Collecting Small-Scale Farm Equipment

A Missouri man gathers what may be the smallest farm equipment.

| December 2014

  • Darrell Carter with his collection of cornhusking pegs
    Sitting on the running board of his 1928 International truck, Darrell Carter holds a homemade "corn-kicker" from the antique hand tool collection of the Fair Grove Historical & Preservation Society. With a sharp metal blade and ankle strap, the corn kicker was buckled on near the wearer's ankle, creating a means of cutting corn stalks just above ground level while keeping both hands free to carry stalks to the shock being constructed. Also displayed is part of Darrell's collection of vintage cornhusking pegs.
    Photo by Ron McGinnis
  • Hardware catalog
    Images from a vintage hardware catalog.
    Photo by Ron McGinnis
  • Corn husking tool collection
    Detail of pegs and hooks in Darrell's collection. Some are mass-produced; others are homemade.
    Photo by Ron McGinnis
  • Richard Carter
    Darrell's father, Richard Carter, threshing wheat in western Oklahoma with his 1917 Case steam traction engine and 48-inch grain separator. The wheat shocks in the background did not have to be capped with a fanned-out bundle, Darrell explains, because the air there was typically dry. The high-wheeled wagon by the threshing machine was probably the one Richard used to pick corn with, because the one near the steam tractor was usually filled with coal for the engine. A water wagon operator can be seen in the engine canopy's shadow near the pump handle. That would be Darrell's job when he got old enough.
    Photo by Ron McGinnis
  • Harvesting corn with mules
    Bill Brown, Comanche, Okla., drove the mule team (Jack and Jill) while Orville Jackson, Charles Buckner and Mike Rookstool picked.
    Photo by Ron McGinnis
  • Darrell husking corn
    Darrell demonstrates proper use of a husking peg.
    Photo by Ron McGinnis

  • Darrell Carter with his collection of cornhusking pegs
  • Hardware catalog
  • Corn husking tool collection
  • Richard Carter
  • Harvesting corn with mules
  • Darrell husking corn

When it comes to old-fashioned farming, Darrell Carter of rural Fair Grove, Missouri, has done it all. Growing up during the 1930s, he helped his dad farm in western Oklahoma, which at that time was the epicenter of the Dust Bowl.

“My job was riding a horse-drawn 1-row corn cultivator,” Darrell, 83, says. “Dad got to ride the tractor.” Darrell had a team – Rex and Maude – for his workmates. Rex sometimes balked at taking orders from a 6-year-old boy. “Every so often I couldn’t make Rex move,” Darrell recalls, “so I’d throw a dirt clod at him because there weren’t any rocks.”

Another of Darrell’s fond memories is working on a threshing crew with his father. In 1917 his dad bought a new 85 hp Case coal-burning steam traction engine and a 48-inch Case threshing machine to go with it, both shipped by train from the factory in Racine, Wisconsin.

“After firing up the steam engine, Dad said he drove it off of the flatcar with the separator attached,” Darrell says. “It took him six weeks to get home, because he threshed people’s wheat along the way. In 1941, he sold it for $500.”



Farming in drought

Dry-land farming was a way of life. Darrell’s dad planted cowpeas and later plowed the crop in. “That was all the fertilizer we used,” Darrell says. “Then we used a lister to plant adjacent strips of wheat, sedan grass and corn in half-mile-long rows.”

To utilize the region’s small amount of rainfall, they used a 1-row horse-drawn ridge buster before the plants grew too tall. That also kept strong winds from completely blowing away all of the sandy topsoil. During those drier-than-usual drought years, Darrell recalls raising fair crops if nothing really bad happened – but sometimes it did. “Once when the wheat was 4 feet high and looking good,” he says, “a hail storm took it all.”