Most vintage farm equipment has been through the mill. It’s been used and abused, loved, hated, cussed, kicked and cajoled. But Rick Brunton’s International Harvester 82 pull-type combine, now more than 30 years old, has barely even made it out of the shed.
The story begins with Rick’s great-uncle, Bernard “Bean” Kellner. In the fall of 1966, after harvest, Bean bought the combine. That winter, at age 66, he decided he’d had enough, and retired from farming. Plans were set in motion to rent the farmland to a nephew, but he held on to all of his equipment – – including his new 82 – thinking it might come in handy someday.
The 82 was the last of a breed. By 1966, most combines were self-propelled. According to IH archives in Wisconsin, few 82s were built between 1966 and 1972.
A year after purchase, the Kellner combine had its one moment in the sun.
“The next fall, while my uncle was harvesting soybeans, Bean got the 82 out and ran it just enough to see how it worked,” Rick said. “Then it was put back in the shed, where it sat until I got it out in 1997.”
Rick said he had tried to buy his great-uncle’s equipment for years.
“But he always thought he might need it,” he said. “Finally, in September 1994, he decided to sell me the 1952 Minneapolis-Moline UTU, appropriately called ‘Mighty Mo’ due to its big tires. He was really proud of that tractor after we had repainted it and started showing it. He went to all the shows, and told all about ‘his’ ol’ Minnie.”
In January 1995, Rick’s great-uncle announced that he would sell his other Minneapolis-Moline, a corn picker, and the 82 to Rick and his brother, Dale. It was not an easy decision.
“He really hated to part with them,” Rick said. “So we told him we would buy them, and leave them in his possession as long as he was around.”
After Bernard Kellner’s death in August 1997, the equipment was moved. The combine may have been in mint condition, but it was in need of a bath.
“I spent three days washing 30-plus years of barn dust off the combine, and it looks like new,” Rick said. “It has been washed only; no polish has been used on it. If we polish the paint, I feel it can’t be called 100 percent original.” After the spit-and-polish routine, the combine was ready for a trip to town. “In July, our local antique tractor club Gasper County (Ind.) Retired Iron had their annual show at our county fair,” Rick said. “With a lot of persuasion, the club talked me into showing the 82 at the show along with the Minnies. It was the first time it had ever sat out over night. It bothered me some, but what good is owning something unique, if people can’t see it?”
The combine and other equipment have become a sort of living memorial.
“We now show the equipment as a tribute to ‘Bean’,” Rick said. “He was a man everyone in our area knew and liked. He was a walking, talking history book on farming, and the way of life of the 20th century.” FC