In the Right Place at the Right Time for a Grain Binder

A series of random events ends in the preservation of a 1908 Deering grain binder.

| July 2017

  • The first time the Deering binder had seen daylight in probably 50 years.
    Photo by Milferd Smith
  • An early 8-foot Deering grain binder.
    Photo by Milferd Smith
  • The binder after Dave pressure washed it. Traces of original pinstriping are just visible.
    Photo by Milferd Smith
  • Loading the binder on the trailer at the farm site.
    Photo by Milferd Smith
  • Rear view of the binder after pressure washing. It’s not visible in this photo, but in front of the seat is a holder for a whip. A new cloth for the back of the platform will be made, as the old one was deteriorated beyond repair.
    Photo by Milferd Smith

Going to auctions is one of my hobbies. Every week I check my computer for auctions within 50 miles of my home. On Sept. 23, 2016, I was checking out auctions online and I found one 25 miles east of my farm. The ad said the farm had been homesteaded in the 1880s. I thought there should be a lot of old items there, so I downloaded the flyer.

A lot of household items were listed, but there wasn’t much for old machinery. A lot of old items were hanging on shed walls. You had to buy everything in the sheds, including old home-sawed lumber. I just about gave up on finding anything to do with farm machinery. About 12 listings from the end there was an old cast iron corn sheller on legs, but the big wheel and crank were gone. About six listings from the end, there was a set of dollies for a grain binder. Three listings from the end, there was a 16- by 20-foot shed full of home-sawed lumber stacked 3 feet deep the length and depth of the shed. At the very bottom of the listing, two words caught my eye: wheat thresher.

I enlarged the photo and to my surprise, there was an old grain binder in the back of the shed. I had never seen a binder like that except in pictures in Farm Collector and other magazines like it.

I called a friend in South Dakota and described what I had seen. “Oh my,” he said. “That binder is over 100 years old. That has to be a Deering binder.” Three days later, an open house was held at the sale site. I went to take a look at the items. My legs aren’t that good, but the young lady from the auction company crawled over the lumber in the shed with a flashlight: Sure enough, it was a Deering binder.

I asked one of the fellows from Forest City (Minnesota) Threshers if the club would be interested in the binder, as they have a shed where they display a lot of old items. “Yes, you buy it,” club member Dave Jutz told me, adding that he would help haul it. “But don’t pay more than $200 for it.” I didn’t end up getting the binder – everything in the shed sold for $385 – but I did get the dollies.

Timing is everything

The day after the auction, buyers were supposed to pick up their purchases and pay for them. I had planned to go that morning, but something came up. Then I was going to go right after noon, but something came up again. I didn’t get there until about 2:45 p.m. After paying for the dollies, I went to pick them up. Lo and behold, there was a pickup with a trailer parked about 60 feet from the shed. An established windbreak blocked convenient access. There was a space of about 3 feet next to the shed wall; the shed was a lean-to on a granary on the north side, and there were cedar trees on the south side of the granary.


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