The Whannel farm

near Reinbeck, Tama County

(Click for a larger image.)

The Whannel farm was established in 1870, near Reinbeck.



In the late summer of 1978, I made a visit to my native community in Iowa. The occasion was the 40th wedding anniversary celebration of Brother Paul and Josephine. Sally had come from Fort Worth to Heber Springs to take care of Florence for a couple of weeks while I was away. I had not been in Iowa for eleven years. The trip allowed me to see many relatives and some boyhood friends I had not seen for many years.

Two years earlier the town of Reinbeck had celebrated the centennial of its founding. By 1876 the Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Northern railroad had extended from Burlington on the Mississippi River to our area and the town of Reinbeck was established at the track's end. The railroad line was later extended to the northwest corner of the state and was acquired by the Rock Island line.

The whole country was caught up in celebrating its bicentennial in 1976 so the Reinbeck community had plunged into their centennial celebration with great enthusiasm. Records were researched; antiques and mementos resurrected, old pictures collected, and early scenes re-enacted.

I was very much interested and got to see quite a lot of the material. Much of it was about life during my years on the farm from 1903 to 1925. Farm life and practices were changing rapidly when I left the state, so much of the centennial material represented a past era and brought a flood of recollections.

Sister Dorothy had found a little log book of activities and accounts that Grandfather Mitchell had kept during the first eight years after coming to Iowa and settling on the prairie in 1870. It had fascinating bits of information such as the acres of prairie broken, grain sown and reaped, animals bought and sold, and days spent helping neighbors build houses and barns.

It told of trips with team and wagon hauling grain and stock to mill or market and getting lumber and supplies for his family and others. The closest towns before 1876 were Toledo 20 miles south, Waterloo 25 miles northeast, and Eldora 35 miles west. There was a general store and post office at Buckingham 11 miles southeast.

One log entry read, "Feb. 5. Very Cold. 8 below zero. Did nothing." Another about a wagon trip to Waterloo had the addition, "Bought a new pen." The log brought up family stories and my own recollections about Granddad.

He had lost an eye when it was cut by the lash of an ox whip. He had a glass eye. Dirt and dust conditions irritated the socket so he kept two of the glass ones. One was always kept clean in a tumbler of salt water on a kitchen window sill. This intrigued us as little kids. If Grandmother noticed us around it, she would get after us saying that was not a thing for little children to be around.

She would not permit Granddad to smoke or even keep his pipe or tobacco in the house. He kept a tin box of Bull Durham out in the woodshed. Having spent some of his teen years in Virginia, he tried growing his own tobacco but decided Iowa was not the place for that.

He grew sorghum cane and had a mill for many years. He gave that up for more productive things. I remember that for years the can press sat in the middle of a cattle yard. The sweep horsepower and evaporating pan were idle back in a grove.

Granddad had a tall brown trotting mare named Molly which he drove hitched to a single seated buggy. Both he and Molly liked plenty of action. They went around turns with the buggy on two wheels. His driving was the talk of the neighborhood. He rode with one foot out on the metal step at the side of the buggy body. They used to say that was so he could jump out when the buggy turned over.

He was a happy man. I can remember him singing "Oh Susanna" and "Camptown Races" as he rode along behind Molly or worked in his big garden. In the latter he was always trying some new and different plants.

The first few pioneering years must have been anything but easy. Then one of his frequent disgusted remarks was reported as, "What a country. Not a stick or stone to throw at a mad dog." The first year Granddad built a board and batten 14 x 18 foot house. It had no lining and was heated with a kitchen stove. There were no trees around it and it must have been cold. Dad had said he remembered sleeping in the loft of it with his little brother, Sandy, under buffalo robles. I remember the old shack which had been moved back into the grove and used as a tool shed.

The next year he built a frame house, which with a couple of additions, stood for over a hundred years. Now the house and all other buildings at the site have been torn down and the ground leveled for cultivation.

Florence was hospitalized for five months during the fall and winter following my Iowa visit. I spent much time with her at the hospital and in motel rooms after visiting hours. To pass the long evening hours I decided to set down some of my recently refreshed recollections.

Perhaps someday someone might find something of interest in them as I had from the nostalgic visit and the centennial material. Included were some items which would give side lights on the life of those bygone days. Many of the recollections involved Father and the horses. We boys were with Dad every day as we were required to help in caring for the livestock. In those days horses were the farmer's transportation and his source of energy for the field work. Since the horses were vital to operations, they were the source of many of our lessons. We have chosen the recollections of Father and the horses to tell something of that era now more than fifth years past.


Dad had three sons coming along in a row. Paul was three years older than Bill who was three years older than I. Dad agreed that it would be a good thing for us to have a pony. We would learn to ride and care for a horse. Also, a proper pony would be useful for bringing in cows and horses from pastures and for hitching to a buggy.

When Paul was about ten, Dad bought the first pony. It was hard headed and difficult for kids to manage so he sold it and got another. The second one proved to be a most successful and useful animal.

She was a bay of mixed strains including some Welsh, Hackney, and Indian pony about the size of a small quarter horse. She was quick, sure footed, rough riding, and hard mouthed. But she was good natured, gentle in harness and always anxious to go.

She could outrun any other ponies in the neighborhood for a short distance and was a natural cutting horse. Such small horses were just called cow ponies in that area. I did not know the cutting horse term until I saw such a contest at a rodeo in Chicago. The first time I saw a polo match was in Port Elizabeth many years later. Our old cow pony with her quick jump starts, fast acceleration, sudden stops, abrupt turns, and balance recovery would have made those dashing polo ponies look foolish.

My oldest sister remarked that the new pony was as perky as a pansy and that name stuck to her.

When I was six, Paul took me up behind him on the pony and started teaching me to ride. We didn't have a kid's saddle so learned to ride bare back. Dad said we would be better riders if we learned to stay on a horse's bare back.

Our other horses and a dozen or more milk cows were always turned out to pasture at night from the time the grass was green until winter set in. Dad would get Paul up first in the morning to go out on the pony and bring in the wanted stock. When I was ten I was begging Father to let me do that. He agreed and I continued as long as I was around the farm for I always loved to ride.

The milk cows would be cut out first and walked until they were close enough to the barn to go on in. Then the horses were rounded up and run all the way to the barn. That was the most fun part. Some horse would always try to break away and turn back. The pony would have to outrun the horse. Those dawn rides through the sweet pastures, the awakening animal life, and the colored sunrise always seemed to me the loveliest part of the day.

Grandfather Mitchell lived across the road from us. He was retired but always kept two or three milk cows. One summer his cow pasture was in a far corner of the farm. He hired me for $2.00 a month to bring in his cows every day. By the end of the summer I had six whole silver dollars. For the first and last time in my life I was rich. I had money I couldn't or didn't know how to spend.

One evening after a violent thunderstorm we heard the prairie wolves howling in a back pasture. A large heifer had been killed by lightning. When Bill and I got home from school the next afternoon the men were out in the field skinning and burying the animal. We had to see it. Bill put Dad's big saddle on the pony. I got up behind him and we dashed out.

At full gallop the pony stepped into the hidden escape hold of a woodchuck den. She went down heels over head. Bill went forward under the pony and saddle. I went flying off to the side. He was hurt but got back onto the pony. I led the limping horse slowly back home. When Dr. Kohler came out that evening he found that Bill had a broken collar bone and a cracked jaw. That is the only time I can ever remember the pony going down in all the thousands of hours I rode her.

Dad was always an official of the township schools. One day he came home from town with printed election notices that had to be posted at each school. It was threshing time and all the men were busy. Dad told me how useful I could be if I would take the pony, ride the 17 miles, and put up the notices at eight of the nine schools.

The next morning I took off enthusiastically with the large manila envelope of notices in the bib of my overalls, a handful of shingle nails in my pocket and a carpenter's hammer in my hand. I'd never ridden the pony that far before and this was an adventure.

The route would pass Fleming's Grove also known as Five Mile Grove. It was a natural stand of hardwood timber covering more than a half section. Such scattered groves were early landmarks on the prairie.

This one had a decaying old roughhewn house where two men from Cincinnati had brought a 14 year old boy many years before. The boy was reportedly an orphan and heir to valuable property. One of the men was his legal guardian. The men abused the boy and later reported him dead. They were tried for murder but never convicted. I'd never been in the grove but would see it now as it was on my route.

By noon I'd seen the grove and was at the far side of the township. All my enthusiasm was gone. I could no longer hold up the hammer. Attempts to carry it in my overalls had quickly pulled off a couple of buttons. If I rested it against the pony when she galloped she threatened to throw me off. So we were slowed to a walk. We would never get home to bring in the cows at that rate.

I stopped at the Reed farm as we knew them at church. I hoped to borrow a hitching strap, a calf rope, or something with which to carry the hammer. No one was at home. I could find nothing useful around the barn.

Their grain binder stood in the yard and it had a part ball of twine in the box. I pulled out yards of twine, braided it into a flat strip, and made it into a sling to go over my shoulder, tying the hammer to it. Again we could go at a gallop.

By four o'clock we got home and I was hungry as a bear. I resolved never again to let enthusiasm replace preparations. Resolutions don't last long with kids.


Father had bought a larger farm from a neighbor, Jimmy Mutch, and sold ours to Uncle Sandy. Young son Alex Mutch came home from college to manage his aging father's farms. Alex claimed his father had sold the farm to Dad too cheaply and he wanted to keep the land. He refused to give possession and instituted legal action to declare his father incompetent. The sale was held up in courts for a couple of years.

Dad and Uncle Sandy had built up their cattle herds and were short of pasture. Uncle Sandy's fourth son Mike and I were both thirteen. He had a good cow pony too. We were given the job of grazing our cattle along the roadside during the day. We had strict instructions to keep the cattle off the graded track and along our own property.

Mike and I were the cowboys. We didn't have saddles or ropes but carried coiled drover's whips called blacksnakes. The blacksnake was of plaited leather with a handle about a foot long. It tapered from there for eight feet to a small loop at the tip. To the tip was attached a narrow strip of leather about a foot long called the cracker.

We practiced endlessly with the whips. From the backs of our ponies we could crack them to give a loud report and we could draw blood from the heel of a running steer. We often merged our herds so we could be together. Separating our own cattle took us only minutes.

Back slope grading of the roads had not come into use then so the roadsides were in their original prairie state. In the thick sturdy native grass one could still find the sweet little wild strawberries. Wild flowers such as tiger lilies and Indian paints added splashes of color.

One day we had all the cattle south on Uncle Sandy's roadside near the creek and within a quarter mile of the Mutch's line. We went back to the house about a hundred yards off the road for a drink of water. Aunt Carrie was baking cookies so we stayed much longer than intended.

On coming out we saw that some of the cattle had drifted onto Mutch's roadside. Worse than that, Alex was on foot north of the bridge driving the remaining cattle toward his yard less than a half mile away.

We went out the lane and down the road, side by side, with our ponies running flat out. Alex saw us coming and stood in the middle of the road brandishing a piece of board he had ripped off a gate. The ponies never wavered so he had to jump out of the way.

We thundered across the long wooden bridge and raced past the cattle. Then each turned to his side and turned the cattle back, laying our whips on them. We bunched the cattle in the middle of the road and funneled them across the bridge, then got them on the run back north.

Again Mutch stood in the middle of the road shouting and waving his board. Again he had to scramble out of the way. He was cursing furiously in frustration as he had intended to impound the cattle. He was on Mike's side. As we came even with him I thought he would rush Mike and try to knock him off his horse.

If he tried, I would wheel my pony around behind him, stay at whip length and cut him as fast as I could. That wasn't necessary. When older I realized that no man in his right mind and on foot would take on two boys mounted on quick ponies and armed with blacksnakes they knew how to use.

We took the cattle to safety up the road and got off our horses. We had never run the ponies as hard and long as that but they did not let us down. We hadn't spoken since leaving the house. Now we were shaken by the narrow escape from our own negligence. No one had come along the road so we agreed that we would say nothing about it at home.

About forty years later when I was visiting Uncle Sandy he suddenly asked, "Do you remember the day you and Mike took the cattle away from Alex Mutch?" I certainly did. "I thought you kids were going to run him down with your ponies and again with the cattle." He laughed. "You kids saved me a run in with Mutch."

Uncle Sandy had been cultivating corn in an overlooking field about a quarter mile away. When he had seen Alex driving the cattle he had tied his team to the fence and started toward the cattle. Just then we appeared and he had witnessed the whole thing.

Pansy was a pensioner at the farm and died of old age.


Dad had a cardinal rule about the horses. They must be taken care of first, then the cattle. Pigs, dogs and cats would take care of themselves but the horses were not that smart. Horses would panic, often without warning or reason, and injure themselves. A horse would eat itself to death if given a chance. It was subject to many ailments of limb and lung. But if properly selected, trained, fed and cared for it was a faithful servant.

Father also raised and exhibited purebred hogs and cattle. We kept about a dozen milking cows. The milk was separated. The cream was sold to a collector in town and was a steady source of some cash. The skimmed milk put fast growth on calves and little pigs. Additional feeding cattle were bought and fed usually through the winter months.

Dad had very definite ideas about the utilization of work horses. He preferred the lighter, faster, active horses over the large, heavy draft breeds used by many farmers. The lighter horses usually had some carriage horse and Percheron blood. The heavy draft breeds were usually Belgian, Shire, or Clydesdale.

He claimed that the lighter horses were less affected by the heat, would do more work for the feed they got, and were more economical to keep through the lighter work times of the year. He never gave any proof of his claims. I think he just liked the more spirited horses. He would often rig hitches to use an extra horse or two to ease the load and increase the speed.

We went three and a half miles to church every Sunday in our surrey. The country church had a long row of hitching posts and a large barn for the horses in bad weather. At times we would go 14 miles to Mother's folks at Traer. One route generally followed the Twelve Mile Creek. The other was more interesting and went down the Old Ridge Road.

There was a patch of timber on the latter where two horse thieves had been hung many years earlier. One of us boys would usually ask Dad to point out the place and tell us the story. Mother would object saying that was nothing for a father to be telling his little boys.

The hanging story is covered in detail in the little book "They Came to North Tama" written by Mother's cousin Janette Stevenson Murray in 1953. I have a copy.

A horse drawn bob sled, fitted with a wagon box, was used for chores, hauling, and family transportation when the ground was frozen and covered with snow. A foot of clean hay was put into the deep box. That was covered with fur robes. Then Mother and the children sat in the bottom covered by more robes. We even had one buffalo robe. It was much warmer than the cow or horsehide ones.

One winter day when I was about eight we went to Grandpa Whannel's at Traer. It was snowing and drifting by noon. Father insisted on starting home by mid-afternoon as a blizzard was developing.

A few miles north of Traer there was a mile of road where trees had been planted along the side. Snow had drifted there almost to fence depth. I remember how the wind roared through the trees and the horses were plunging in the deep snow.

Dad finally got the team and sled off to the side and drove them right over the fence out into the shallower snow in the field. He feared that the horses would get their legs caught in the fence wires. But he had no choice as the horses could not get through the snow on the road. There were more fences to cross before we got back on the road but I was forced to stay under a robe by then.

It was into the night before we got home safely. Mother got a big steaming meal. Father, true to his own rules, had to get all the livestock snug in from the storm and the cows milked before he would eat.

One summer Dad got a new eight foot grain binder to replace the old six foot one. The grain that year was heavy. There were soft spots in the fields and some of the grain was lodged. The binder was equipped to use four horses abreast but Dad rigged it to use three abreast and two in the lead.

I think I was twelve that year. I was to ride the left lead horse, keep the team along side and out of the standing grain, and turn them around sharply to make square corners. Dad was delighted with the arrangement. He said it gave him more time to adjust the binder to pick up the downed grain and make better bundles. Also we could move faster through the soft soil spots and avoid choking the machine.

My enthusiasm about helping with the harvest didn't last through the first half day. My mount demanded continual attention to keep him from veering in and getting a mouthful of grain. My bottom was sore from sitting on the harness. The insides of my legs were raw from the hot horse sweat. Where that dried on my pants were stiff with the caked salt.

Dad was sympathetic. He cut up an old horse blanket and made it into a pad for me to sit on. I'd started out dreaming I was swinging the lead team on an artillery gun caisson. Reality had dashed that in a hurry.

We boys learned early to drive teams around the yard for chores. Then we were started on corn cultivators. It was a thrill the first time Father trusted me alone in a field with three horses on a single riding plough. More so, the first time I was sent out with five horses abreast on an eight foot disc harrow. The disc could be a very dangerous implement to driver or horses if the team got out of control.

A more demanding test was five horse hitch on a 14 inch gang plow. Usual practice was to use four horses abreast. We used three abreast with two in the lead. Dad claimed that we got more done due to the straighter line of draft and the faster pace. The plow was pulled out of the ground at the turns by a foot pedal which had to be done while the plow was in motion. I wasn't strong enough to push the pedal so had to stand up on it, speed up the horses, and cut the lead team around all at the same time. My plowing was not very neat the first half day.

We had a team of grey carriage horses name Rogue and Dan. Dan had been a city fire horse but his feet would not withstand running on pavement so he was sent to the country. I would ride with Rogue if the pony wasn't available.

Once I was on him rounding up the other horses, among which was a young stallion. The stallion came at us without warning. He grasped Rogue's neck with his big yellow teeth and shaved off a patch of grey hair right ahead of my knee. It was all so sudden there was no time to use the blacksnake coiled in my hand. I trailed it at the ready until the horses were in the barn. Dad got rid of the stallion.

Bill was a senior during my freshman year at high school. We usually drove Rogue hitched to a single buggy. The next year I went alone and preferred to ride a horse. We used Dad's Aunt Elsie's barn a couple of blocks from school. One afternoon I started Rogue up the alley at a lope. The aging horse was afflicted with the heaves, a chronic cough. He gave a small cough, took a deep breath, coughed hard, stumbled and went right down on his nose.

I was alerted by the first cough. As he started down I threw the reins over his head, pulled my feet from the stirrups, swung my right leg over his neck, and landed on my feet as he hit the ground. After a few quick steps I turned and caught the reins as he struggled to his feet.

This happened beside Dr. Kahler's barn. He had just put his car away and come out into the alley. Some days later he saw Dad in town and told him about it. He said that if he hadn't seen it he wouldn't have believed that a person could actually walk off a falling horse.

Dad got after me for starting the ailing horse off too fast. Then he softened. He had told the doctor that I was a good rider and should be because I'd been riding since I was six and had a lot of practice. My ego about my riding ability never needed any inflation.

Brother Bill got a pair of big strawberry roan mules. That was a very unusual color for mules. Mules are smarter than horses. The mules would test Bill out. He had to have a fresh understanding with them about every two weeks. Dad had grown up with some mules. As a boy he had ridden them across the prairie. He did not like to have them in the same pasture with other livestock. They would chase half grown pigs, little calves, or anything that would run away from them.


The season for threshing grain was a busy and happy one for the farmers. They got together in neighborhood groups from eight to twelve farms to form a crew, or "ring" and engage or operate a threshing rig. The activity usually lasted the whole month of August depending on the weather. The men enjoyed the cooperative effort, the social part of getting together, and getting in their grain harvest.

It was especially exciting for Cousin Mike and I the summer we were fourteen. We were paired together to act as a crew member on a bundle wagon. The next year we were veterans and each had his own team and wagon.

The grain would be cut and bundled by each farmer who had his own grain binder. The bundles were immediately set up on their ends into "shocks." The rows of shocks were left in the field to await the threshing ring. At threshing the bundles were loaded onto hayrack equipped wagons where the haulers built them into compact loads about eight high. The threshing machines were usually set around the farm yards where the farmer wanted the straw stacked or blown into his barn.

The whole crew was organized before the season started. Each man was assigned a regular job and an alternate one or two depending on the equipment he would furnish. There were pitchers, bundle haulers, grain shovelers and straw stackers, usually around twenty men in a crew.

At first there was always difficulty getting the horses near the noisy machines. The flapping belts, buzzing chains and swinging crank arms on the outside of the separator were enough to scare any horse. A big strong man good with horses was assigned that special job.

He would take the horses by their bits and coax, lead, and force the team up alongside the separator. Any reluctant horse was encouraged to move forward by a little gentle pressure on his rump from the tines of the hauler's fork. Then the handler would see that the horse stood still while the load was fed into the machine. After a few days the horses were trained and used to it.

The engines in those days were big steam traction ones. The well water in our area had too much lime for regular use in a steam boiler so water was hauled from nearby flowing creeks in a tank wagon. The engine powered the separator by a stitched canvass belt about fifty feet long.

The rig would start as soon as the dew was off the shocks in the morning. There would be a stop at noon for the men and horses to be fed. A lunch was brought out around four o'clock and was taken on the run. Then the rig would run into the evening as long as the grain was dry.

The threshers' table was famed everywhere. The farm ladies vied to serve their most delicious foods and special dishes. The men encouraged that, telling how good the food had been at the last place. The dinners were not a crew effort. The women would have the help of two or three neighbors or friends to prepare and serve the big meals, wash the dishes, and make the lunches. Threshing was a social time for the women too.

Our first year Mike and I were teased without mercy at dinner time. The men would tell the women things like they should give us only one plate or place at the table. The men claimed that we each ate more than any one man on the crew, which was probably right.

Uncle Sandy, Uncle Bob Innes and Dad bought a used threshing rig. Between them they operated four farms and were joined by six other farmers to form the ring. Paul was the engine man. Dad hauled water and coal and was his assistant. Art Innes was the separator man. Uncle Sandy operated the stacker and was his assistant. Art was my idol. Sometimes near the end of the day when Mike and I were weary he would jump from the separator onto our load and feed most of it into the machine.

Later such big separators were replaced by smaller all steel machines driven by farm tractors. Now the grain is cut and threshed in the fields by self-propelled combines. The threshing rings are a thing of the past.

Harvey Derringer was a bundle hauler. Everybody knew he had an unexplainable fear of snakes. One day the two pitchers loading his wagon uncovered a bull snake about four feet long under a shock. His load was almost finished. He could not see the ground beside his load. The pitchers thought they would have some fun with him. My rack was being loaded on the next shock row. An empty hauler was close behind.

The pitchers called, "Watch this." Putting the tines of their forks under the coiled snake, they tossed it high onto Harvey's load. I can see it yet. When he saw the wiggling snake coming toward him at shoulder height, he got out of there at top speed. He came off the load a good ten feet above the ground with his legs working furiously. He arched down, hit the ground running, and did not stop until he was out of breath.

The pitchers tried to call him back telling him the snake was a harmless one. It would just crawl down through the bundles and drop out. But Harvey just kept walking back toward the rig. One of the pitchers had to climb up and finish his load, then drive it back to the rig and get somebody to unload it. Harvey kept at a distance until his rack was empty and driven over to him. Nobody tried any snake tricks on him after that.

At one farm there was a large flowing spring in the field from which we were hauling. Dad decided to fill his tank wagon there instead of going much farther to a creek. As he pulled away from the spring the rear wheels hit a soft spot caused by a smaller spring flowing underground. The rear wheels sank right down to the axle. Dad intercepted me on the way to the field. We took my team from the wagon and hitched them ahead of his with a long log chain he always carried on the tank.

Since my team was ahead I stood on top of the tank to drive the four horses. When I had all of them straight and tight in their traces, I shouted for them to pull. They strained going almost to their knees, but the rear axle was stuck fast. Then the reach connecting front and rear axles of the tank wagon broke. The surprised horses surged out pulling the front axle out from under the tank. They ran with it.

I'd had a tight hold on the four driving lines. When the horses surged out the long leather lines had a sling shot effect on me. I went flying off the top of the tank. Fortunately I landed on my feet and was pulled along running after the horses and the bouncing front wheels until I got them stopped.

The men watching in the field thought the whole thing had looked funny. They teased me for several days with remarks like, "Don't trust that kid with a four horse team. He will wreck your wagon." Or, "Here comes flying, four horse Pete."

Dad didn't see anything funny about it. He helped me get my team back onto my wagon and hurried me back to tell Paul he would have to use well water in the engine until Dad got the wagon fixed. Then he started draining the water from the tank which he blamed himself for not doing before.

He had to go in and repair the broken parts of the wagon. After dinner he got half dozen men to help him put the wagon back together again. Dad's idea of using extra horses to speed up a job had backfired that time.

One evening we ran very late to finish up at one farm. The rig would be moved to the next place in the morning while the dew was still on the shocks. There was a bright, full harvest moon so there was plenty of light. My load had been the last one in.

My legs were very tired from trampling in the bundles all day. I sat down in the bottom of the rack and put my legs down between the floor boards. Bill and Dad would have all the chores done and the cows milked before I reached home so I was very relaxed.

A rabbit hopped out of the thick grass beside one of the horses. The startled horse jumped. Then its mate jumped. They ran over through the ditch and up along the side. When we went across the ditch, I thought the jumping wagon would throw me off the hayrack with my legs still under it. It seemed to take forever to get my legs turned and up between the floor boards.

When I got onto my feet, I was able to steer the horses back into the center. My dreamy relaxation had been rudely shattered. If the horses wanted to run just let them. We would be home sooner and get something to eat. I encouraged them until they slowed to a walk. The team never tried to run away with me again that summer.


In the spring of 1918 we moved to the bigger Cloverton farm. It had been rented and used as a corn raising and cattle feeding farm. It had only two good buildings, a big barn 80 x 90 feet and a double corn crib. There was an old four room frame house with a lean-to kitchen which would obviously not do for our family.

Dad's plans for the farm were to grow diversified crops, raise more livestock and keep more milk cows. Hogs were known as the "Mortgage Lifters" as they required lower investment, multiplied faster and would mature in a year to be sold off.

The plans for summer were to build the present nine room brick house, a large garage with workshop which included a blacksmith's forge, a hog house with an adjoining concrete feeding floor, a drive through wooden granary and a chicken house. There were also to be two concrete stock tanks, a rain water cistern, a silo and revisions on the inside of the barn.

The old house was torn down. The chicken house was built first to serve as a temporary dwelling. It was divided by temporary partitions to provide a kitchen, a dining area, a bedroom for Dad and Mother, and one for the girls.

Dad had a wall tent which he had used when he took cattle and hogs to the fairs. It was set up in the grove, provided with a wooden floor and served us four boys. As soon as the roof was on the new house, we boys moved from the tent into the floored attic. That was heaven compared to the tent. We'd had damp clothes for five months.

There was much excavating, filling and grading to be done with a team of horses and a slip scraper. All of the buildings except the granary and the silo were of masonry construction so there was much hauling of heavy material from town three and one half miles away. For that Dad bought a pair of big, gray, four year old Percheron horses.

Those grays, Fred and Ollie, were quiet enough to be trusted to a fifteen year old so I was the teamster for hauling materials. Brick was made at a factory on the west side of Reinbeck. The men there would toss up four bricks at a time for me to catch and stack in the wagon box. The eight inch hollow tiles were also obtained there but I could only catch one at a time.

At the lumber yard the men would load most of the lumber and the sacks of lime and cement. I had to shovel on my own loads of sand and gravel from bunkers along the rail siding.

There were two trips a day. The others at home would help me unload at noon and in the evening. I thoroughly enjoyed being with men at the brick and lumber yards. They remarked about the skinny kid with the big gray horses but they were always good to me and I learned many things that would save me later.

Ollie was a very quiet horse but one day he illustrated Father's warning about horses panicking. We were threshing at a neighbor's who needed an extra grain wagon and team. Fred and Ollie were taken.

One of the men pulled a sheepskin pad from an implement seat and tossed it onto the wagon seat. Ollie went wild, rearing and plunging to get away. He had never acted up with us. We found that he was always nervous if he saw or smelled a sheepskin so we were careful to avoid using one around him.


Dad once bought a pair of horses from a bunch which had been brought from Dakota. The gelding, Joe, was a most adaptable and useful horse. He must have had some Arabian blood as indicated by a short back, a narrow head, a gentle disposition and the toughest hooves. The hooves just didn't wear down so we were always having to trim them.

The mare was not used as much as Joe so Father decided she should raise a colt. Foals are usually appealing little things but hers would kick, strike or bite. The feisty little devil got the name of Satan.

He grew up to be an unattractive, raw-boned, four muscled, iron gray of medium size. But he had sound limbs and lungs and good feet. Also he was strong and very active.

When he was ready for full work at age four, he was teamed with a quick, active sorrel named Steve. They were not much to look at but they went well together and made a snappy team. They were my team to use regularly the year I was seventeen.

One morning Satan was being curried, brushed and harnessed. He had a small collar sore on the top of his neck and was touchy. While cleaning his shoulder I carelessly backed into the corner between the stall wall and manger. He moved up and started leaning on me.

I was caught with my hips below and my chest above the sloping edge of the manger. I tried to reach his nose or ear but he held his head out of my reach. I pounded him with the brush and yelled at him to move over, but he just kept on pushing. The others had gone to breakfast and were beyond call.

I thought Satan would squeeze my guts out. He would move quickly if I hit him on the sore spot of his neck but if he jumped ahead he would crush me and if he jumped back he would try to strike me. I was desperate so I hit him as hard as I could with the toothed side of the curry comb right on his sore spot.

The reaction was instantaneous. He jumped back the full length of the halter rope and raised a front foot to strike. I sprang right with him to his shoulder so he couldn't bite, hit or kick me. He just hung there against the rope, stiff legged in a slight couch, wild-eyed and trembling all over.

My back was to the wall. I dared not move forward or back so I started brushing his shoulder. As he gradually relaxed, I brushed his back and even his hind leg. When he was told to move over and step forward he did. He stood quiet while his collar and then his harness were put on.

Never again did I take Satan for granted. He had my respect. I talked to him a lot of the time to let him know I was watching him and to make sure he did what I told him.

One Sunday afternoon in the late summer the horses had come up to the yard for a drink. Paul, Bill and I were leaning on the yard fence. On some impulse I called, "Satan, come over here." To our surprise Satan left the other horses and came over to put his head over the fence for me to rub his nose and scratch behind his ears.

As Dad always said, horses were unpredictable. Paul remarked, "I think Satan really likes you." I liked Satan too. He was tough as rawhide, always ready to go and never seemed to get tired.


As the family grew too big for the surrey we three older boys would go separately in a single buggy. Paul and Bill had grown up enough to be calling on girls. They got a pair of Standard Bred driving horses. The mare wasn't anything special but the gelding more than made up for that.

He was larger than most of his breed, very sound, a good horse to drive and a delight to ride. If necessity demanded he was even hitched with the draft horses. Mostly he was used alone on a single seated buggy. The mare wasn't kept long. The horse had a habit of moving her feet sidewise when turning the buggy around.

One morning on the way to high school, the horse was loafing along at an easy trot. I realized I could be late. I pulled the lines up tight, slapped him on the back with them and clucked to him. He immediately shifted into a long reaching trot that just rattled the buggy wheels.

Further trials of this always got the same reaction. I told Dad about my discovery. He wasn't surprised. He said, "The horse has been trained on a racing sulky. That is why he wants to turn the buggy too short."

We had a lot of snow one winter when Dorothy and I were going to high school. The roads were just two icy tracks worn down in the deep snow. We had a single seat cutter with the shafts offset so the horse could travel in one of the tracks.

One night the two of us were going to a basketball game which would be followed by an oyster stew social. We were donating a five gallon can of milk. About midway to town the trotter changed from one track to the other. One runner of the cutter went up onto the deep snow and we were tipped out along with the milk can and the robes. The horse got away and headed back home with the cutter.

Fortunately Cousin Mike came along in his cutter and took the milk and robes on to town. Dorothy and I walked back home to make sure the horse got there. Father had some very pointed remarks about my inattention to driving and letting the horse get away. Those remarks would come back clearly to me later.

The town kids talked about what fun they had coasting and sledding on the streets at night. I got a date with a red haired girl to take her sleigh riding. No other high school kid drove a trotter like ours. It was fun to show him off. We would be there with the sleigh bells jingling on him.

That evening turned bitter cold but I disregarded that and wore my Sunday clothes. When I got to town the streets were deserted. At the girl's house her father vetoed the sleigh ride. He said no one would be out on a night like this if they didn't have to be.

The trotter had to be taken about five blocks and put into Aunt Elsie's barn. Then I walked to the girl's house. By the time I'd walked back to the barn after the date, gotten the horse out and had him hitched to the cutter, I was chilled through. I realized how foolish I'd been to wear the lighter Sunday clothes. The trotter was warm from being blanketed in the barn. Out in the cold wind he was impatient to go. It was difficult to hold him to a reasonable pace.

We hadn't gotten far from town before my feet were freezing. I got out of the cutter and tried to walk in the track behind it. The trotter was sharp shod with screw caulk type shoes. He could walk faster on the icy track then I could trot. Twice I fell down and he almost got away from me. So I had to get back into the cutter and just suffer with my feet.

Closer to home my feet stopped hurting and I felt drowsy. The cutter jolted sidewise and I opened my eyes. We were at home beside the barn. The horse was trying to get in. He looked like a ghost. His coat was covered white with a thick rime of frost. An eerie little cloud of vapor rose above his back.

I was completely comfortable and wanted only to go back to sleep. But Father's rule that the horses must be taken care of first was iron clad. Also his recent reproof about letting the horse get away from me came back to get me fully awake. The trotter had gone fast after I went to sleep. If left out only a short time in his condition he would get pneumonia and die later.

By the time the trotter was unhitched, into the warm barn and blanketed, I knew my feet were frozen. Getting around on them was like walking on stumps. We children were well instructed on what to do, or not do, about frozen noses, ears or fingers. The thawing would have to be very slow and gradual to avoid the ugly ruptured blood vessels and oozing, decaying flesh often following frostbite.

At the house I got a big bread mixing pan, filled it with snow and set it on the kitchen floor beside a chair.

My feet and the skin halfway to my knees were a sickly chalky white color. With my feet in the pan I slowly rubbed snow from the pink skin down onto the edge of the white. When the snow was all melted, cold water was added to the pan. By 4 a.m. the pink color had returned down to the ends of my toes and I could go to bed.

It was a real relief when I got up a few hours later to find that my feet were Ok. So was the trotter. If it hadn't been for Father's insistence on care of the horses, I would have gone back to sleep on the cutter and could have frozen to death.

The trotter, like the pony, was kept a pensioner at the farm. Later on a visit back from Ohio I missed him. They told me sadly that on a winter day he had been found in a field killed by the bullet from some hunter's high powered rifle.


A few days in my life are remembered with special clarity and almost photographic detail. Each was a onetime happening and connected with some truth recognized, a lesson learned, or a deep emotion. One such was the day I rode the sorrel horse in March the month I turned sixteen.

Dad had bought a four year old horse to replace an aging one. Nothing was known of the horse's origin. His compact configuration suggested some Cleveland Bay or Morgan blood. He was a thing of beauty, deep sorrel with silver mane and tail, a white blaze on his face, and three white stockings. He was well proportioned and muscled weighing about 1300 pounds.

More remarkable were his proud stance and his high stepping movements. He was full of spirit and twice tried to run away when Dad had him hitched with a quieter horse. We had three other sorrel horses, but this one was somehow called The Sorrel.

One morning when watering the stabled horses shortly after getting The Sorrel, Bill decided to jump onto his back and get the mail from our box a half mile away. The Sorrel jumped right out from under Bill leaving him sitting in the snow. Bill tried again the next day with the horse bridled and saddled. The horse promptly bucked Bill off.

Paul was a better rider than Bill so he had to try the horse. He lasted longer several times. One day he and Bill, and Dad took The Sorrel out onto a field which had been ploughed the previous fall and was further softened by the frost coming out. The horse would not let Paul get on him until Dad put his jacket over the horse's head. In spite of the heavy going in the very soft ground The Sorrel finally bucked Paul off. Then he continued to the far end of the field trying to throw off the saddle.

I was going to high school and did not see all of these trials. My two older brothers, 19 and 21, were always trying to put me down. At least that is what I thought then. I knew I could ride better than they could so kept telling them I'd have to show them how to ride The Sorrel. I even threw in such remarks as the idea in riding a horse was to sit well forward and on top of the horse.

After the ploughed field episode I knew that I had underestimated the horse and that I had talked too much. I kept putting them off saying I would ride him when I was ready. They wanted to see me thrown and put in my place so kept needling me. I knew I'd have to try or life around them would be miserable.

I spent more time around the horse studying him and looking for some signs of weakness. I was in his stall one morning when they came by with their usual question. Spring field work would start in a week or so then there would be no time for such diversions. So I said I'd ride him after school that day. I kept hoping that something would intervene but nothing did.

Paul and Bill had The Sorrel bridled, saddled and out in the open yard when I came out after changing from school to chores clothing. I delayed as long as possible checking the cinches and shortening the stirrup lengths. Then I got on him. He didn't make the least bit of fuss. Bill opened the gate into the fenced yard around three sides of the big barn. The Sorrel moved off at a walk.

I'd never been on such a light footed horse. He just seemed to bounce along like he was walking on four coiled springs. The ripple of his back muscles could be felt under the saddle. After checking that the balls of my feet were just right in the stirrups, I pulled up the slack in the reins. The Sorrel immediately bolted straight ahead like he had been shot in the rear.

The high fence across the north side of the yard was of woven wire topped with three strands of barbed wire. I thought of Dad. How angry he would be if the horse got its breast and front legs cut up going into that barbed wire. But just before we got there the horse suddenly sat back on his haunches and slid to a stop with his nose at the wire. Then he made a quarter turn, still on his haunches, heaved himself up and started bucking across the north side of the yard.

I couldn't believe that a horse of that size could move so fast or be so agile. He seemed to have a hinge in the middle of his back and just flopped me back and forth. One instant I'd be looking down at the ground past his little ears. Then his back would come up in kind of a twisting whiplash motion which jerked me back in the saddle. My heart seemed to be jammed into the bottom of my neck so I had to fight for my breath.

The bucking was working me back in Dad's saddle which was much too big for me. Once my rump came down on the cantle, or back of the saddle. I was almost out of it. The next pitch would probably throw me off. So when the horse's head went down I grabbed the horn, pulled myself up against the front of the saddle and got a new grip with my knees.

On the east side of the yard there was an open sixteen foot gate into a twenty acre pasture. The horse was headed for the right hand gate post. Somehow I knew that he intended to wipe me off against the post. Again I thought of Dad. He would be more than annoyed if I got a broken leg trying to ride this crazy horse. And just when I was most needed for chores when spring field work started.

We just couldn't have that happen. I would pull up my leg, swing it over the horse's back behind the saddle, and go off head first on the other side. But not until I had to do it, so I watched the top of the gate post.

Just as we got there I was pulling up my leg the horse pitched. Instead of swinging my leg back, I threw it straight out to the side then forward over the top of the post. I still had my foot in the stirrup. For an awful instant I thought the stirrup leather would catch on the post, but it didn't.

The horse grunted as his side slammed into and raked the post. Then we were clear, out into the field, and going downhill. Hitting the post had slowed the horse down some. I was well balanced in the saddle again and I thought, "You will never get me off now, you demon."

My mouth was full so I turned my head to the side and spat it out. It was blood. Somewhere back in the more violent action I'd bitten my tongue on the side. Now that it was discovered it hurt like anything. Suddenly I got mad at the horse and was tired of his bucking.

If I could get him to run he would have to stop bucking. I started hitting him as hard as I could in the flank with the ends of the reins. Soon he did break into a run. Whenever he wanted to ease up I'd hit him again. Presently he faltered. I came to my senses. He was breathing hard and was just about winded. So I walked him.

When he was breathing easily again I tried him through different gaits, speeds and turns. To my amazement he understood exactly what I wanted him to do and he did it. Dad always said horses were unpredictable. How could that wild uncontrollable creature of a short time change so quickly into a very tractable horse? The Sorrel must have been through this whole thing before.

As I rode him around the field I thought, "This is a horse for a cavalry general. His beauty, proud, alert stance and quick actions would be outstanding on a parade ground or maneuvers and what a charger he would be."

Bill and Paul were at the east yard fence when I rode back there. Paul suggested that I jump the horse over a low plank gate at the far side of the field. I was afraid that if I jumped the horse that he might start bucking again. I wanted no more of that. I said, "No, I think he has had enough," and rode him back around the barn to the open yard.

Dad was standing there with Paul and Bill. I got off and Bill took the reins. Dad looked at me up and down very intently and asked, "Are you all right?" I didn't want them to know that I'd bitten my tongue so I kept swallowing the blood and replied, "Yeah, I'm all right."

There was a long pause as Dad continued to look me over. Then he said, "Well you finally rode the sorrel horse." I said "Oh boy, what a horse," meaning only admiration for The Sorrel. It took me a couple minutes to realize that Dad had said, "Finally." So he had been aware that I'd been putting off riding the horse.

Then Dad turned to the other two. "Now I hope that you are all satisfied." He had been listening to more of our brotherly contentions than we had realized. Now he had our full attention. "Because," he resumed, "nobody around here is going to ride that horse again. We have better things for him to do." I never asked or knew whether Dad had seen The Sorrel charge the fence or hit the gate post but I knew exactly what he meant.

Dad turned and went to the house. We each went quietly about our individual chores. There was no talk then, or ever again, about that ride or our relative riding abilities. Strangely I felt no elation at having ridden The Sorrel, nor any desire to remind my brothers of my past remarks that I'd show them. All I could think of was the terrific athletic ability that beautiful horse had demonstrated. All I'd done was manage, with a little luck, to stay on him. He had thoroughly humbled me.

Later I would realize that I had grown up a great deal that day. My two brothers knew it right then, I'm sure, for their attitude toward me changed. Years later I would wonder whether Father had purposely allowed The Sorrel to be used to teach three of his sons some lessons.

Paul bought our first farm tractor that fall. It permitted a reduction in the number of horses required. Dad sold The Sorrel a few months later.


There was a boom in Iowa land following World War 1. It collapsed in the fall of 1921. Seventy percent of the banks in the state failed according to reports.

My oldest sister married Roy Strohbehn in January 1921. Roy had made a lot of money trading and dealing in farms. But his profits turned out to be only on paper as the deals fell through when the banks failed. He came out of it with only one mortgaged farm.

I wasn't needed at home the summer of 1922 when I finished my first year of college. Roy could not afford a full time hired man but needed help through the summer months. I was glad to get the job and the $75 a month with board, the going rate.

Roy was no fancier of horses. Those he had were barely adequate for the field work. He was a very successful cattle feeder. He had spent time working in the Chicago Stock Yards and cattle market. Dad said Roy could put more weight on cattle with less feed than anyone he knew.

Roy had a carload of feeder cattle on a leashed creek pasture twenty miles south in the county. When threshing was over in mid-August he announced that we would bring those cattle home one day the next week. As the day approached I asked if he would borrow a riding horse. Roy didn't think that was necessary as they had a couple of saddle horses at the creek farm.

On the appointed day Roy got me up at 3:30. We had a quick breakfast and drove down to the creek farm in his Buick roadster. Two men on horses had his cattle cut out and in a yard. Roy checked up on the cattle, and then they were started out a lane to the main road.

One steer broke back and jumped a fence. The two riders had quite a run before they got him back with the other cattle. When the 26 animals were out on the main road the riders turned back. Roy also took off saying he would be back around ten o'clock with some lunch. I was left alone with the cattle.

At the first cross road the cattle scattered in three directions. I ran myself breathless getting them together again on the right road. After that I knew enough to get them bunched beforehand and hurry them past the corners.

When Roy came at ten I told him that the fence jumping steer was lame. I'd had to really cut him with the whip to keep him from laying down several times. Roy went among the cattle as I sat down on the running board of the car and started eating a sandwich. I expected that he would keep them going until I finished the lunch. But he came back to the car, told me to finish pushing them, and said he'd be back around three o'clock.

By noon the cattle were getting very slow and trying to turn in every farm yard we passed. Without a whip I couldn't have kept them going and on the road. Roy came again around three with a jar of lemonade and some sandwiches.

I told him I didn't think the lame steer would make it home and suggested that we leave him at some farm and get him the next day in a wagon. I also suggested that we let the cattle rest a while.

Roy went among the cattle and looked them over. As soon as we had stopped many of the animals had immediately laid down. He said he thought the lame steer could continue and that I should keep the cattle moving as he wanted them home and off the road by dark. Then he took off again.

About a mile farther along we came to a good running stream. As soon as each animal had had a good drink it laid down and started chewing its cud. I sat on the bridge rail and let the cattle rest. My legs needed a rest too. I didn't care what Roy had said. Those animals needed a break. I had been behind, around and among them for hours and should know.

My resentment about not having a horse had been building up all day. Dad had taught us that the way to handle cattle was with a good horse. It was positively demeaning to chase an obstinate steer on foot. I knew very well that it would have taken an extra day and other inconveniences to take a horse. Fixed habits and thoughts die hard. I still and a lot to learn about adjusting to realities.

Within a half hour I had the cattle up and moving again. The late August day was starting to cool and we made much better time after the rest stop. About a mile from home Roy came again, told me to take the car and get some supper. He would bring the cattle.

Then I noticed him counting them. It was a most natural thing for a cattleman to do. But I still resented not having a horse and his not moving the cattle long enough to let me eat the two lunches. The counting annoyed me.

I told him that the cattle were all there. I'd been left alone with them many miles back and had brought them all this far. Now within sight of home I didn't want anybody to think I couldn't get them there. He left without comment. It was just dark when we got the cattle into his yard.

Jessie had a hot supper for me with a plate of sliced tomatoes and a fresh apple pie. First I ate all the tomatoes as I must have been very dry. Then I pushed the other food aside and laid my head down on my arms on the table. I was just too tired to eat. Not even the apple pie interested me.

There was no way of telling how far I'd traveled keeping those 26 cattle together and moving over the twenty miles of road. I'd been on my feet for over fifteen hours except for the two very brief stops on the running board and twenty some minutes at the bridge. Jessie made me go to bed.

Those hard times didn't last long compared to what happened in the 1930's. They did jolt many farmers out of the easy prosperity following World War 1 and make them think of more economical ways of doing things.

Roads had been improved. The automobile was already replacing driving horses and buggies. I did not realize then that the day with the cattle would demonstrate the farmer's rapidly declining dependence on horses. Mechanical developments over the next few years would eliminate the horses from the cornbelt farms.


We always considered that Father was very progressive. His schooling had only approximated an eighth grade level but he was an inveterate reader. He took the Breeders Gazette which covered all kinds of livestock and the Successful Farming. We kids grew up reading the Youth's Companion, the American Boy and the Saturday Evening Post.

Dad was secretary of the township school system when he was twenty-three. He continued active in that system until the township schools were taken into the Reinbeck Consolidated District. He was elected to that district's board and served for several years. Until moving to town he was always active as a teacher, officer and strong supporter of the Amity Church.

He liked to exhibit his purebred Poland China hogs and Angus cattle. When Paul and Bill were old enough to point out advantages of other breeds he changed to the leaner Hampshire hogs and the dual purpose Shorthorn cattle.

The year I was born he had an imposing ten room house built on the Longview farm to replace the old five room house. A few years later he had the house fitted with acetylene gas lights supplied by a carbide generator in the basement.

When the new house was built on the Cloverton farm in 1918 it had a 32 volt electric light system with storage batteries and a D.C. generator driven by a Cushman engine.

When portable gasoline engines became available he got one to drive an inclined grain elevator. That engine was a 300 pound monstrosity to develop three horsepower. It was also used to drive a clothes washing machine in the basement by running a line shaft from the outside of the house.

In 1912 Dad got our first car, a used 1911 Model T Ford touring car. Paul was always mechanically inclined so he added a foot accelerator, shock absorbers and a Prestolite system for the headlights.

We got a new Nash six cylinder touring car in 1919, Father then revised the Ford by cutting off the body behind the front seat. He built a six foot long, one foot deep wooden box, fitted that to the car frame and attached the rear fenders. It was a pioneer pickup. Many years later the automobile companies would start making pickups.

Later that year Paul sold Dad on getting our first farm tractor, an 8-16 horsepower International. It pulled a sixteen inch plow, or an eight foot disk, or a twenty foot harrow. It was also used for belt work to grind feed. Small tractors soon proved their economy. Gasoline was cheap. That tractor replaced four horses which had to be kept around the year for the field work April through August.

The 10-20 tractor which came out the next year was even more effective. It would pull a double 14 plow with a small section of harrow behind it, or a ten foot disc with a ten foot harrow. It went faster and saved a lot of time in the fields. It would also drive the threshing machine and ensilage fields. But such plow tractors could not be used for corn cultivation so enough horses had to be kept for that six weeks of work.

The tractor makers came up with a completely new design machine called the row crop tractor. It had larger diameter widely spaced rear wheels and narrow set front wheels to go between the crop rows and give high clearance for the corn plants.

It had the two row cultivator parts mounted on the tractor frame so the driver could watch their action and could turn the tractor quickly at row ends. It also had a wide adjustable draw bar so could pull any implement drawn by a plow tractor.

The International Farm Alls and the durable green Deere row crop tractors were soon seen all across the land. They eliminated more horses than the plow tractors had. Ingenious farmers and mechanics made all sorts of additions to them such as lights and front end loaders to increase their utility.

Manufacturers adapted those and added hydraulic lifts and power take-offs to drive the machinery of such pulled equipment as mowers, hay balers, grain binders and the newly developed corn pickers. New lines of implements were designed for tractor hitches and mounting. Transmissions were provided to give a greater choice of speeds.

The number of hours a horse could work in a day was always limited and the time required to harness, feed and care for the horses, the farmers could put in longer days working in the fields. Land required to grow horse feed was used for cash crops or to increase the number of cattle or hogs raised. Farms became larger and men as well as horses were eliminated from the farms.

But the raw crop tractors had some serious deficiencies. The spade type steel lugs would cut up yards and roads. The steel lugs were outlawed on improved highways. The lugs also clogged with stubble and trash on damp soils. The rear wheels would dig themselves down quickly in wet spots.

Trials were made using solid rubber tires, pneumatic truck tires and even large airplane tires but none were satisfactory. The Firestone Tire Company built a few experimental large diameter, large cross section, low pressure, lugged rear tractor tires. Field trials were unexpected and startling. The experimental tires gave lower fuel consumption and higher speeds than the spade lug tires due to lower rolling resistance and less slippage.

The company felt that the fuel economy and the ability to travel on roads would create a big new market for farm tires. They set up and pushed a tractor tire development and testing program. The judgment proved correct and the company became the pioneer tractor tire maker. Tractor manufacturers enthusiastically offered the tires as original equipment. Soon there was an extensive market for changeovers from steel lugs on existing tractors.

The pneumatic tires greatly increased the utility and versatility of the tractors. Tractor makers added more and higher speed gears for road and field use. Farmers wanted rubber tires on their wagons and other equipment.

Soon many farms got along without any horses. One aging pair, Fred and Ollie, were kept at Cloverton farm for chores and odd jobs, I think because of Father's nostalgia and love of horses. The continually improved raw crop tractors had replaced the horses in that area in a little over five years.

I went to work in the Development department at Firestone at the time the raw crop tractor was being introduced. My work involved the mixing, processing and shaping of the rubber components and the vulcanizing of tires. The large thin tires with their high molded lugs presented a whole new set of manufacturing problems. As part of the developmental group I had to keep abreast of all tests, trials, and performance information. The former farm boy took to that like a duck to water.

On the farm I was always more intrigued by the activity and energy of the horses than by the more staid cattle or the hogs which came and went each year. I had a certain affection for the horses. It always seemed a little ironical that I would be a contributor to the elimination of horses from the corn belt farms.

Page updated 3 Dec 2012 by William Haloupek