This story started out rather innocently in August 2021, when Dwight Merry assisted his neighbor, Lauren Anderson, rescue a VAC-engine-powered Case pull-type combine. The combine had been given to Lauren by Dan DeVaney 20 years earlier. Lauren then left for home with the unit, sporting brand new tires.
Dan’s brother, Bob, then asked Dwight to get into the pickup with him and go take a look at an old International 2M picker that had once belonged to Bob’s dad, Bob DeVaney Sr. Located in the grove, the picker featured a host of improvements, including a wider wagon elevator and grease banks for easy lubrication. Dwight went with Bob to look at the picker but once there, he could not see it! Sometime later, Dwight reached the picker, which appeared largely intact.
Bob and Dan are retired. Bob worked as an oilfield engineer, travelling all over the globe. Dan was a commercial airline pilot. Neither had looked down a row of corn for at least 50 years. The brothers had a nicely painted Farmall Model M sitting in the shed, where it had been resting comfortably for at least 10 years.
Dwight poured some E85 in the tank, which loosened up the varnish some. Running a wire through the fuel line produced chunks of black tar. The sediment bowl and carburetor were cleaned, points filed and distributor cap wiped out, as it had been arcing across the terminals, due to someone drilling ventilation holes in it!
Brothers go bushwhacking to reach picker
The tractor was pulled out of the shed and a battery was installed. After a few turns, it started and ran like it had been shut off yesterday. Nevertheless, just to be sure, the boys installed new points, condenser, cap, rotor and plugs. Prudently, Dwight checked the rear end for grease and found none. Further inspection underneath revealed a hairline crack in the bottom of the case where a gear tried to escape. J-B Weld fixed that, along with eight gallons of SAE 90 gear lube.
During the several days when the tractor was being brought back to life, Bob and Dan sawed a path to the picker, digging assorted mounting brackets out of the dirt on their way in. Bob’s idea was to mount the unit where it was found (bad idea). A handyman jack came close to damaging a couple of boys. However, with many blocks and a skid-steer loader gently nudging the Model M into position, the mount was accomplished.
Balance improved greatly when the front “snoot” was attached. The gears driving the wagon elevator meshed, which was good, as all parties were firmly rusted in place. The mounting brackets were for an F-20, which accounted for a rather low-riding unit.
Next up: an F-20 and a front-mounted planter
Flush with victory, the brothers decided to mount a front-mounted, four-row corn planter on an F-20. Heck, that tractor was running and had new paint. Never mind: shutoff was done via pulling plug wires, or waiting for the carb to run dry. This problem was solved in minutes at Prairie Village by Borger’s Repair, a magneto expert from Howard, South Dakota.
Back to the planter: A cousin came and pressure-washed the whole unit, removing accumulated growth as well as giving fresh paint something to attach to. Much of that was brushed on, spray cans being used in places where a brush could not reach. All in all, the planter was looking decent when finished.
A bit of history on the planter: Years ago, Bob and Dan’s uncle, Welford DeVaney, went into the Peter C. Schmidt IHC dealership in Dell Rapids to order the planter. The dealer responded by asking, “You want to buy that thing?!?” Welford then went to the Ed Zarecky IHC dealership in nearby Colman, where he ordered the planter. Pete later remarked to Bob Sr. that it had been a lesson learned. “When a farmer comes in to spend money with you,” he said, “best to just take it.”
The planter actually was installed a number of times, being used from 1938 into the mid-1940s. Lifting and lowering of the planter units is done via spring assist, plus a tractor operator with strong arm.
Planter once used in custom operation
Looking back, it surely would have been much easier simply to back up to the planter in the shed, drop in a hitch pin, hook up two hoses, and go plant, yes? The planter could also be set up for check-row planting, so one could cross-cultivate, getting rid of a few more weeds as well as cracking radiators, due to a rough ride across ridges caused by the first cultivation.
For check planting, an adjustable bar with “horseshoes” on each end connected each pair of planters, maintaining row spacing via a clamp in each horseshoe with a square opening in it. Thus, when checking, all four boxes tripped at the same time, when the button check wire hit the trip. Part of the device for planting wire is visible behind the tractor.
Bob Sr. bought out his brother’s interest in the 2M, mounted it on a new Farmall M in 1942 and custom-picked more than 1,000 acres that fall, out in fresh air. The picker is now resting comfortably on the Farmall M in the shed, as is the F-20.
Looking at these two units, very few people would have any idea of the energy expended to get them ready to show. In closing, Irving Merry, Dwight’s dad, came back from a flea market on the second day of the show with a NOS operator’s manual for the 2M. Sure would have been handy a month earlier! So it goes. 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.