Field Notes

Honoring the Past with Functionality



I just stumbled across your September 2010 online article, “Hay Carrier and Lift Pulley Display,” which I enjoyed reading. I’m an ex-farm boy who never lost sight of the fact that his roots are in the soil. Haying time and hog killings were two of my favorite events, probably because of the social aspects and great home cookin’ associated with these activities.

In the mid-1980s I was affiliated with a country church that built a worship sanctuary on the site of a former dairy farm. A huge barn on the site was converted into a youth activities center, and the expansive hayloft became a basketball court.

Two entrance foyers needed lighting. The pastor knew that I was an avid antique tool collector and a tinkerer. In keeping with the site’s original history, he wanted fixtures made from some of the barn’s original operating equipment, and directed me to a rusting pile of junk in the milk house. I immediately recognized a hay fork, very similar to the one used on our farm 50 years earlier. It was manufactured by Ney Mfg. Co., Canton, Ohio.

In one fixture, I centered a four-lamp cluster within the hay fork. In the second fixture, for symmetry, I fastened another four-lamp cluster on a section of barn beam that featured the trolley hanging from a section of overhead track that had been removed from the gables. Total cost: About $35, a real bargain for preserving a piece of farm history with new functionality.

Dick Hepner, Mooresville, North Carolina

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Falls Mill Joyner Gin Spinner in Operation

Joyner gin spinner

Gin spinner identification plate

Joyner metal frame gin spinner on display at the Tennessee State Museum.

To all who have been a help in our learning about cotton gin spinners, or are at least interested:

John Lovett at the Falls Mill Museum was donated a Joyner gin spinner by the Travellers’ Rest in Nashville, Tennessee, and has been working ever since to clean it up and restore it. There are new saw blades, new carding cloth, some new pulleys, new cording and belting, pieces of the draft stretchers, spinner flyers, and bobbins.

Today the new apron that rides overhead and delivers the seed cotton to the gin was put in place and I arrived soon after. The first two YouTube movies below show the operation of the various sections with the cover and apron in place. The second has those pulled back so you can see the carding drums. The third shows the cotton after being ginned and passing over the carding drums in six strands. Many misconceptions about how these marvels work were dispelled today in my mind.

John was able to catch a slyver as it came off of the second carding drum doffer and feed it into the draft stretchers. We abandoned the other five sections to concentrate on this one till we could work out the technique. From there he trained it through the top of its spindle, to the flyer and to a bobbin. We made one short fairly weak strand of thread, and considering that neither of us has ever seen one of these in operation, that was amazing to behold. Myron Stachiw in Lowell, Massachusetts, restored a Pearce gin spinner in the 1970s, and is thus the only person I’ve known who had operated a gin spinner. That machine has a doffer brush behind the gin saws, as do all standard cotton gins. The Joyner doesn’t, rather using the first carding drum also to pull the fiber bat from the saws. – Falls Mill Joyner Gin Spinner first operation, Sept. 29, 2017 – operation of all sections with apron and cover in place – Falls Mill Joyner Gin Spinner first operation, Sept. 29, 2017 – operation of all sections with the apron and cover removed – Falls Mill Joyner Gin Spinner first operation, Sept. 29, 2017 – six slyvers forming across the second carding drum

So enjoy the only known movies of a gin spinner in operation.

Circa-1929 Wehr Power Grader U4


Wehr Power Grader U4

These photos show a Wehr Power Grader U4 dating to about 1929. It was built by Wehr Power Grader Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. All controls are manually operated, and drive a 10-20 McCormick-Deering farm tractor. The engine is a McCormick-Deering I-20 (serial no. 8880). It is the same engine as what is in the 40-20 tractor. The grader is unrestored and maybe never will be restored.


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Remembering the Allis-Chalmers No. 10 Roto-Baler


As soon as I got a glimpse of the cover on the August 2017 issue of Farm Collector, I knew I had to write you to tell you of my experience with one of those balers. I was working as a mechanic at C.A. Smith & Son Allis-Chalmers dealership in Topeka. Our area A-C blockman from Kansas City brought one of them to Topeka and made arrangements to demo it at a farm a few miles west of Topeka. The customer had cut a field of prairie hay and raked it into fairly heavy windrows as recommended for the normal round balers. The customer had one of them and it worked well and made nice bales. He had already baled part of the field.

To make a long story short, we worked for about three hours that evening and finally got one round of the field baled. It was a mess. Even though the baler sped up during the wrapping and ejection process, by the time it was done there would be a pile of hay the size of the Allis-Chalmers WD-45 we were using for power (it was not an engine-driven baler) in front of the feeder. Then, if we weren’t careful, the whole pile would go into the baler at once. We managed to kill the tractor several times and then would have to go in with hay hooks to dig the mess out of the baler. Needless to say, the customer was not favorably impressed.

This story in Farm Collector is the first mention of this baler I have ever seen. When I’ve tried to describe it to folks, I think they thought I had been dreaming. One interesting fact about this baler I remembered is that when the baler sped up so much to wrap the bale, the twine went through the guides in the box (and wherever else it went) so fast that the guides had to be made of ceramics. Otherwise, the twine would wear grooves in the guides that eventually got so sharp, they cut the twine.

Harold Parman, Topeka, Kansas

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Cabbage Harvesting Has Come a Long Way



I was very interested in the picture of a harvesting implement on Page 7 of the August 2017 issue of Farm Collector. We used a similar tool in the 1960s and ’70s. Our family raised kraut cabbage for Stokely Van Camp in Norwalk, Ohio. At first we cut cabbage into two windrows (four rows of cabbage each, then we drove a truck in between and used three-tine pitchforks to throw the cabbage onto the truck). Cutting (if the cutter was sharp) was relatively easier, although it took a little more skill to cut just right as to not include too many leaves.

Then, in 1969, Dad purchased a cabbage loader that loaded one windrow consisting of two rows. It had a spiked wheel that dropped the cabbage into an elevator pulled behind the truck. When the front got full, the hitch would be extended so that the cabbage would be dropped farther back into the truck. Cutting was easier because only two rows were in the windrow instead of four.

In 1984 we purchased a pull-type 2-row cutter-loader. It had a lot of roller chains, but worked relatively well. In 1999, we purchased a 3-point hitch cutter/loader that doesn’t have any roller chains: Everything is direct-driven by hydraulic engines built by Tom Stilen in Wisconsin that will load about 20 tons in 45 minutes. I have included two pictures of one of our old cutters fabricated out of a three-tine pitchfork. Cabbage is now hauled to the Fremont Co. in Fremont, Ohio, where it is made into Snow Floss kraut.

Kurt Heyman, Huron, Ohio FC

Remembering 1960s Corn Dryers and Shellers

I was thinking the other day about some of the old machinery once used in our area that may be lost. Some was built in Minnesota; some was built by national machinery companies.

Our neighbor had a picker-sheller made by J.I. Case. It was a 2-row machine with a round tank for shelled corn. Unlike New Idea, Oliver and John Deere, this unit could only be used to pick and shell corn. On all other picker-shellers, the cob elevator and husking bed could be removed and put on the sheller.

There were no farm-shelled corn dryers 50 to 60 years ago, so you had to take the corn to the elevator (if your local elevator had a dryer). At about that time, there was a dryer built by a company in Minneapolis that you could set up to your corn crib. You put canvases around your corn crib and then blew in hot air from a big burner with a PTO-powered fan.


By the 1960s grain bins and grain dryers replaced corn cribs and became the company’s largest selling line.

If you planned on drying your corn, you put a tunnel down the center on the floor, stopping short of the far end so that you had enough corn for the hot air to be forced through to get even drying. On a round crib, you put a tunnel on the floor with a tunnel up the center and put canvas all around the crib. You left that tunnel top down in the corn also so you would have even drying.

At about that time, a company in Litchfield, Minnesota, started making a wagon dryer. It was called Arid-Air. It was a big barge box with a heater and fan on the front. You picked the box full, then put a canvas over the top. The idea behind this was you could pick and dry your corn, and put dry corn in the crib. That was okay if you had at least two of these wagons and extra tractors to run the fans. Otherwise you were kind of limited as to how much corn you could pick in one day. At the time, these dryers were fueled by kerosene.

When using combines to pick and shell, there were a lot of dryers used up here. The most popular was Behlen. There were also a few Mathews dryers (built in Crystal Lake, Illinois) and Taxowick, Butler and a few others. One that was quite popular around here and in Minnesota was Jelco made in Dassel, Minnesota. It was produced in various bushel sizes from small up to big ones for the large farmers. These dryers were automatic with controls to fill them, dry the corn and empty it into a bin. Behlen made a very popular dryer. The first ones did nothing but dry corn. I had one of those. It was a big one at that time: 400 bushels. Later I got an automatic one. All it held was 200 bushels, but once you got it set up, it would dry more corn in a day than the big one did.

Another machine was a Kato-Nokes swather made in Mankato, Minnesota. My uncle bought a 10-foot model in 1952. They made other sizes too. It had no hydraulics. It used a starter that ran off the battery to lift the reel and the platform. My uncle’s swather worked well for cutting grain; he replaced it in the late 1960s when he got a new International Harvester swather that he could also use to swath hay. The reason he bought the Kato-Nokes was he bought a new Minneapolis self-propelled combine, the first one in Meeker County. It was an SP 168 with a 6-cylinder engine with automatic transmission. He used it until 1967.

Another item made locally in Litchfield was the Cozy Cab. This came out in the early 1960s; they made aftermarket cabs for combines and tractors. They are still in business, bigger than ever after a big expansion in 2015. Milferd Smith, 64812 Csah 18, Darwin, MN 55324

More on tank conversions

Regarding Sam Moore’s July 2017 column (“Retired from battle: The Sherman tank tackles farming”): Many of us may remember an article in the June 1960 issue of Popular Mechanics titled “The Man Who Owns a Tank Corps.” It was about a guy who bought surplus military tanks and turned them into civilian uses. He ended up with 536 tanks. They had to be disarmed and moved. The engines were a hot item, but the rest of the tanks also had various uses. A good read.

Brian C. Nelson, Toledo, Ohio

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Remembering the Monarch Tractor

monarch tractor ad 

In the February 2017 issue of Farm Collector, Dan Jacobs raised the questions of how long the Monarch name and its steering system may have been used. While not settling those issues, the enclosed ad from the Nov. 27, 1918, issue of Motor World shows an early Monarch. The Monarch Tractor Co. is listed as operating in Watertown, Wisconsin. The 1929 Farm Implement News Buyer Guide lists a Monarch Tractor Corp. in Springfield, Illinois. This indicates some kind of management change.

Clyde Eide, Bryan, Texas

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