Chappell, Nebraska 69129
The day was so hot that the sun beat upon the boy with evil
intent. The old combine sat in the searing sun, dejected and
forlorn, as though saying, ‘I have cut so much wheat I
don’t want to digest any more.’ The old model D John Deere
tractor turned over with an occasional snort, as if to reply,
‘Come on, let’s get at it.’
Forrest Saint’s wheat was ready and waiting to be harvested
and binned, and the young teenager stood dejected and puzzled as he
studied the ancient machine. He could not understand why the straw
would not go into the mow of the gallent old combine.
The boy’s father was standing in front of the cylinder
studying its interior. ‘Son, we’d just as well pull this
piece of junk on home and call it good,’ he said.
The boy walked over and ran his finger over the edge of the worn
out concaves of the cylinder. ‘Let’s wait until
morning,’ he replied. A plan was already forming in his mind,
‘Would that $65.00 check I received for that paint job pay for
a new set of cylinder bars?’ he mused.
The next morning the boy and his father made their way to
Chappell and bought the new bars. A half day’s work plus a lot
of balancing and filing made the old Baldwin ready to try once
They turned the ancient two cylinder tractor over, bringing it
to life. The combine’s model B Ford engine started after much
prodding and they pulled into the wheat. The platform auger would
not take the straw into the cylinder much better than before it had
The boy stood in front of the platform studying the problem and
suddenly the light dawned! He checked the left auger end; all the
shims were out! Then he checked the right end and found the same
thing. He ran his fingers under the auger edges; they lacked an
inch and a half of even coming near the auger pan. Here lay the
answer to the riddle. The teenager turned to his stooped-shouldered
father and said, ‘Pop, go home and bring me an anvil, all the
cold chissels you can find, two or three hammers, all the stone
bolts you can find. I’ll need a hand drill and a hand emery.
Out behind the garage there’s an old metal windmill wheel.
Bring it and all the heavy gage tin you can find.’
The man looked puzzled so the boy explained, ‘This is going
to be a lot of work, but here goes. I’m going to build up the
auger in this old brute.’
‘But it won’t work,’ the father replied.
‘Well, we can’t get a new 12-foot auger, so I’m at
least going to try.’
Hour after hour the boy drilled and chisseled, cutting out new
semicircular sections 16′ long. His arms grew so tired, his
fingers were bloodied, his fingernails disappeared, blisters grew,
and the sweat ran down into his eyes, but the next day things began
to shape up. The job was crude by modern standards and when they
started the combine engine and engaged the clutch, ‘Boy! What a
racket!’ Two hours later the high spots were filed off and they
were ready to try out the Rube Goldburg machine once more.
They pulled into the waiting wheat; the governor on the combine
engine came open with an ear splitting roar; the old combine came
to life and the ripe straw went into the combine mow with a golden
flow. The old combine had never worked better, even when she was
The boy turned to his father, whose face was lit with a
triumphant smile. The boy stopped the tractor and his father came
and put his toil-worn arms around his son, ‘Lyle you have
whipped the old girl this time. Now we will cut wheat.’
Forrest Saint, who had been watching the struggle of the man and
his boy smiled and said, ‘Elmer now you are in business! Go to
This was a couple of days in the life of a country kid, back
some forty years ago.