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The baler

Agriculture.com Staff 08/20/2008 @ 1:10pm

Once again, I felt my advancement into geezerhood this past weekend when I attended a local power show, watching and enjoying plowing and threshing by steam engines and other machinery from long ago. I missed the age of steam engines and threshing machines completely as my earliest memories of oats harvest are with a Minneapolis-Moline G4 combine pulled by a John Deere A.

The display I was drawn to occurred after the oats had been threshed and the separator was sitting quietly. The display I watched longer than anything else was when they baled the stack of straw deposited by the separator.

There are a few sights and sounds that never leave a person even after 50 years and for me, this was one of them. A New Holland baler from the early 1950s in its faded red set off with yellow wheels was pulled up to the straw pile. Three men with pitchforks were preparing to feed the straw into the baler with two more men on a flat rack waiting to stack the bales.

There were many summers during the 1950s and 1960s it was my job to stack the bales on a wagon as it was pulled behind a red and yellow New Holland baler much like this one. The difference was this was a twine tie and my dad used a wire tie baler.

There was another difference. The Wisconsin V4 engine that powered this baler liked to start. That Wisconsin on my dad's baler was a temperamental thing and once running, we really hated to turn it off, even when the mid-morning or mid-afternoon coffee, milk, sandwiches and cookies had been delivered and were waiting for us.

I gave my neighbor Dave a call on my cell phone so he could hear this Wisconsin engine working hard as the three men with their pitchforks seemed to be determined to feed the straw just fast enough to keep from plugging the baler. Dave grew up the same time I did, only on a Wisconsin farm and would appreciate hearing that V4 Wisconsin engine snorting along with the clanging and banging of the baler when it tied another bale.

Dave answered his phone and I told him I was standing next to a New Holland baler powered by a Wisconsin engine and, wonders of wonders, the Wisconsin engine was actually running. Dave took my bait and started to defend the Wisconsin engine saying he had worked on many of them and they were good engines.

We both stopped talking so he could hear the baler going through its procedures of turning loose straw into tied bales. It was a moment of great reminiscing for both of us over the phone. Few words were necessary as we let the New Holland baler and Wisconsin engine do the talking.

I watched the New Holland baler devour the straw pile twice that afternoon with its plunger that I always thought resembled a horse's head bobbing up and down. As I walked away each time, I was probably feeling what a lot of men were feeling that afternoon as they watched old machinery come to life and go to work. Fifty years melted and for a few moments, I was about 10 years old and my dad was just a few feet away.

Once again, I felt my advancement into geezerhood this past weekend when I attended a local power show, watching and enjoying plowing and threshing by steam engines and other machinery from long ago. I missed the age of steam engines and threshing machines completely as my earliest memories of oats harvest are with a Minneapolis-Moline G4 combine pulled by a John Deere A.

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