On page 18 of the March-April issue of the Album there were several letters about Headers that brought to my mind the year of 1914 when I worked on the Newton Ranch, about 4 miles east of Fallon, Montana.
We had about 200 acres of oats which we harvested with a 12 ft. push binder with six horses. One of the horses broke loose one noon (about 2 miles from home) and ran away. He got too close to a barb wire fence, kicked into it and really cut his one hind leg and foot badly before I could get another horse and catch it. It bucked and kicked along the fence for about a mile before it was caught.
We had plowed about 700 acres and sowed it in wheat and later plowed and sowed about 700 acres in flax. We used a 30-60 Hart Paar with a John Deere 8 bottom plow, 2 sections of harrow and a drill, all coupled together.
We went round and round in the fields so we didn't have to lift the plow, etc. so often. In fact, on one field of 225 acres we didn't lift the plows one time. Lids on the grain drills were reversed so we could put the sacked seed on the plow platform and fill the drill on the go. Two men crews and working 2 - 12 hour shifts but the fields were all level and nice to work except for a lot of Russian thistles that were apt to clog the plow. Usually we raked and burned them before plowing.
We had 2 headers to use in harvest, I don't remember if they were 14 or 16 ft. but I believe they were 16 ft. Instead of the slow speed Hart Paar 60, we had one of the first Avery Tractors, a 20-35 two cylinder, opposed that would go 2 or 3 miles per hour and we cut 60 to 75 acres a day.
I thought I had a bright idea to save one man so I removed the steering wheel from one header and mounted the end of the pole on the front axle of the tractor. It did work, but the Avery Tractors had cabs on them and in order to see ahead to the crop line I had to lean out and do all my steering with my left hand. Since this was a worm end gear with cross chain system the wheel had to be turned many times and by 11 o'clock my arm was so tired and sore I had to quit. Several others tried it but soon all gave up so we pulled the outfit back to the ranch, installed the steering wheel back on the push pole and hooked both headers behind the tractor with chains.
Rope from first header box team was tied to the tractor and the first header operator led the second team. One man was on the tractor, one on each header and one on each wagon, making a 5 man crew. Also, there were 2 more header boxes and one man on the stack. While 2 boxes were being loaded 2 were unloading and stacking. The stacks were in small groups and when threshing we would pull the machine between 2 stacks, thresh them, then pull ahead to 2 more until the group was finished.
In the same issue there is a letter by H. K. Patterson of Trenton Missouri about dry land farming in southeast Montana and that is where I was in 1914. Fellon is between Miles City and Glendive, on the Northern Pacific Railroad and Yellowstone River.
At that time they raised spring wheat but now I understand they raise winter wheat and do strip farming. Campbell Farms, near Billings, Montana, always did strip farming on their 60,000 acres and I was told they neverhad a failure, although one year they only got 10 bu. average. Speaking of Campbell Farms, reminds me that I once met a man that said he had worked there running a Cat.It was one of the first models with a single steering wheel in front and only one speed of about 2 miles per hour. His job was to haul wheat to market, namely to Hardin, where they had a lot of bins to hold their grain. I saw the bins but never got out to the ranch.
This same engineer also told me of plowing with a Big 4 Tractor and self-steering attachment that was used to pull plows without stopping until one day he slipped and fell between the tractor and the plows. He did catch the cross chains and held on for some time before he was able to pull himself up bit by bit and stop the rig. He thought for a while that he could not make it and the plows would cut him up and plow him under.
There was danger around machinery then as now, in fact more danger then because not much was enclosed by guards as they are now. Machinery also made more noise and work for the engineer and not everybody could handle one of these old timers.
Since I had gone to school (in Austin, Minnesota) for several winters'; I seemed to have pretty good luck in working on tractors and was often called to help other people out. One spring 2 brothers had a 25-45 Rumely and had so much trouble starting it they had to wrap a rope around the flywheel and hitch a team of horses to it to turn it over. I found their trouble, repaired it and cleaned out the carbon and then it started easily and ran nice.
Since proving I knew something about tractors I thought sure I would get the job running it since they talked about hiring an engineer, but they said it starts so easily and runs so good they believed they could handle it themselves. And they did. However, I did get a job running a 30-60 Old Reliable Hart Paar, pulling 8 - 14' plows and 4 sections of harrow, working nights for 4 weeks and 4 more weeks daytime through spring work. Next a 15-30 Hart Paar 3 wheel job to haul about 6000 bu. of wheat and barley 29 miles to Glendive, using 2 wagons with 275 bu. per trip. The largest load was 283 bu. 40 lbs. of wheat. For several weeks that summer the temperature was over 100 degrees in the shade and we really had a hot job on that oil cooled (?) engine. I broke a 6 spoke driving gear on it one day. I tied it up with barb wire from a roadside fence so I could get about 7 miles to a shop. You had to figure out ways to repair things those days as shops were few and far between.