Farm Collector Articles Spur Memories of Growing up on the Farm in Iowa

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I have just read the April 2009 issue of Farm Collector. Three stories brought back memories. I was born in Jefferson, Iowa, in 1937, and our family lived on a farm southeast of Lanesboro, Iowa, in Carroll County. Dad was one of the first to use gasoline tractors and the last to maintain a “threshing run.” Your story about “Breaking Records” with threshing machines made me think about the following.

As a young boy I was assigned the task of running the Farmall M that Dad used to power his threshing machine. When the hay wagons were late, I pulled the throttle back to an idle, or even took it out of gear. When a loaded wagon arrived I had to get the machine back up to speed. I had to advance the throttle slowly, so as not to slip the belt and throw it off. I learned to listen to the sound of the engine, and recognize what it sounded like when under load. I’d push the throttle forward until I reached a pencil mark Dad had made. What a cool job for a 10-year-old.

The story about “Perspective” made me think about all the equipment Dad had just to harvest oats. He had his trusty Farmall M and for smaller work he had a reliable Allis-Chalmers WD. He had a binder he used to cut oats and tie them into bundles called shocks. After the field was cut and shocked, the shocks were stacked in bundles, with the seed up, to dry.

On harvest day, the shocks were loaded by hand onto a hay wagon (though my dad did not own a hay wagon). The wagon was pulled by a smaller tractor or horses to the threshing machine, where shocks were manually unloaded into the machine. The straw was blown out the back chute as described in the “Blower” story, and the oat seeds loaded into a grain wagon. I really never understood how the seeds were separated from the straw, but it happened reliably.

Dad owned two large John Deere 4-wheel grain wagons on rubber. When the wagon was full, it was pulled to the side of the corncrib. In the center of the crib were three overhead grain storage bins. He had an 80-foot external elevator to lift grain to the top of the crib, and a hoist to lift the front wheels of the wagon about 3 feet off the ground. A large electric motor powering a 3-speed car transmission powered the elevator and hoist. The hoist lifted the front wheels, the back of the wagon was opened slightly and the grain flowed into the elevator. The elevator carried the grain to the top of the crib, where a chute directed the grain to the proper storage bin. When feeding cattle, a grain wagon was located under the storage bin where a small door was opened to allow grain to pour into the wagon. This grain was then manually shoveled into feed troughs for the cattle to eat.

The thing I most remember about threshing season was dinner-time (noon), when the wives prepared a huge spread of great food. After a morning of heavy manual work, the men could really put away a lot of food. The fried chicken and apple pie were world-class, and the friendships that formed were life-long.

I was allergic to oat dust, and often came down with a bad case of asthma during threshing. Several times I thought I was going to die. I had to stay upwind of the threshing machine; that is why I was on the tractor. That was one reason Dad sold the farm in 1950. We moved to southern California, where I became an aerospace engineer in the rocket industry. I have returned to Lanesboro many times to see friends, but the language of farming today is as foreign to me as rocket science is to farmers. Dad and Mom returned to Lanesboro when Dad retired and they are at rest in the Glidden Memorial Park. What a great life.


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