Farm Collectibles ... the Old Way
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"In the blacksmith's shop, I learned enough about metal that, when I was in high school, I showed the instructor how to forge-weld. Back then, black-smiting involved a lot of horseshoeing, and sharpening and rebuilding horse-pulled plows."
The old ways are fading fast, he says.
"There isn't many people who know how to put a wooden wagon wheel together, but I've done it," he says. "We piled up a lot of wood, and made a big fire, and then we put the rims in the fire 'til they was cherry red, and then fitted them on to the wheels. It was tricky business. Of course, they couldn't be perfectly straight, or they wouldn't work. They had to have a curve in them."
Roy uses the '47 Ford Super C as his working tractor, and a 1961 Ford 500 truck (with two winches and booms and a huge bed) as his main salvaging machine.
"I thought the truck fit right in with my antique stuff," he says. "There are over 100 feet of steel cable on the big winch and boom. The big winch is strong enough to break the boom or turn the truck over before it would quit. The little winch on the back means I don't ever have to strain myself anymore."
A "buddy network" leads Roy to at least some of his treasures.
"People come by and tell me where this and that are," he says, "and then I find the owner, and tell him I'd sure like to have that piece of old iron back there in the timber to rebuild. In most cases, the owner's glad for me to get it, because he wants to see it built back like it was when it was new."
Most pieces require extensive renovation.
"When you find these things, they are simply nothing but a pile of rust. Any wooden parts – like handles – are gone," he says. "You usually can't really make out just exactly what something is until you've cleaned it up. Since I've used or known about most of these things, I can usually figure out what one is, and how it's supposed to work."
One of Roy's prizes, a now fully restored cast iron Ottawa stump grinder made in August 1927, and weighing about 500 pounds, was partially buried in a muddy ditch near Clinton.
"It had brush and junk growing into it," Roy remembers. "I had to take my tractor and get hold of it and pull it out. An awful lot of what I have salvaged has come out of ditches and piles of junk. I keep my eyes open."
Retrieving a John Deere No. 4 mower, he says, was a most difficult task. The mower, now completely renovated, was made in 1936 in Moline, Ill., and weighs about 1,500 pounds.
"The machine even had trees grown up through it because it had sat so long," he says. "I had a terrible time getting it out. It looked like junk. Now look at it."