Red Baby

By Staff
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Peter Kaake on the running board, November 1928.
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Peter Kaake on the running board, November 1989.

Box 338 Cabri, Saskatchewan, Canada SON 0J0

In 1927, my dad decided to change the operation of his grain
farm from horse power to mechanization and so in the fall of that
year, he had an auction to sell horses and related farm
equipment.

Besides using the sale money to buy an I.H.C. 22-36 tractor, he
also bought a new 1928 I.H.C. 11/4ton grain
truck, an S-26. The new model trucks coming on the market at that
time were still being painted dark somber colors like black and
green and so it was surprising that this particular vehicle arrived
covered throughout in bright red. It was advertised as the Red
Baby. It had four wheel brakes, a six cylinder motor and came
equipped with its own air compressor for inflating its tires. We
soon discovered that this truck could haul 90 bushels of wheat at
40 miles per hour.

My dad was so proud of his prize that he had his name painted on
the doors in gold leaf, a sign of the good times.

Most drivers drove the Red Baby with their head leaning out of
the window enjoying the slip stream of air as it rushed by the
face, giving one the sense of a new found freedom. The reality of
speed and power was often cut short by the sudden sting of the
grasshoppers as they ricocheted off the forehead and cheeks. It was
evident that the sign of a happy farmer was one who had bug stains
on his teeth.

At harvest time the International could now haul the grain from
the combine, directly into the town elevator and return to the
field before the hopper was once again full of grain. As there was
no shovelling of grain involved, the job of wheat hauling during
this busy season was often left to my mother who was one of those
early liberated women who preferred driving truck rather than
spending time in a hot kitchen. She drove with a great amount of
determination and heavy foot as each trip required a limited amount
of time. The neighbours who met her on the road gave a wide berth
as the truck made rooster tails of dust as she sped by.

When the hard times came during the dirty thirties, the farmers
suffered greatly from the lack of cash and enthusiasm and the farm
equipment suffered from neglect. The brakes of the International
gave off a raspy sound as the shoes wore through the linings. The
motor smoked and sputtered and at times refused to start at all.
The leaky radiator sent plumes of steam into the cool air at
regular intervals. It was quite understandable why many of these
trucks never survived the 25 years they were expected to run.

By 1951, with the return of the rains, we were getting better
crops and the price of grain rose steadily as never before which
allowed some margin of profit. The old relics were being replaced
by new, modern trucks. Any equipment which survived those years was
soon demolished, as if by chance we could erase all memory of that
terrible past. So it was that the Red Baby was dealt a final blow
by being dismantled with a cold chisel and heavy hammer and the
wheels and frame were made into a flat deck trailer. The motor,
cab, grain box and fenders were left in the buck brush at the
bottom of a deep coulee a mile from home and forgotten.

36 years later, having restored a Model A Ford and two tractors,
I innocently came upon the remains of the red framed trailer as it
lay along the fence line several miles from home. Here among the
weeds was evidence of my fading past. I just had to restore the old
International if I never did anything else.

The pile of truck parts were now reduced to rusty metal and
rotten wood as it weathered all those years. Many of the pieces
were twisted and torn from my haste to destroy the truck years ago.
As I pulled the parts from the entangled grass and drift dirt, I
considered myself fortunate that I hadn’t thrown everything
down the abandoned well nearby.

I spent four winters restoring this truck, revisiting each piece
as I applied it to its proper place, constantly wondering if I
would still recognize it on the final day. I did.

Just as I put finishing touches on the Red Baby, I was asked if
I’d haul the first load of grain for the grand opening of a new
renovated grain elevator with all the modern conveniences of today,
the very same elevator that this truck hauled grain to 61 years
ago. With 90 bushels of wheat in the box and speeds up to 40 mph,
with my head out of the window, I made the eight miles in jig time.
Funny how things work out!

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