Letter from a Friend

By Staff

1102 Box Canyon Road Fallbrook, California 92028

My friend Mr. Joe Glenn, 23338 99th Street, Anamosa, Iowa,
52205, an acquaintance I have made through his identification of my
query in a past issue of GEM, recently wrote me the following
letter, in which he is very descriptive of his past farming
activities. I thought his reminiscences would make a nice story for
you GEM readers, and so you’ll find interesting quotes from his
letter below.

‘The Titan 15-30 was apparently first marketed in 1915. In
1918 it became known as the International 15-30 and was pretty much
the same tractor. In 1921 this was replaced by the
McCormick-Deering 15-30.

‘In my time, I have worked in the field with a
McCormick-Deering 15-30 and the last version of it that was known
to farmers as a 22-36. This was a real powerhouse in its day!

‘This old powerhouse was mounted on rubber tires that were
full of fluid. It pulled a 4-14′ McCormick-Deering No. 8 Little
Genius plow 7′ or 8’ deep in high gear in heavy clay or
black gumbo soil in high gear. It was used at four miles per hour
and we also pulled a three row John Deere stalk cutter followed by
a Case 10 foot tandem disk, with a 10 foot two section harrow
behind the disk. It also pulled a large Letz Dixie roughage mill
for grinding feed for livestock. I also, over the years, worked on
lots of John Deere, Allis Chalmers, Farmall and Case tractors, and
later on Olivers, Fords, Massey Harris. I don’t remember ever
working either a Minneapolis-Moline or Twin City tractor. My father
was a livestock farmer. He had a fine herd of grade Holstein dairy
cows, a good string of Angus beef cows, a decent sized herd of far
row-to-finish market hogs, a small flock of sheep. And Mother
always had about 600 baby chicks of which the young cockerels were
sold in the fall for school and winter clothes and the new pullets
went into the laying house. With all of this livestock on a
200-acre farm with eighty acres of crops things were very busy
seven days a week. Someone asked Dad why he kept so much livestock.
He said, ‘It’s good for my two boys. It keeps them off of
the roads and out of the pool halls and taverns.

‘Machinery was just a necessary evil, although Dad had a lot
more than most people. He had a tractor before most of the
neighbors had one. He first had a Heider that he used mostly to do
belt work, grinding feed, shelling corn, baling hay and straw,
filling silo, shredding corn fodder, sawing wood, etc. All I ever
remember him using it was in the oat fields to pull the grain
binder in hot weather because you could kill horses on a
binder.

‘Later he had a Fordson. Now this Fordson was loaded with
lots of optional equipment. As a Fordson came out, it didn’t
have a governor, magneto, water pump, air cleaner, etc. This one
Dad got in 1932. It was foreclosed on by the bank. It had an
optional governor, high tension magneto, water pump, air cleaner,
special gears in the transmission to cut down the heat and howling,
lights, special belt pulley, power take off, even a frame under the
tractor hitched to the front of the drawbar and hooked to the front
of the tractor behind the front wheels so it would not turn over
backwards. This little outfit did lots of hard work for years.
There was also a good line of machinery with it, even a Belle City
corn picker. In 1938 Dad bought a new Farmall F-14 that we used
with the Fordson. Boy, did we get things done then!

‘I pretty much took over the care of the machinery. I did
the servicing. There were mechanics in town who made a living doing
that.

‘My job was also to help take care of the livestock. That is
where the income came from. There was a cream check each two weeks,
eggs paid for the groceries and to keep the home going. Hogs and
baby beefs were sold as well as market lambs. We had a corn picker
and later we had a Case pickup-baler in 1941 and a Massey-Harris
self propelled 7 foot combine.

‘The biggest threshing machine I ever worked around was a
40′ Great Minneapolis with a Great Minneapolis 35-70. The
smallest was 21′ Wood Brothers powered by an Allis Chalmers WC.
In between there was a 24′ New Racine powered by a Farmall
regular, a 28′ McCormick-Deering powered by that 22-36. The
smoothest running outfit I ever worked around was a 32’ Nichols
& Shepard Red River Special powered by a 1937 McCormick-Deering
W40. Boy, that big six cylinder engine really made beautiful stack
music! It really did a fine clean job of separating. In this area
the crop was mostly oats with a little rye and barley almost no
wheat. For a year or two just before WW II some people tried flax
but that didn’t last long. That was the hardest grain to
thresh. By the time I came along, the threshing here was all done
by tractors. The only work I ever saw done by a steam engine was on
a sawmill that was sawing railroad ties for special order for the
Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad.

‘I was born and raised here in Jones County, Iowa, and have
lived here all of my life. During WW II while a close friend of
mine was in the US Marines (I couldn’t serve then because of a
bad back and heart trouble), I helped his father with his farming,
as well as my own father. The main thing that I did besides these
two mens’ crops was a lot of custom corn husking with a Farmall
M and a McCormick-Deering 2M, two row, mounted corn picker with
three rubber tired wagons with flour grain boxes and a portable
elevator. By starting early in hybrid corn I picked over 300 acres
each year.

‘These were the years 1942 through 1945. I did a little farm
trucking now and then of livestock, grain, agricultural limestone.
In 1957 I went to work at Collins Radio Company in Cedar Rapids,
Iowa. This is a company you probably never heard of, as their
markets were the military, the government, the builders of
commercial aircraft, communications companies, and they have been
deeply involved in the space program from the very start. This
company is now the Collins Division of Rockwell International. I
met the lovely lady who has now been my better half for over forty
years. We are friends, companions, help-mates, sweethearts, lovers,
wife and husband.

‘We retired on December 20, 1985. We do not have a large
enough piece of property to justify owning a full sized tractor, so
I collect toy ones. I have a very nice collection of mostly farm
tractors, related machines, plus some construction toys, some cars
and trucks. When I started to collect we didn’t tell people
what we collected because they would look out of the corners of
their eyes as if they thought we had fallen out of our tree and
landed on our heads. Now everybody wants to collect, and more power
to them. We live less than 40 miles from Dyersville, Iowa, the farm
toy capitol of the world. At the first national convention of toy
collectors, there were 852 paid admissions. At the most recent
convention the figures indicate the paid admissions approached
25,000 in three days! I have been to each of these conventions
except the one held in 1986, when I was just out of the hospital
from a massive coronary attack and my family would not let me
attend.

‘I have never seen anyone drunk at the convention. Never
have seen a fight or other disturbance. You also lament the lack of
interaction between parents and children. At this event you would
be surprised at how many fathers and sons are there making serious
decisions about whether to buy the green one here or the red one
across the aisle or the yellow one down the line or the orange one
around the corner or the blue one across the room. Of course, the
mothers and’ daughters are there too.  There are
grandparents remembering things that happened in their younger
days, just like the steam engine and tractor shows.

‘Of course, there is that other group there. What are they
doing there anyway? These guys between 16 and 25 are supposed to be
out swilling beer, popping pills, using dope, wrecking cars and
getting girls into trouble. But there they are, having fun with all
of the rest of us. Many have their lady friends and wives with
them. This is very much a family hobby.

‘I have always wanted to visit Vista, California, but I
doubt if I will ever make it now. Of course, the Midwest Old
Settlers and Threshers Reunion at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, is 100
miles south of us. We have been there many times.

‘I will be 70 on August 29, 1994. I enjoy these letters from
other people. Best Wishes from East Central Iowa.’

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