Farm Collector

THE STORY OF GEORGE KOPF

Salina, Kansas

One afternoon, early in the 1914 threshing season, I went to
Avery Company’s Kansas City Branch, where I happened to meet
Geo. and Joe Kopf of Beverly, Kansas. Beverly is 35 miles northwest
of Salina and was on my Block but I had never met either Geo. or
Joe Kopf.

The House Salesman had worked on the Kopf sale, had failed to
close it and they were leaving the office, when I arrived there.
Upon being informed Geo. and Joe Kopf were on my block, seeing no
time could be lost and save the sale, I hastily approached them and
within about 20 minutes, sold them a fully equipped 36-60 Avery
Separator.

The years passed and in 1923, Geo. and Joe Kopf were in the
market for a separator. Their Avery had served them well and they
went to Avery Company’s Salina Sub-Branch to buy a separator
but after dickering much of the day and half the night, did not buy
an Avery. Geo. and Joe came to my room at 1 o’clock in the
morning of June 4th, 1923 and I sold them a 36-60 Nichols &
Shepard steel separator, with Hart belt and bucket weigher, wind
stacker and Ruth crankshaft feeder. That Ruth was popular in the
headed wheat belt.

The wheat crop was not good on my Block in 1923 and Nichols
& Shepard Co. inquired , if I would like to go north for a
short time, to which I replied, it would please me and I was
instructed to report to the Minneapolis Branch. I arrived there
ahead of schedule, Business was poor at that branch too, but I was
there six weeks before returning to Salina. Things were quiet on my
Block. It had long been my practice to visit my customers and I had
not seen Kopf’s separator in operation before going north. I
decided to drive to Kopf’s separator. It was an unfortunate
decision, one for which, I ever since have been sorry and will be
to the end of my life.

I drove to within about 40 rods of Kopf’s machine on an east
and west road. A light wind blew from the north and the straw was
being blown south. The old 30-60 Oil Pull was drumming away about
200 yards south of the road. I left the ‘Model T’ in the
road, climbed through a wire fence and walked by the tractor to the
separator. Joe Kopf was operating the tractor and Geo. the
separator. They were having trouble. The grain was banking up ahead
of the feeder knives and the cylinder was not taking it.

Wheat did not ripen properly in 1923. The straw had no life and
a cylinder did not take it well, when dry. Kopf’s evidently
thought it was the feeder, as they had changed it. Pour of the
eight knives had been taken from the outer ends of the feeder arms
and put on the inner ends of the arms, an inch wider belt had been
put on the feeder and tar poured on the belt to prevent
slippage.

Kopfs used their old headed grain feeder extension with the new
feeder. As soon as I went to the machine I saw the extension raddle
travel much faster than the feeder carrier web and delivered the
grain to the feeder faster than the feeder carrier web carried it
away, causing the banking ahead of the knives. I told the Kopfs,
the raddles should travel at about the same speed, and as much as I
disliked to stop a man’s machine, would have stopped Kopf’s
machine and slowed the extension, had they had the sprockets. I
have censured myself ever since for not having stopped that machine
as soon as I saw they were having trouble.

Just before I started to my car, I was standing on the ground,
near the left front wheel of the separator, Geo. was standing with
his right foot on the deck of the feeder and his left on the door
over the Ruth feeder cylinder and pulling huge bunches of wheat
under the feeder knives with a fork. The strain was heavy on the
feeder. A few minutes after I walked to my car, the hanger on the
left feeder arm knife came loose, the back knife on the arm knocked
the door over the Ruth cylinder off, Geo. Kopf’s foot went into
the cylinder and his body stopped the feeder by throwing the wide
tarred belt.

I had walked by the tractor and nearly to the fence when I heard
a low deep noise and a commotion behind me. I turned, looked back,
saw a cloud of dust above the separator and walked back to it. They
had taken Geo. Kopf from the feeder and he was lying in the shade
of a nearby silo. I had not been permitted to see the horrible
accident by but a few minutes. I went to him, my friend of nine
years, and knew his life was ebbing away fast. I left Geo, hastily
walked to my car, drove to a nearby elevator and quickly called an
ambulance, a Doctor and a Priest. Geo. Kopf was a devout Catholic
and it was my wish, because it was his, he receive the Last
Sacarament of the Church. Geo. Kopf died before the ambulance
arrived at the hospital.

I have been sorry ever since the accident that Avery Co. failed
to sell them a separator. An accident of some kind might have
happened to an Avery seperator with the same result, but had it
happened, I would have no reason to feel I had in any way done or
not done anything, that had contributed to the death of Geo. Kopf
and now 32 years later, when the world is sleeping, would not have
the vision of that horrible accident come to me.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1961
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