Remembering Ice Harvests and A “Crown” Corn Crib

Letters to the editor about ice harvests, corn elevators, Model M brakes, and homesteaders' experience.

By Readers
article image
by Milferd Smith

Remembering ice harvests and haying

The September issue of Farm Collector brought back memories of the ice harvest and haying. The harvest I am familiar with came from Beaver Creek, when I was just a boy and in school during the week. Beaver Creek began in the Kanorado area of Kansas and flowed northeast and entered Nebraska southeast of McCook and then into a mostly easterly direction.

Ten or 12 farmers would get together and build a dam with slips and my uncle would follow up with a Farmall F-30 with a tumblebug in early fall. Usually by late January or early February, the ice was ready to be harvested. There was an ice house on my grandfather’s farm. I believe it was 12 by 16 feet, maybe 10 feet deep, with 8- to 10-inch-thick cement walls. The ice was covered with wheat straw (threshed) and very carefully covered and tramped down each day. I had a red wagon that was used to haul the cake of ice to be placed in the icebox in the kitchen. An ice pick was used to break the ice into a size suitable for the icebox. The ice was used for iced tea.

If used correctly, the ice would fit into the icebox in one piece. We also had enough ice to freeze ice cream nearly every evening with a White Mountain hand-cranked freezer. Wouldn’t the EPA have a ball over that procedure today? I don’t remember the size of the ice cakes, but they were similar in size and weight to those mentioned in that article. The ice cakes were hauled to their destination and back in a standard horse-drawn wagon.
My uncle was a cattle feeder, so there was around 50 acres of alfalfa hay. Early on, a dump rake was used to windrow the cut hay and hay bucks were used to bring in the hay and place it on a Jayhawker stacker and lift it on to the haystack. Two to three men would try to make a decent stack of hay for winter feeding. A hay knife with eight serrated sections was used to make feeding a bit easier.

In the early 1940s, J.I. Case came out with the wire tie baler. During that time, when there was a shortage of help, it made the process of haying easier and quicker. My uncle purchased one of these balers in May 1944.

I registered for the military draft in September 1944 but was allowed to stay home to harvest a large corn crop. I was inducted into the U.S. Army in February 1945.

Gayle Woodruff, Kearney, Nebraska

Remembering a “crown” corn crib at Minnesota elevator

I am writing in regard to the crown corn crib (Farm Collector, August 2021, Page 6): I live about 60 miles west of Minneapolis. There were a few of those out this way. The longest one was at the Darwin elevator. Those on farms were shorter in length. I never did look at one up-close but was told there were doors on the bottom so you could put an elevator hopper or corn sheller drag line under the bottom. All elevators had corn cribs as farmers would bring in a small batch of ear corn to sell and the elevator had to store it. Later, some were used to store shelled corn.

Milferd Smith, Darwin, Minnesota

Some Model M brakes worked; some didn’t

Regarding Dallas Taylor’s question (Farm Collector, September 2021, Page 4) on the Farmall M he saw with the band brake on the left and a disc on the right: My dad bought a new Farmall MD in the spring of 1950. It weighed 700 pounds more than a gas Model M. The brakes were almost worthless. An International Harvester dealer sold Dad a set of after-market brakes. I believe they were called Lambert brakes. They made a world of difference on that tractor.

We heard later that International bought out that company. I have worked on many Model M brakes since. I have never been able to figure why some band brakes worked and others didn’t. I’ve worked on a number of IHC disc brakes. Some hated them. I found if you took them off periodically, blew all the dust out of them, buffed the gladed disc, emery-clothed the engaging assembly until smooth and clean, then coated the balls and ramps with graphite, they’d work for a good many years.

Warren Matson, Schuyler, Nebraska

Slower exposure times may have “settled” the dust

One important factor Clell Ballard fails to mention in his article (Farm Collector, September 2021, “Where’s the Dirt?”) is that exposure times for film back then were relatively long. If the machinery was in motion or if anything moved, the photo would be blurred. No movement, no dust.

Mike Lesiczka via email

Homesteaders’ experience should be considered in context of the past, not the present

Clell G. Ballard should be congratulated on his unbiased comments on the homestead era (Farm Collector, July 2021). Here in Montana, most accounts follow the lead of K. Ross Toole’s book, Twentieth Century Montana. Toole is often referred to as Montana’s foremost historian. (I must admit there is ample justification in bestowing this title.) He and other historians often compare the trials and tribulations of homestead life with current life and society here in Montana.

It is my belief that the Montana homesteaders’ plights should be compared and judged not with current society, but rather with a look back to what they came from.

In 1914, George and Myrtle Camp filed on a homestead in Belt Park near the center of the Little Belt Mountains about 60 miles south of Great Falls, Montana. George was a descendant of the few that evaded the wrath of the Duke of Guise and thus avoided annihilation in the Bartholomew Massacre, where 10,000 Huguenots were slaughtered in a 10-day rampage. At about this same time in France, much of the land had fallen into mortmain whereby little if any was available for private ownership.
A backward look at this makes that 6,400-foot elevation homestead surrounded by peaks well over 7,000 feet in elevation something of a miracle.

George and Myrtle Camp were successful homesteaders. Their descendants are many, all upstanding and solid citizens and an asset to their country. The Camp homestead is part of what is known locally as the Camp Ranch. It is being operated today by great-grandson Loren Drivdahl and his family.

John Drivdahl, Denton, Montana

Firsthand experience with dirt on the farm

I just got the September 2021 issue of Farm Collector and Clell Ballard’s article (“Where’s the Dirt?”) brought back some long-forgotten memories. The article on British war-time agriculture was also interesting.

I grew up in northwest Kansas about 200 miles from Colorado and 16 from Nebraska. I was about 5 or 6 years old in the mid-1940s. It was the time when the Rural Electrification Assn. (REA) came to northwest Kansas. My dad became proficient at wiring houses. He would first cut the holes in the wall where the switches and outlets were going to be and then he would go to the attic and drop a furnace chain down. My little hands would reach into the hole and grab the chain and then attach the chain to the Romex wire and he’d pull it back up to the attic.

On occasion, I would go to the attic and watch him solder wires together and finish the wiring. Often there was 3-6 inches of fine dust on the attic floor. It was a puzzle for me. I asked my dad if there was not a better way to insulate their ceilings. (This was just the beginning time of farm home insulation.) He replied that it was not insulation; it was dust that blew in during the 1930s dust storms. Then I would get a story about wet sheets hung over windows to keep some of the dust out of the house, and then other stories. The time came when I was asked, on summer evenings, to take a bucket and shovel and carry the dust out of our own attic.

I found out where the dirt was.

Ronald J. Williams, Manhattan, Kansas

Anyone recognize this?

I got this piece of equipment about 20 years ago. I am hoping to get some information from the readers of Farm Collector. I can’t find any name or numbers on this anywhere. I would like to find out a name and what it was used for. Thanks!

Darrell Steffen, 7100 E. Champie Rd.,
Morristown, AZ 85342; (928) 501-3878

Remembering bungs and go-devils

On Page 6 of the December 2021 issue of Farm Collector, Item B is a farm tool that I used a lot. It would fit down in the bung screw cap on a 55-gallon barrel that we kept gas in for our Farmall Regular tractor. This was before the F-20.

After the fellow who we bought our gas from stood the barrel up on end, he would use this tool. He put it down in the hollows of the cap and the four teeth on that tool would catch on to the two teeth in the hollow of the bung cap and screw out the cap (which was called a bung). This barrel usually sat on a raised platform. He would fill the barrel and put the bung back in.

When we came in for gas, we’d unscrew the bung and screw in a spigot. We’d put the 5-gallon gas can under it and turn the spigot on to fill the gas can. There were two bungs in the end of the barrel. The other allowed air to enter the barrel so gas would flow out of the spigot. Otherwise, it would form a vacuum and no gas would come out. That is how we did it back in 1940.

On Page 5 of the December 2021 issue of Farm Collector is a picture sent in by Darrell Steffen of Morristown, Arizona. He did not know what the piece was or what it was used for. If you don’t know about something, Darrell, you did the right thing to ask.

That is a one-row go-devil. It was used to cultivate corn that was planted with a lister. This machine planted corn in a ditch. When it was 4 or 5 inches tall, you would go over it with your go-devil. Set the disc blades on each side of the row of corn and the dirt on the bank.
After the first pass, the shovels are to be set in close to the corn but still not covering the corn. After the first time over the corn field, you will have gotten rid of any weeds that were growing on the insides of the banks.

After the corn gets 5 to 6 inches tall, you turn the discs around so they now pull half of each ditch bank in around the corn plant but don’t cover it. This should leave the field level. When the corn is about knee-high, you can go in with a regular cultivator. That is the last time you should have to go over the field. The next time will be at harvest.

This is the way we raised corn on the flat Missouri River bottoms. That has all changed now. We just drill the seed in with a regular corn planter, cultivate it two times and harvest. Hope this helps. I’m 88, an old Iowa farmer.

Rolland F. Thomas, Council Bluffs, Iowa

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

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment