MEMORY PROJECT


| September 2004



FC_V7_I2_Sep_2004_12-1.jpg

Donald Hudson sits atop the grain tank

Old hands teach young farmer to harvest wheat

I truly enjoy Farm Collector, and when you asked for some recollections of days gone by, I couldn't resist writing about my first wheat harvest, pulling a combine in Kansas.

The year was 1941, and we used two 1928 15-30 McCormick-Deering tractors and two No. 8 combines, one was a 1927 model, and the other was a 1931 model. There was little difference between the two, but the operator's deck on the 1931 model was located on the right side behind the cutting platform.

Dad had put rubber tires on one tractor just before wheat harvest that year, bought with money he earned selling calves. Back in those days, the wheat grew very tall - 36 to 42 inches. The most common varieties were Tenmarq, Early Blackhull and Red Chief.

On my first afternoon pulling a combine, I followed the other machine. That gave me some idea about how the combine would handle and sound when properly operated. The combine man stood right behind me as I pulled the combine, and offered advice such as slow down or speed up, and told me when I wasn't cutting a full swath or tried to cut too much in one pass. The wheat was good and ripe, so we cut until 'dark thirty' - which means it was very dark by the time we quit.

Mudhole mechanics

That night, it rained 7 inches. The next morning we went to the field, unhooked the combines, pulled the rubber-tired tractor to the road and took it to the house. There we took the wheel weights off, which consisted of concrete-filled front-wheel rims held on with 3/4-inch bolts. Then we removed the wheels, which were held on the axle with large hexagonal nuts - two per axle, one called a 'jam nut.' They were large because the axle was 3 inches in diameter. We didn't have a wrench that big, so we used a dull cold chisel and a hammer to remove the two nuts on each axle. The weighted wheels probably weighted 500 pounds each.

Then we put the steel wheels back on, but the lugs were worn out so we had to take them off. In those days, most farmers had very few good tools, like ratchet handles and socket sets. All we had was a socket wrench with a 24-inch handle and an end wrench that fit square bolt heads. There were 13 lugs per row, and two rows of lugs per wheel. Each lug had two bolts with a lock washer that held it on.