Wednesday, 20 September 2017

First Combine

      Remembering past experiences is often fun, or traumatic, depending on our perspective.
On our tour this past weekend I came across a restored John Deere 25A combine pulled by an AR tractor. This combination has been restored and is displayed by Battle River Implements at Killam, Alberta. This is the same model combine that my family first purchased in about 1963 or 64. Ours was pulled by a John Deere model 70 instead of the AR.
John Deere Model 25A
     Up front, at the bottom of the table in front of the canvass roller, there is a small square hole to drain rainwater from.It is covered by a small metal plate, to hold grain from leaking out, held on with a 1/4 inch bolt requiring a 7/16 wrench to tighten. My job was to put that plate in place every morning. I was often accused of not tightening bolts enough and losing things. One day I tightened it and then made sure it was tight by giving a little more effort, but then snapped it right off.I recall to this day the one-sided, irrational discussion there was about this broken bolt.
     If you look between the elevator, just to the left of the reel, and the hopper, I used to fit in there. It was my job to crawl up in there to hold the end of the grease gun hose to make sure all fittings got grease while the old man pumped the grease gun. Once again, there were several discussions about holding the hose straight, cleaning the nipple, getting all the nipples and is the grease coming out yet? and so on.
     Our combine had a small engine on the side which ran the combine. There were ropes tied to the seat of the tractor which were pulled to lift the reel up or down. A lever was used to lift and lower the six-foot table. No hydraulics on these machines. One of my jobs was to ride behind the 25-bushel hopper to spread out the grain so we could travel maximum distance before emptying it. We had to be very careful when emptying the hopper as the truck had to be very close as the auger spout did not stick out very far beyond the combine. Plenty of hand gestures were used to get this accomplished without scraping any valuable green paint off onto the old Ford 3/4 ton. When the truck was full, after about 3 hoppers, we shoveled the grain into the bin by hand.
     I recall a particularly wet autumn when we were harvesting fescue. Many times the whole unit got bogged down in wet fields and needed to be towed out. A troop of kids ran behind the unit filling in the muddy ruts before they either filled with water or froze in place. The big idea was finally stumbled upon by someone to the dread of my dear old mother. She was to drive the mighty BR tractor towing the 70 and combine. The thought was that if we used a long enough rope, she would be through the mudhole and on firm ground by the time the big unit got there and she would be able to pull everything through without getting bogged down.
     Now, we have to remember that the BR has maybe 30 horsepower and the 70 has about 60, so there is not great strength here, or traction, That BR could not have broken a doubled up binder twine.
     We did, however, have a cable, maybe 50 feet of it with two hooks on so that was attached to the unit. All started well, until the first soft spot. Mother was tightened right up and of course, she spun herself down to stuck. Some long-range discussions were held. Joe had to back his unit up to pull mother out. Joe could not back anything up, especially if there was a joint in the middle. The coordination required to back the tractor-combine combination up at the same time as Mother got into reverse and backing required loud 50 foot-commands that caused more noise and smoke than the two tractors and combine produced together. This is actually where global warming began.
     Eventually, all was untangled and moving forward harmoniously, until the end of the field where a sharp, left-hand corner was required. Mother got there 50 feet ahead of Joe, and she turned without looking back; I think she spotted and was distracted by some choke-cherries ripening at the edge of the field. She began to pull the 70 sideways well before the corner threatening to pop the front tire with the taut cable. Gutteral German commands frantically wafted across the fieldscape demanding order in the field. I don't know how this crop ever got harvested that year without murder committed in the fescue.
     For some reason, however, I do still look at this combine with affection. There are more stories to be told and I'm sure the combine could tell even more if it could. What a huge difference to the modern harvesters of today.
John Deere Model AR tractor with 25A combine. 60 years ago this was modern grain harvesting equipment

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