Recalling the Grain Probe: Antique Farm Tool Found at Auction

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Trucks loaded with shelled corn at a grain elevator in Grundy County, Iowa, in 1939.
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The grain probe in open position.
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View of the grain probe's front end, showing nice machining on the openings.
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Handle of the grain probe. Lining up the "P" markers allows removal of the inner tube. Lining up the "P" and the "O" opens the probe to take a sample.

When I was a kid, Jim Westerman would come with his truck-mounted No. 6 John Deere sheller and we would shell out our 6,000-bushel rectangular crib (with drag tunnels beneath it).

Shelling was easy, until you had to scoop into the drag feed to clean off the concrete floor before moving to the next section.

Once the corn was shelled, Lee Whipkey or Art Berglund took it (in their small, single-axle trucks) to the Quaker Oats elevator in Trent, S.D., where Dad sold it. A man would come out of the scale building with a long, shiny probe to get a sample of corn from each load.

A while back, a probe came up on a sale along with the usual “hayrack items” one finds at sales. When I bought it, the piece was all black. It looked like paint, but it was just oxidation. Several hours later, some very fine sandpaper and a can of Brasso gave the results pictured.

In use, the probe was pushed into the grain, with the probe’s interior turned, putting the oval slots in a closed position. When the desired depth was reached, the interior tube was turned, opening the ports to accept grain. The tube was then rotated a quarter turn, closing the ports, retracted and the contents were dumped into a sample can for testing.

The probe was manufactured by Dean Gamet Mfg., Minneapolis, Minn., many years ago, of brass or bronze construction. FC

Jim and Joan Lacey operate Little Village Farm, a museum of farm collectibles housed in 10 buildings at their home near Dell Rapids, S.D. Contact them at (605) 428-5979.

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