Field Notes

Bee Martin Likely Caused Bee’s Violent End

Just read the article in Farm Collector (December 2017) about barbed wire fences and the bumblebee impaled head-first on a barb. I thought you would like to know how a thing like that could ever happen. In the summertime here, we have a small, dark, gray bird with a light gray breast, the Bee Martin. They spend a lot of their time sitting on roadside fences. As I grew older, I would watch them follow me when I would be on the road with a tractor. They would fly from fence post to fence post ahead of me. I would see grasshoppers and other bugs impaled on barbs. One day I actually saw one stick a grasshopper on a barb. Later I found out from my uncle that they catch the insects and put them on the barbs for a meal on another day. My mystery was solved.

Robert H. Klinkenberg, Tonganoxie, Kansas

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Loggerhead Shrike Bird Puts Barbed Wire to Work

Regarding Clell Ballard’s article about barbed wire (Farm Collector, December 2017), where he described seeing a bumblebee impaled on a barbed wire fence: I found a description of the loggerhead shrike bird. The birds are known to kill insects and very small animals and then impale them on thorns or barbed wire for future meals and also to help to tear the catch apart.

Bryan Clothier, Corinth, New York

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Allis-Chalmers Roto-Baler Rekindles Memories


In the August 2017 issue of Farm Collector, I read with interest Gary Agrimson’s story of the Allis-Chalmers No. 10 Roto-Baler. My first memories of small, round bales started in the 1950s when I was a kid on a small farm in western New York. My dad bought hay one winter from a farmer about 2 miles away. We hauled about 18 bales with Dad’s ’49 Ford sedan. We filled the trunk and stacked bales up over the roof of the car and tied some of mom’s clothesline over the top.

My brother, Jim, and I got jobs hauling round bales for some neighboring farms during the summer as our haying was done soon after school let out. Our baling was done by a custom operator with a John Deere 14T square baler. Many of the farmers who relied on the round bales worked off the farm, so they left the hay bales in the field to be hauled as time permitted. Rain did not totally ruin round bales as it did square bales. One good rain on small, square bales and they were tossed over the bank into the woods.

Later, when I had a dairy farm, I baled with a New Holland 66 baler with a 2-cylinder Wisconsin engine (Editor’s note: read about a self-propelled New Holland 166 in this issue) and was done haying by July, lord willing. Then, for a few years, I helped an older couple nearby haul thousands of round bales. This man and his wife had many dairy cows and several acres, and they struggled to get the chores and haying done. I would help them haul their hay in the afternoon when my chores were done. The wife would spend hours walking the field with a bale hook and turn all the bales lengthwise in a row so her husband and I could load them on one of the three large trailers he had built from truck frames and axles. He pulled them with a McCormick-Deering ID-9 that he bought from the highway department and got running again. Like many of us in the ’60s, he seldom bought new machines or even good ones. We made do with cheap.

We had a hay baler that attached to the side of the trailer with a single pin. It was ground driven. I stood on the wagon and swung the round bales into place with a two-tined bundle fork (pitch fork, to some). Somehow the couple always managed to have chores done and all three trailers unloaded by the time I got there to start hauling all over again the next day. We hauled from late summer into fall. I took time off to run corn into my silo; the occasional early winter snowstorm also suspended the hauling operation.

The dangers of the Roto-Balers were not talked about much, but I think I recall a baler fatality involving an Allis Roto-Baler. I do recall some 40 years ago an ad that ran for a number of years in local farm papers, placed by an inpidual in Ohio wanting to buy these balers. I wonder if there may be a rusting orange graveyard somewhere in the hinterlands of yesterday.

Dennis W. Wilson, Sinclairville, New York

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Fairbanks-Morse’s Fair-Mor Tractor

Fair-mor tractor.

This postcard, dated Aug. 27, 1915, shows Ben Prestegaard on the platform of a Fairbanks-Morse tractor. He and his wife, my aunt Inez, operated a farm near Lee, Illinois.

A somewhat obscure name for this tractor was Fair-Mor. Look at that rich prairie soil! The photo is too good for a box camera snapshot. It may have been some kind of dealer promotional item.

As far as I know, Fairbanks-Morse only made kerosene tractors. I was never fortunate enough to see one at a show. Since they were gone by the end of World War I, not too many were built.

We usually think of Fairbanks-Morse as making heavy-duty scales, stationary internal combustion engines and windmills. However, they got into perse products after World War II, such as an innovative diesel electric locomotive.

The bull and the knothole

Looking back at my “growing up” summers that I spent on my grandfather’s farm, it seems there was always ample opportunity for mischief – sometimes dangerous mischief.

On one occasion, three of my city cousins and their parents dropped by the farm for a visit. I was also a city kid, but never considered myself to be one. As for these three brothers, it was probably their first visit to an operating farm. I took it upon myself to show them around, proud of my knowledge of the farm’s inner workings.

While exploring the barn, we came across a knothole in the floor of an empty haymow. Beneath the knothole was a double stall occupied by the farm’s Holstein bull. Someone (I don’t think it was me) got the idea to drop pebbles through the knothole onto the bull’s back.

While these pebbles would have hardly phased the farm’s draft horses, the bull became infuriated. He snorted and stamped his feet as each pebble rolled off his back. Suddenly there was a frightening crash that rattled the entire barn. We ran outside and were greeted with an awesome sight. The bull had broken his tether and attempted to jump out a window.

His front quarters were hanging out of the window frame with the broken sash around his neck. I don’t know how my grandfather and two uncles managed to extract that 2,000-pound bull from the window frame, but it could not have been easy.

We four boys were too frightened to confess that we had provoked the bull into jumping out the window. However, I think everyone else suspected that we were the provocateurs.

Clyde Eide, Bryan, TX

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Remembering a Deering Binder

Letters from readers.

Letters from readers.


Remembering a similar baler used for scrap paper

The baler on Page 4 of your July 2017 issue looks much like a baler we used to bale paper during World War II. It was stored in our American Legion hall with the scrap paper.

On Page 32 of the July issue there is a picture of a Deering binder. As a boy, I rode many miles on one exactly like it. According to my father, the cloth shield behind the canvas was called the windshield. It had the name “Deering” stamped on it. The whip holder was called the whip socket. I am guessing the loop next to the reel was used to keep the reins from hitting the reel when horses were used.

Bob Bartz, Glenwood City, Wisconsin

Send letters to: Farm Collector Editorial, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609; fax: (785) 274-4385; email:; online at:

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.