Collecting Small-Scale Farm Equipment

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


| December 2014



Darrell Carter with his collection

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

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.”