Memories of Baling Hay in 1942

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The October 2015 issue of Farm Collector had a very interesting article by Bill Vossler about the Johnson family demonstrating a stationary baler. In the winter of 1942, when I was 15, I started working with a baler crew. I would like to explain how we baled hay and straw at that time.

With an Oliver 70 tractor and a McCormick-Deering baler similar to the one in the October article, we would park the baler next to the stack with just enough room to place the table between the stack and the baler. The table was about 4-1/2 feet square, with two L-shaped brackets on one side that attached to the baler, level with the top of the bale chamber throat, and two legs on the opposite side, next to the stack. Then we turned the tractor around and lined it up with the belt pulley.

It took a crew of six men to operate the baler. Three men were on the stack. Two brought the loose hay near the table and one pitched the hay onto the table (not too much, so as to overwhelm the table man, but always enough to keep the baler well supplied).

The table man (standing on the table) had to slide the hay under the plunger every time the plunger was in raised position. The plunger packed the hay into the bale chamber.

We only used one wire man. He would push the wires through the slotted block, and then reach over the bale chamber and tie the wires. There was a trick to fast tying. He would hold the looped end in his right hand and slip the other through the loop with his left hand. Then he would bend the wire 180 degrees, hold the bend in his right hand and with his left hand, grab the longer part, make two revolutions around the end and bend back the remaining end 180 degrees (see illustration below). The blocks were three layers of 1-inch lumber. The center was vertical and both sides were horizontal with 1/2-inch slots where the wire went through.

To determine the proper length of the bale, there was a painted line on the side of the bale chamber. When the block approached that line, it was the wire man’s duty to call “block” to the table man. The table man had to stop feeding hay into the baler and make sure there was no hay in the chamber. The wire man had already placed a block in the block holder (a hinged holder that held the block in a horizontal position). The table man would tip it forward to a vertical position and the plunger would come down and push it into the bale chamber. It took a good table man to feed the baler just right to produce one bale per minute.

The sixth crew member carried bales away from the baler and stacked them. It was his job to estimate the weight of each bale and adjust the screws accordingly. Hay bales had to be 100 pounds; straw bales, 70 pounds. It was hard work to do 16-20 tons per day.

Herman VanderVos,

7034 Nash Rd., Bozeman, MT 59715

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