The Baler Man

John Deere hay baler

One-sixth scale John Deere hay baler.

Content Tools

6000 Quail Lane Enid, Oklahoma 73703

My parents were always farmers and I was born and raised on a 160 acre farm near Breckinridge, Oklahoma. I learned from my dad its many operations and became very familiar with his methods of making a farm work. At the early age of 10 years, I was old enough to help with the straw baling, Dad said. So, I was given the job of sitting beside the baler, poking wires, putting the divider block in the baler, and pulling the bales away from the back of the baler.

In those days if you were baling a straw pile, you had to drop and stack the bales away from the equipment to a safe place just in case an overheated bearing or gasoline engine set fire to the dry straw. At least that was the story told to me, but it sure made it very handy for the old trucks and wagons to load up to put the hay in the barn.

This was no small task for a small boy of 10, and it made the days very long as by noon I was tired enough to call it a day. However with something in my stomach and a little rest, I somehow got a new surge of energy and somehow managed to make it through the afternoon. It was always hot and dirty, and quite often, when helping a friend or neighbor, stopping for a drink was unheard of. Not until a block was 'accidentally on purpose' tied to a bale did you get time to visit the water jug.

This method was used by most farmers in our area and Dad used this method until the baler was later built on wheels with a pickup attachment that picked the hay up in the field or several farmers would pitch the hay away from the stack as the tractor driver drove around in circles and baled the hay.

By the time I had graduated from high school the self-tying baler was available, but I migrated to the big city and two years later married. Dad continued to use the square baler, hiring local help for hauling the bales into the shed. I still was fascinated with this method of baling whenever we would visit the farm or help him whenever time permitted.

Now in my early years of retirement, my wife and I have become involved with old iron, steam engines, crafts and yes, even toys. One fall day several years ago, while creating a nativity scene, I had an idea of using small bales to help enhance the set. My wife visited a local craft shop in search of the small straw bales, but returned without them, saying all they had was blocks of styro foam dipped in glue, rolled in ground-up straw and a black string wrapped around it.

Now, after being born and raised on a farm, I could not settle for such a poor substitute, so I told her I would just make my own bales. After a hearty laugh and a little ribbing she left me to my thoughts. I soon began to think of a way to accomplish the challenge I had just taken on myself. A couple of weeks later after the morning breakfast, I said, 'Today I am going to build a miniature hay baler.' Again this disbelieving grin told me she had her doubts; however, I headed to the nearest junkyard in search of the material I would need.

I was unable to locate the correct size tubing for a 1/16 scale baler. I did, however, find a larger size tubing. After having made my purchase, I hurried home to put my ideas to work. I spent the rest of the day cutting to size, having my friend Roy weld it together again, grinding, more cutting until I had my 1/16 tubing. By early evening, I had managed to make a crude looking hand operated device which did indeed make a bale 1' x 1' x 3' in size. I had done what my wife thought was impossible. Now that I had turned my idea into a bale-producing baler, she would have to believe me.

Needless to say, this has started a new era in my life. I started showing the baler whenever we would set up at toy shows and soon I was getting requests to make more so that people could add it to their collection of toys and also to engage in the bale making process. It was about this time that we were challenged to make a larger bale, preferably one that was 2' x 3' x 6' in size.

Now I have really caught the baling bug. How I regretted as a child to have to work with this baler on the farm. How could something so awful then be so much fun now? Never mind that now, I just had to have a larger baler. Then I read in an issue of the Gas Engine Magazine where a fellow in Wisconsin was advertising plans for a ? scale baler. My heart leaped with excitement and I lost no time getting to the phone and giving him a call. Shortly thereafter I received the plans in the mail.

Could I be losing it? Not on your life! Plans under arm and a whole lot of gusto, I once again headed for the shop. This would prove to be quite a challenge for me this winter. I started looking for an old water pump jack, small gears, flywheels, pulleys and bearings. I fully realized that I needed everything to make the baler. I also knew that I was not a machinist and this would complicate things but not make them impossible. I had made wooden things for my wife and made other wooden items for years. What could be so different to make things of metal? The answer to this would confront me many times before the baler would be completed.

By now I need some metal lathe work done, so down to Art's Machine Shop in search of my old friend Jim. Jim turns down the old metal shafts to the new size, cuts the pipe to correct length to make bearing holders, then back to my shop for more welding and sawing. There was many a trial and error over the next two months but things were shaping up. With a few minor changes here and there, a different adjustment somewhere else, remove a key that was not necessary, and lo and behold a new shiny replica of a 1923 Case hay press appeared at the front door of my shop.

By the time I had completed the baler, painted it and let it work at making a few bales, it was time for the Oklahoma Steam & Gas Engine Show at Pawnee, Oklahoma. It is now May of 1992. It was the envy of both young and old alike. Children didn't know what it was, the older gentlemen would recall how they had done that in their younger days and would fill you in on how they did it. The most rewarding moment of the day was when two small boys, after watching the baler work, decided they were going home to become farmers.

The June show in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, was filled with much of the same, as was the Windfield, Kansas, Steam Engine Show in August, and end the season at the Enid, Oklahoma, Antique Power Show in October. The booth with little working baler was never in want of a crowd or conversation. The leather face of the farmer with his many tales of his younger days, and once in a while even a tear would fall from an eye as they told their stories, to the young face of the boy wanting to learn the 'what fors' and the 'whys' of the whole operation.

It makes you feel good at the end of the day to know that you may have brought back a little of the past to the children of the future. Even my wife Darlene enjoys visiting with all the spectators, showing them how she uses the little bales and giving them new ideas.

Two years have gone by since my original idea was born, and once again the wheels of my mind were at work again. If I could make a smaller version of the ? Case baler, it would go into the trunk of the car. A small Maytag engine or a small electric engine would enable me to run it indoors. Now, we could set up in shows much farther away from home. So in the early winter of 1993 I pulled out the plans for the ? size Case baler. Again, many hours of searching scrap heaps for gears, pulleys and all the necessary parts to begin a 1/6 scale began. By working sometime into the late evening I had a model ready for operation by mid-summer and showed it for the first time at the Fairview, Oklahoma, Two-Cylinder Show. The Two-Cylinder Show had prompted me to paint the baler John Deere green to blend in with the John Deere Two-Cylinder Show we planned to attend.

The rain was a factor in the day and large crowds stopped to watch the baler in action and our awning also was giving them protection from the elements. This baler produces bales that are 2' x 3' x 7' in length.

By now word had spread about the fellow from Enid making small balers that actually work. We now have four size balers that do work and make four sizes of bales. Sometime during the day I was given the title of 'Baler Man'; most people know who you are talking about.

As we write this it is fall, and the wife and I are getting ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and looking forward to the new run of toy shows, craft shows, and old iron shows next spring. We always meet such nice new people, see our old friends from previous years, and visit places we have never seen before. It sure does make the golden years of retirement the best years of our lives.