Old Fashioned Plow Days 1993

By Staff
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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 22×38 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.

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