It Was Not Little House on the Prairie!

By Staff
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8717 Clark Avenue, Savannah, Georgia 31406

Being born only in 1955, I experienced most early century
tractors at expos such as Pioneer Days in Minnesota, or through
stories from my father and others. However, as a youth on a family
dairy farm with no plumbing, in southeastern Minnesota, the
memories of neighbor thrashing and old tractors are vivid. Even
though the area was correct, this certainly was not the ‘Little
House on the Prairie’ era, as the one-man combine had been
invented. But the 1950s and early ’60s still had some
thrashing. After the milking was done, shocking grain by the
midnight moon, sometimes overlooking the bottoms where corn was
planted for deer and wildlife, were some of the best times I had
with my father. One of the most personal experiences for me, with
an old tractor, was with an F-20 Farmall. In the winter the block
was drained as it sat under the big tree by the red corncrib, and
only its shape in the snow.

Pictured is an International Harvester type LA, 1-2 HP, serial
number LAA18323, and my boys Joshua and Michael. My last memory of
this engine was around 1960 when my grandmother’s neighbor used
it to cut wood. He was close to 100 years old at that time. He made
it clear he wanted me to have the engine. It was put in a shed with
a leaky roof on my uncle’s farm and remained there for about 30
years. A couple of years ago I went to Minnesota to pick it up. It
was pretty rough. After putting a new bottom in the gas tank,
straightening the push rods, freeing the valves and other minor
things, I tried to start it. I figured I would have to belt it to
start it. However, a couple of cranks and it took off. I am looking
to restore it fully in the future. Does anyone have information on
the date this engine was manufactured?

In the spring, one pull from the H and it sprung to life. The H
was a fortress’ that always started in the winter and kept us
warm, because the buzz saw attached to it supplied us with hundreds
of cords of firewood.

The sickle mower almost always remained on the F-20, but if the
alfalfa was ready and the cultivator was yet on the H, the old F-20
may very well join the fleet. Under a big pull you may hear it for
miles with the straight pipe made from a piece of old rain gutter.
Seeing anything plow the deep black soil was always excitement for
me.

Since I was of young stature and not much legs, it was a severe
drawback with the F-20 because of the distance to the pedals.
Driving while loading shocks over steep hills and terraces, tears
would steam down my face, but my father was steps away. When the DC
Case and my uncle’s John Deere 60, both with hand clutches,
appeared on the scene, it was a welcome relief.

My cousin restored the 60 some years ago in high school age
class. Even in the world of big horsepower, towering silos and
technical seedbed tillage, the intricate engineering of the 60
still plays a part on the farm. It is another pillar of a way of
life still alive.

Milk production and weight demands are changing rapidly as the
equipment to meet those demands gets very exciting. However, we
should not forget the models of iron mules numbering in the many
thousands, and the men who fed and continue to feed this great
land.

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