Hay Tool and Cast Iron Seat Collectors Engage in Joint Venture

Two-day spring show unites hay tool collectors and cast iron seat group for exchange of ideas.

| September 2015

When the Hay Tool Collectors’ Assn. and the Cast Iron Seat Collectors held a joint, two-day show in May, the cross-pollination was immediate. “Exchanging ideas is part of the fun,” says Barry Merenoff, an ardent hay trolley collector. “Collectors all have that special gene. There’s nothing you can do about it; it’s incurable.”

The event marked the 10th anniversary of the hay tool group, which returned to the site of its first meet at the Steve Weeber farm south of Iowa City, Iowa. For this occasion, the Cast Iron Seat Collectors were invited to join the fun. Picture-perfect spring weather accented the beautiful rural setting, allowing displays on the lawn as well as in a large shed and barn.

The joint show created a fascinating look at an era when the barn was the hub of activity on the farm. As is typical in small meets like this, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. The event was billed as a joint gathering of the cast iron seat group and the hay tool collectors, but displays strayed well beyond those lines, to the delight of some 200 visitors.

Not a lot of give in cast iron

Lebert Baskett started his farming career at the age kids today start going to school. “When I was 6,” he recalls, “my dad put me on a horse-drawn cultivator. He’d line me up with the horses on a row a half-mile long, and when I got to the end, he’d be there to turn me around. By the time I was 7 or 8, he’d turned me loose with a team of horses.”

Experience like that gives Lebert significant credibility in the area of cast iron seats, which he collected for more than 30 years. “They were rough on your butt, that’s for sure,” he says. The earliest seats were made of cast iron, he says; later pieces were made of tin. “Tin has a little give,” he allows, “but there’s not a lot of give in cast iron. After a day on a cast iron seat, a farmer probably needed a sip of white lightning.”

Lebert hauled his entire collection of 115 seats to the Iowa show from his home in Lovington, New Mexico. At 81, he’d decided it was time to dispose of the collection, and he found a ready market at the meet. “I lost money on them,” he says with a smile, “but I had a lot of fun over the years.”