In the August 2017 issue of Farm Collector, I read with interest Gary Agrimson’s story of the Allis-Chalmers No. 10 Roto-Baler. My first memories of small, round bales started in the 1950s when I was a kid on a small farm in western New York. My dad bought hay one winter from a farmer about 2 miles away. We hauled about 18 bales with Dad’s ’49 Ford sedan. We filled the trunk and stacked bales up over the roof of the car and tied some of mom’s clothesline over the top.
My brother, Jim, and I got jobs hauling round bales for some neighboring farms during the summer as our haying was done soon after school let out. Our baling was done by a custom operator with a John Deere 14T square baler. Many of the farmers who relied on the round bales worked off the farm, so they left the hay bales in the field to be hauled as time permitted. Rain did not totally ruin round bales as it did square bales. One good rain on small, square bales and they were tossed over the bank into the woods.
Later, when I had a dairy farm, I baled with a New Holland 66 baler with a 2-cylinder Wisconsin engine (Editor’s note: read about a self-propelled New Holland 166 in this issue) and was done haying by July, lord willing. Then, for a few years, I helped an older couple nearby haul thousands of round bales. This man and his wife had many dairy cows and several acres, and they struggled to get the chores and haying done. I would help them haul their hay in the afternoon when my chores were done. The wife would spend hours walking the field with a bale hook and turn all the bales lengthwise in a row so her husband and I could load them on one of the three large trailers he had built from truck frames and axles. He pulled them with a McCormick-Deering ID-9 that he bought from the highway department and got running again. Like many of us in the ’60s, he seldom bought new machines or even good ones. We made do with cheap.
We had a hay baler that attached to the side of the trailer with a single pin. It was ground driven. I stood on the wagon and swung the round bales into place with a two-tined bundle fork (pitch fork, to some). Somehow the couple always managed to have chores done and all three trailers unloaded by the time I got there to start hauling all over again the next day. We hauled from late summer into fall. I took time off to run corn into my silo; the occasional early winter snowstorm also suspended the hauling operation.
The dangers of the Roto-Balers were not talked about much, but I think I recall a baler fatality involving an Allis Roto-Baler. I do recall some 40 years ago an ad that ran for a number of years in local farm papers, placed by an inpidual in Ohio wanting to buy these balers. I wonder if there may be a rusting orange graveyard somewhere in the hinterlands of yesterday.