Collecting: The Fun of the Hunt

Field beside David's barn

In a small field beside David's barn, he and his brothers and father worked to set up the corn shocks.

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3203 Norton Rd. Radnor, Ohio 43066

The first thing you see as you approach the David Baxter farm from the west is a large, pristine white barn. David recently had it built to shelter some of his farming equipment and much of his antique farm machinery collection. He hates to see any equipment left out to weather and rust.

When David began his collection he specialized in gas engines only. He and his friend, Alan King, would head out on Saturday mornings to check out leads about some old gas engines. As they drove along on obscure country roads they would 'sniff out' likely old farmsteads. More often than not they would meet an interesting 'older farmer' who just happened to have a John Deere or Economy gas engine sunk in the dirt floor of an old bam shed. They would dicker a little until a deal was made and take their 'find' home to keep or to fix up and sell.

David built his collection to forty gas engines. Soon he realized that he did not own the collection as much as it owned him. He had to start engines up regularly and run them for a while to keep them in good condition. Then, come winter, all the fuel and water tanks had to be drained. He decided to sell all but an Economy, a Gray and a Rock Island.

The first piece of harvesting equipment David bought was an Allis Chalmers combine with a forty inch cut and a bagger. It could harvest about an acre an hour and the custom rate at the time of its introduction was probably about two dollars an acre. He wanted this model because it was the smallest one that Allis Chalmers made and was only manufactured over a two year period.

Generally David prefers to leave his antique equipment 'as is' after he gets it running but, if the piece is badly in need of paint and showing a lot of rust, he paints. He found some of the articles in the Gas Engine Magazine especially helpful in making correct color choices because they specified the original color numbers.

His collection of thirteen combines includes several he plans to take to the Marion County Steam and Gas Engine Society Show in Marion, Ohio in June of 1992. This year the Marion group is hosting the International Harvester Collectors' national meet called the 'Red Power Roundup' where all International Harvester equipment and forerunners will be featured. David has a McCormick-Deering 42 R combine with a bin, a McCormick-Deering 42 with a bagger, a McCormick-Deering 52 R and a 61 with a power unit.

He also plans to show a 1P McCormick-Deering corn picker on steel wheels with a side elevation and a No. 15 McCormick-Deering hand tied, stationary baler. When running the 1P corn picker, four rows of the corn field must be opened, usually by hand, before the machine can begin to harvest because the placement of the elevator at the side makes the wagon stand farther into the field than a similar machine with the elevator mounted in the rear.

David has added to his collection of antique tractors until he now has five. In addition to his McCormick-Deering baler he has a Case baler, four corn shredders, a belt driven corn sheller, several grist mills and a corn binder.

When asked how he found so many of these old pieces, David says, 'Sometimes other collectors know where the old equipment is located and sometimes machinery dealers take it in on trade. Most of the time it is just the luck of stumbling onto it. If you finally do locate a special piece stored safely inside some old barn, very often it is not for sale at any price. Some of these old guys are pretty sentimental about the equipment they or their fathers used to farm with. Others who have taken care of these old pieces are relieved that someone else will take it off their hands and take good care of it. This is the kind of person I am always happy to meet up with.'

For the past five years David, his brothers Bryan and Jim, and his father Everett have held a 'Fall Harvest' where some of these old pieces are used to harvest shocked corn. First a John Deere corn binder cuts and ties the corn into bundles, then the Baxters form these into as many as eighty shocks. Later after some drying time, area men and members of the Marion County Steam and Gas Engine Society, of which David is a charter member and a trustee, will gather for the harvest. Don Kaelber, a neighbor, will hitch up his horse team and bring loads of corn fodder bundles up from the field to be run through the corn shredders. Then the corn passes through the sheller and into a wagon while some of the fodder is pressed into bales in one of the stationary balers. Various equipment has been used over the years. When the Huber Society acquired a large wooden corn shredder and got it into running order it was used to see just how well it would operate.

David's wife Sara, his sisters-in-law Luretta and Christine, and many of his nieces provide sandwiches, homemade pie and coffee for a much needed break at noon. Then it is back to the field to finish up.

Some of the corn fodder is placed on wagons and stored in one of the barns. This will be used during demonstrations at the Marion Show. At the end of the day it is time to put the equipment back into the big white barn. David plans carefully for the placement of these sprawling pieces which is like fitting together pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

A shed roofed addition has just been completed at the back of David's big barn. More room for a growing collection? He is still looking for galvanized combines with high bins and a corn picker with ground drive and a bull wheel.

'The funny thing is I have placed advertisements for old machinery, carefully listing the features I am looking for, but the people who call seem never to have read the ad at all. They wake me up from a good nap and tell me all about some modern piece and try to sell me on it. Once in a while, though, I get that special call and off I'll go to check out a lead. Sometimes I am disappointed to find a dilapidated piece of equipment. You can't really tell until you look it over. Sometimes you do run onto that one special piece you have been searching for. That's what makes collecting this equipment so much fun. That and taking it to the shows where you meet other collectors who are just as crazy as you are.'

Contact David Baxter at 3203 Norton Road, Radnor, Ohio 43066 or call (614) 494-2489. He can provide information about 'Red Power Roundup' and the Marion, Ohio Show, too.