Remembering the Buck Rake

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Conrad with the buck rake on the Russell family Farmall Model H.
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Conrad Russell’s drawing of the buck rake he recalls using in his youth.

What a difference there is between life in the 1940s and today’s world. I grew up on a 40-acre farm where the main income was from milk cows. In order to feed cattle, farmers had to raise wheat, oats, hay and corn. Other produce was grown for human consumption: peas, beans, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, sweet corn, onions, potatoes, strawberries, rhubarb and lettuce. Some farms had an ample supply of meat from pigs, steers, chickens and sometimes goats. Jars and jars of vegetables and fruit were canned in Mason jars and stored in fruit cellars.

Much of our farming In the 1940s was still done with horses. We had a team, but also a Massey-Harris Model 81 and a Farmall Model H. The Massey-Harris had 14-by-32-inch tires and wide car tires on the front. This tractor could go just about anywhere horses could. It was rated for two plows, but we used a single 16-inch plow. This put less strain on the engine. The Model H was rated a two-plow tractor as well, and we used two plows on that tractor as it had more horsepower than the 81.

TheFarmall H had a hydraulic lift that we used to load manure (sure beat doing it with a fork or a shovel!) and move snow and soil. I remember well using it with a buck rake attached to the high lift. This contraption was made of several pipes about 6 feet long. It was used to pick up hay or straw from the ground but it didn’t work too well on straw, as straw didn’t hold together as well as hay.

I suspect very few people have even heard of a buck rake, let alone know what it was used for. The pipes pushed along level with the ground. As the pipes traveled along, they picked up the hay, forcing it to the back of the rake. One had to be very careful when driving over soft ground or ground with holes, as the pipes tended to follow. On more than one occasion I had a pipe go into a woodchuck hole. After the rack was full, all you had to do was get it to the barn or get it stacked. It was very important when traveling that you not go too fast, as you could upset the tractor. (I did that once, but I won’t go into the punishment I received!)

The 1940s were truly the good old days. People worked hard, to be sure, but hard work is good for you. For years, we had neither electricity nor running water but I’ll take the good old days anytime. In those days, a business deal was done on a person’s word and handshake. God played an important role in everyone’s life. You got along with everyone: Bitterness was unheard of. You could leave your doors unlocked and never worry about anyone breaking in or destroying property. These days I wouldn’t suggest leaving your doors unlocked! FC

Conrad “Connie” Russell is a contributor to several publications, including Farm & Ranch Living, Tractor Collector andLawn & Garden. He lives in Plympton, Mass.

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