R.E. Burnett drilling 50th wheat crop with 1929
McCormick-Deering 15-30 (22-36 HP)s, 1928 IHC 16-10 drills,
Gas Engine Magazine has told the stories of many farmers’
recollections of farming and the machines they used back in the
‘good old days’. This story is about a farmer who carried
the good old days into the present with him, and made it pay off.
It is a tribute to a Kansas farmer named Ralph Burnett and to the
machines he used to make his living, machines which are now being
collected and restored by readers of GEM.
On July 18, 1979, a south-central Kansas farmer named Ralph
Burnett died of cancer in a hospital at Greensburg, Kansas. He was
well known throughout the area for being a highly successful
farmer-stockman, a friend and good neighbor, and an avid basketball
fan. But it was something else that he did that marked him as an
unusual individual. He had the ability to make his farm enterprise
show a very respectable profit when other area farmers were feeling
the effects of low farm prices. This fact in itself isn’t as
unusual as his method. When he died in July of 1979, a farm tractor
that he bought new in 1929 was still in service on his farm!
Ralph Burnett grew up on a sandhill farm northeast of
Mullinville, Kansas. As a boy, he and his brothers worked their
sandhill ground with horses, listers, sleds, raised their own feed,
and made their own fun.
At the age of 20, in 1923, he married Ethel Rudd, the daughter
of prominent area farmer-stockman Arthur Rudd, and settled on a
little farm southeast of Mullinville. The farm was owned by
Ethel’s parents, and it was here that Ralph put in his first
crop on his own.
The 1923 crop was pretty good, but it took a long time to
harvest and work the ground with horses. Ralph was still working
ground in November of 1924, when one of his neighbors stopped by
and remarked, ‘Ralph, the snow’s going to catch you in that
field!’ It almost did, as he was 30 days plowing 320 acres with
a team of horses. There had to be a better way!
In the summer of 1925, Ralph went to the International Harvester
dealer in Mullinville, Kansas, W.H. Culley Hardware, and looked
over a new shipment of tractors they had just received. Not looking
forward to another long season of field work, Ralph bought his
first tractor, a 1925 McCormick-Deering 15-30.
The new 15-30 had 5-inch spade lugs, and was equipped with an
Ensign JTW kerosene carburetor with water mixer. It looked pretty
sharp with its dark gray finish and bright red wheels. Ralph roaded
it out to the farm, and put it to work in front of a horse-drawn
tandem-disc. Ralph was so proud of his new tractor that he had
Ethel take some pictures of it as he finished a field, with his
one-year-old son Virgil on the seat with him.
1925 was a good year for the Burnetts, but 1926 was even better.
The 1926 harvest was a busy one, but there was plenty of help and
machinery. Ralph and his father-in-law, A.E. Rudd, and his
brother-in-law, Homer Rudd, harvested the crop with the help of a
neighbor, Hode Ralstin, and their machines covered a lot of ground.
There were three McCormick-Deering pull-type combines pulled by
1926 harvest-Ralph Burnett, A.E. Rudd, Homer Rudd, Hode Ralstin,
3 McCormick-Deering harvester-threshers, pulled by 3
McCormick-Deering 15-30 tractors.
After harvest, Ralph and Ethel took their son and went on an
automobile trip to Niagra Falls with Ethel’s parents.
The farm was really prospering, so in 1927 Ralph traded the
tractor in on a new 1927 model 15-30. The ’25 had started to
use a little oil, and was, for some reason, getting oil into the
water (?), so he traded it to avoid an overhaul bill.
The ’27 15-30 had clamp-on rear steel wheels, and an Ensign
model RW 114-inch kerosene carburetor with a water-injection
attachment. This tractor worked the Burnett farm in 1927 and 28.
Ralph and Ethel moved to the big A.E. Rudd homestead in 1928, and
the farming began to expand.
1927 15-30 tractor, 10 ft. Emerson one-way at the Rudd
homestead. (Picture taken July, 1929)
In the fall of 1929, Ralph decided it was time to trade tractors
again. International Harvester had brought out a modified version
of the famous 15-30, with increased horsepower, bigger engine bore,
and a new combination-type kerosene/ gasoline manifold. Ralph
looked over the tractors on Culley’s lot, and when he found the
one he wanted, he marked it by putting three scratches in the paint
on the right rear fender. The deal was made with an agreed-on price
A day or two later, Ralph apparently got cold feet, and told
Wayne Culley he’d have to wait awhile to buy a new tractor. The
stock market had just crashed, and people were wondering about the
future. Ralph and Ethel were expecting their fourth child.
Fender decal – McCormick-Deering 15-30 and ’22-36′
tractors. (That’s right – the fender decal always said 15-30,
even after the horsepower was increased.)
The child, a girl, was born in January of 1930, and in the
spring Ralph decided conditions were stable enough that he could
buy his new tractor. He went back to Culley’s, and Wayne told
him he had some carryover 1929’s in stock. Ralp looked over the
machines, and when he found one with three scratches in the paint
on the right rear fender, he bought it. The dealer took a $50.00
reduction in the price, so he got it for $1200 less his trade.
This tractor was called a 15-30 by IHC, to continue
uninterrupted the fine record of the 15-30, but the actual
horsepower rating, confirmed in the Nebraska test of 1929, was 22
drawbar and 36 brake horsepwer. In later years, it was the farmers
themselves who referred to this tractor as a ’22-36′, and
the name stuck. IH then began to refer to it this way in its
Threshing on A .E. Rudd farm, summer of 1942.
This tractor was to become the workhorse of the Burnett farm, as
the Great Depression hit Kiowa county in mid-1931. Ralph got a job
dragging roads with his tractor, and hauled sand for the WPA. He
drove a school bus, and helped at Culley’s hardware to help
support his family. The depression deepened, and everyone did their
best to make ends meet. Some were more successful than others.