

- Oren A. Glatt
Abilene, Kan.