Road Trip to Buy a Gleaner Combine

Making do on an Iowa farm during the Depression years included buying a 1926 Fordson-mounted Gleaner combine.

| January 2016

Find yourself nostalgic for the good old days? This tale of buying and hauling a combine may change your mind. As told by Edgar and Irene Stout to Richard and JoAnn Stout, Washington, Iowa, in 1989:

My father-in-law often said that the early 1930s were good years to start farming because you could buy everything so cheaply. I have since wondered how you could buy anything, cheap or expensive, if you had no money. But in the spring of 1930, I was 23, single and optimistic as I started farming. My father had bought a farm 5 miles north of Washington, Iowa, and it was on this farm I made my start.

More than a full day’s work

Threshing was on its way out in 1930, but when my older brother, Lloyd, bought a combine and wanted me to help him, I agreed. I drove his Regular Farmall while he rode his No. 20 10-foot IHC combine. We did custom work around the community and often as far away as 20 miles from home. The cutting charge at that time was $3 per acre and for each day I worked for him, Lloyd would combine 1 acre of my grain. It always seemed to me that my grain came last, after everyone else’s.

We left home at daybreak and ran until we finished the next day’s work and he would go off to line up other jobs. It was my responsibility to get the tractor and combine to the next location. This was often after dark. Sometimes on the way to the next field, I would come upon a bridge too narrow for the combine. Bridge planks were not usually fastened down then, so I would take some of them up and stack them high enough so I could drive over the bridge and the combine bin would clear the banister. Most of the time that worked fine, but once the combine fell off the planks and was hung up by the bin. I had to jack up the combine and put the planks back under it.

After moving the machinery, I would be met by Lloyd and we would go home. I would still have chores to do and often it was very late before I finished for the day. Besides all those minor drawbacks, there were the usual problems of brothers working together.

Off on an exciting trip

While I was single, these problems seemed small, but I had married in February 1933. Although Irene was born and raised a farm girl and was well accustomed to chores and fieldwork, she was not too enthused about me being gone all day, every day, for a month or more. That meant she would be left with the bigger end of the chores and other work.