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"We Could Fix Just about


Fri, Jul 13th, 2001
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Anything with Baling Wire."Edited By Beth WaterhouseMonday, July 16, 2001

The Art of Farming is a project of the Collaborative for Watershed Sustainability to gather stories about farm life in southeastern Minnesota before World War II. Stories have been gathered from individuals near Harmony, Lake City and Wells Creek near Red Wing.

That’s the trouble with new equipment nowadays. It’s so big and so powerful you can make hay when it’s not ready. The old balers couldn’t make hay at such a time, they just couldn’t do it. The baler would shut down. Nowadays with those big round balers you can bale up green stuff, and the equipment allows you to make poorer hay.

Speaking of equipment, that was one huge difference in farming back then. We went so slowly. The equipment went so slow. And if it broke down, we could fix just about anything with baling wire. You’d wrap the wire around and around and then put a little stick in there, and twist until… And then would my dad ever get mad, you’d go just a little past…and crack! Then we’d have to start the whole process all over.

I had a German circular rake… It broke on the inside and I had a lot of 3/8" nylon cord. I was able to run that rake a whole summer by tying it together and using half hitches and pulley knots. I remember we once broke a tongue on one of the main wagons. Remember the kind of tongue that extends way out and between the horses? That tongue broke in the middle of a day and my dad didn’t think a thing of it. Went out into the woods, cut an ash tree about the right size, drawn right, and couple of hits with an axe. His drills were sharp. I’d say we had a tongue in about two hours. And sometimes those bearings were made out of hardwood oak. Remember? People would make bearings out of two pieces of oak.

Remember sling ropes? We used to make hay and you put them on the bottom of the hay rack. When you got about three feet of hay you’d put another layer and then you’d draw them together and you had a pulley that would pull them up to the tripper and they would go on a track down the center of the barn. You know what I‘m talking about? At the other end of the barn you had a rope that came down to a pulley, and then that rope went all the way to the wagon and when you pulled it up it hit a trip. Well, one time I was driving the horses and I thought my dad wanted me to go, but he was still on the wagon and I heard an awful lot of hollering. He was saying Whoa! Ho! And worse yet, I backed up! Then the whole works fell down!

One of the things you had to learn-- We had a hay loader but the metal was so soft we couldn’t use a hay loader in there. So we pitched the hay by hand. You had to build a load. Did you ever build a load of loose hay? Yeah, I grew up on hay loaders. One thing that tells the difference about the land is when we had the hay loaders, a lot of times rabbits came up. We must have had a lot more wildlife then; you don’t see rabbits like that anymore. We had rabbits coming all the time. I tried to take them home, but they never survived.

These stories where gathered from Lake City natives on December 14, 1999 at the kitchen table of Ralph Lentz with help from Ralph Lentz, Art Thicke, Dennis Rabe, Larry Gates, and Gary Holthaus. They are edited by Beth Waterhouse. She can be reached at 952-401-0591.

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