A Marshall Plan Massey

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A map showing the location of M.H. Burgers’ home in Holland.
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This photo of a Massey-Harris Model 21A combine, owned by Byron Henry and driven by Milton Ayers, Junius, S.D., sparked a series of recollections for a retired farmer in the Netherlands who first encountered such equipment in the years following World War II.

As a subscriber to Farm Collector, I
was pleased to see a picture of a 21A Massey Harris combine
(“Prairie Star” November 2004, page 24). I would like to write
about my memories of a 21A Massey combine. I am 75 years old, and
as a retired farmer in Holland, I have many memories from the
past.

After World War II, there was a lack of almost everything here.
Our Farmall F20, equipped with a gas generator, was stolen by the
Germans, as were most of our horses. Many farms were burnt down
during the liberation, so crops could not be stored inside before
threshing, as was the practice in Holland. Without buildings,
farmers were desperate to obtain combines. Before the war, there
were no combines here.

The first combine I ever saw was being used to harvest barley.
It was an International Harvester pull-type with a Continental
engine. Thanks to the Marshall Plan, more and more such machines
came to Holland.

When farmers joined together, they could obtain a bigger
machine, and this happened in our district. The government
regulated the distribution of new equipment, because there was a
huge demand and not enough machines. In our region, there was a
used 21 Massey-Harris that was traded in for a newer unit. I bought
the Massey from a dealer for a very low price. After thoroughly
repairing it, I could harvest my own crop!

Operating the Massey was a Spartan doing, of course: It had no
power steering and no hydraulics. The Massey had no auger. It used
two (right and left) canvas conveyers that moved the crop after it
was cut to the center upon another conveyer that moved it to the
drum. It had a pick-up reel, adjustable only with right and left
turnbuckles.

To raise and lower the platform was hard work. There was a big
vertical hand wheel with a brake pedal to lift the platform. The
brake pedal was used to prevent the platform from lowering after
you had turned the wheel to raise it. Three heavy springs put the
system in some kind of balance. A Massey 21A with a 6-volt electric
lift was also available, but mine was operated by “elbow
force.”

The sickle drive was a weak point. A v-belt went from pulley to
pulley, and it only covered the sickle pulley by 90 degrees.

The drum was driven by a double 3/4 chain and sprocket. You
could change the speed by using other sprockets and lengthening or
shortening the chain. The engine was a Chrysler six-cylinder side
valve with a belt-driven governor. It was mounted below the
machine, and a duct for radiator air pointed upwards, as did the
engine’s air intake. The final drive to the front driving wheels
was by chain and sprocket and differential. It had only a
transmission brake, so when one chain broke, the machine stopped in
the field. If that happened while you were on the road, you could
do nothing but pray! The front drive wheels were 10×28, too small
for Dutch circumstances, so we mounted duals, but the result was
that the axles broke several times!

Now we own, together with a neighbor, an 8080 19-foot New
Holland combine made in Belgium. It has an air-conditioned cab,
power steering and hydraulic drive. It is 25 years old, but is
still doing a good job. My son has the farm now, but I always do
the threshing. Because of the low prices of farm products, it is
not possible to buy a new combine. Still, the difference between
the 21A and the 8080 New Holland is like the difference between a
horse-drawn carriage and a Cadillac!

After World War II, there was a lack of almost
everything here. Our Farmall F20, equipped with a gas generator,
was stolen by the Germans, as were most of our horses. Many farms
were burnt down during the liberation, so crops could not be stored
inside before threshing, as was the practice in Holland. Without
buildings, farmers were desperate to obtain combines. Before the
war, there were no combines here.

We were liberated 60 years ago. Recently we have seen pictures
on TV of the many soldiers, including Americans, who died for our
freedom. We also remember the Marshall Plan, which helped to
rebuild Europe. We thank the American people very much.

For more information: M.H. Burgers, Pr.Marijkestraat 15,
4671 GB Dinteloord, Holland

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