Old Fashioned Plow Days 1993

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Sent to us by Gary Crowe, Dir. 11 Justina St., Box 318 Heuvelton, New York 13654

The 6th annual Old Fashion Plow Days jointly sponsored by the St. Lawrence Gas and Steam Engine Association and the St. Lawrence Valley Draft Horse Club at the Howard Hutch-inson Farm on Heuvelton Rensselaer Falls Road was, as usual, bigger and better than ever. The show was held earlier than usual, on Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend. In the past an antique engine show at Dekalb Junction occurred on that weekend, but it has been discontinued, so Old Fashion Plow Days was moved up a month. With cloudy, comfortable weather interrupted by an occasional light shower on Sunday, the event drew more participants and twice as many spectators as last year.

When visitors paid the modest two dollar fee to get on the grounds, they were given a four page pamphlet explaining the background of the show and some of the things to be seen. I will quote liberally from this pamphlet.

'Our name is a little misleading. Six years ago we started this event just demonstrating plowing with horses and antique tractors, but over the years we have expanded to a two day show and have added a lot more things to the show.

'Oat harvesting and threshing soon came into the show. Our two clubs jointly own the 1950 Case 22x38 threshing machine that is working here today. It is also a joint effort to plow, plant and harvest the two acres of oats that were grown here for the plow days.

'Corn harvesting is now a big part of our show. You will enjoy seeing the antique corn binders working throughout the two days. One will be a horse drawn ground drive unit owned and operated by Leo Rastley. This unit cut and put the corn into bundles which were then ejected onto the ground. These bundles were pitched onto wagons to be taken to the silo filler. Pitching corn was probably the hardest harvesting job and in the old days, the youngest men in the neighborhood were hired to do this work. The corn bundles can easily weigh 50 pounds or more and you can imagine the hard work involved in pitching these bundles hour after hour on a hot September day.' (As this writer remembers things, it was far more fun pitching corn in September than pitching hay by hand or tailing a hay loader in July. Besides, in corn harvest you were changing work with neighbors, so there were several other people working in the field with you, not just one or two as in haying. And, when changing work with neighbors, whether threshing or silo filling, there was always a great noon meal to look forward to.)

We have two silo fillers working for the show. The first is a very early 1900s Brasher silo filler. The corn bundles were fed by hand through the four knife cutting head and the chopped ensilage was elevated to the top of the silo. The horse treadmill that is operating the silo filler is also a Brasher. The Brasher equipment was manufactured in Brasher Falls, New York.

'The second silo filler is the more common blower type that was used from the early 1920s through the early 1950s. This unit is an early 1920s Whirlwind 16' silo filler. It was a four knife machine and could accommodate a 30 HP tractor very easily. It was only after the general acceptance by farmers of the blower type silo filler that the upright silo and corn silage became a popular feed on America's farms.

'In the late 1800s and early 1900s, St. Lawrence County was one of the state's biggest exporters of hay. This area grows very good grass hays and a big market for the hay was in New York City as feed for horses. Local farmers harvested the hay and stored it in their haymows, then after the harvest season the hay was taken out of the haymows and baled by the use of 'jump presses.' These bales were then loaded onto the train and shipped to the city.

'One of these presses will be demonstrated here at the show. It is owned by the William Day family of Madrid, New York- You will have an opportunity to see how the jump press was operated and how it got its name. There are very few of these machines left in existence.'

Unfortunately, a hitch developed and the hay press did not come. Organizers are hopeful that it will be present next year. A lot of hay is still sold out of the county and, with the excellent crop here and poor crop in some other areas, even more should go out this coming winter.

There was even an old drop reaper and it appeared to be in good condition. It would be wonderful to see that operating another year, particularly if someone could be found who could bind up the bundles with a small handful of the straw, as was done in those days.

A fairly large number of old tractors competed for spectator attention. They ranged all the way in date of manufacture from the late teens through the early 60s. International Harvester, Case, Allis Chalmers and two cylinder John Deere predominated with only a few Fords present. Most of them were obviously trucked in but all were driven into position for display. Several took a turn plowing, drawing the short tongue corn binder, powering the ensilage cutter or powering the threshing machine during the two days. Their owners generally kept them in good operating condition and they provided lots of fuel for reminiscing by people of my generation. A large 'one lunger' gasoline on wheels with a crude radiator for cooling and recirculating the cooling water even took a turn powering the silage chopper for a while.

There seemed to be several sulky plows present and working but I only saw one walking plow.

A small hand operated rope machine was popular as many people learned for the first time how rope is made. A hot air water pump also attracted the curious.

There were a few antique cars present, including a snazzy convertible coupe with a rumble seat, a great place to court your favorite girl. It had lots of riders as it cavorted about the grounds, as did a beautifully painted passenger wagon drawn by a single high-stepping Clydesdale. In a more prosaic approach, Warren Jones was busy most of the time . giving people rides around the grounds in his light wagon drawn by a team of Belgians.

There were many 'one-lunger' gasoline engines and even a machine for gumming out buzz saw blades. There was a modern band saw sawmill in operation, as well as operating grinders, shellers and burr mills.

Easily the most popular attraction as far as the kids were concerned was a well stocked petting zoo containing miniature horses, a miniature donkey, sheep, goats, pigs and a camel. The camel was a 'one-humper' and the kids didn't have much luck riding it even though several tried. The nearby Storie family provided the animals.

Saturday night a group of well known country musicians staged a bang-up good blue grass concert. They had been meeting and 'jamming' at the home of Merlin Childs nearby and gladly donated their time. They included Ray Martin, Merlin Childs, Earl Belile, Neal Morrison, Merv Wilson from Ottawa, Gene Bigarel and the man who was the main push behind the whole show, Gary Crowe of Heuvelton. Gary and Gene are just learning but they contributed as did Mrs. Crowe, who sang harmony with her husband.

By 3:30 Sunday afternoon the threshing and corn cutting was all done, the plowing was completed and people were getting ready to go home. Oh yes, the food was pretty well all gone also, and the organizers were already talking of ways that next year's event could be improved. A good note to close on.