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Pickin’ like they used to do it

By Staff | Oct 26, 2012

CLARK HALL, of Indianola, an Iowa State University student and member of the ISU?Antique Tractor Club, runs a Farmall M, mounted with a New Idea No. 20 two-row picker during the picking and shelling bee Saturday in rural Collins.



COLLINS – More than 100 people showed up for an old fashioned corn-picking and shelling bee Saturday, hosted by Don Struthers of Collins. They came to relive harvesting the way their grandfathers did it.

No combines nor 5,000-bushel corn wagons were welcome.

Mountining two-row corn heads on gas-powered antique tractors of all makes, models and colors, it took upward to 10 picking teams from 9 a.m. to just short of 4 p.m. to take in 25 acres of Pioneer corn. A few of the pickers shelled the corn; but mostly elevated the ears into wood-sided grain wagons that seem miniscule by modern standards.

ETHAN FINCH, 9, of State Center, shows all earnestness in raking cobs from under the elevator. Don Struthers, who hosted the day’s event, is Finch’s uncle.

By the outbuildings, a corn-sheller was working tirelessly as the grain wagons tilted up and poured their harvested ears onto an auger track. Kernels and cobs were separated and elevated into separate waiting wagons.

This was the second year for Struthers to organize the two-row picking bee. “We’re hoping to make this an annual event,” he said. “Last year there were half as many who showed up, but with harvest being over early, more guys had time to come and play.”

Struthers said many of the visitors didn’t pick, but brought their children to watch how corn was harvested “back in the day.”

“Heck I never used a mounted corn-picker before last year,” Struthers said, “and I’m 45.”

But there were plenty who were not strangers to the picker that wrapped around a gas tractor including Paul Schaeffer, of Colo, and Dennis Kingsbury of Ames. They were aboard a Farmall M running a New Idea picker.

EARS OF CORN fall into a wood grain wagon Saturday during the the old-fashioned corn-picking bee, hosted by Don Struthers of Collins.

And there was one unique picker with dual elevators – a 153 Case IM – one serving each picking head. It was a attached to a Case 52DC tractor and was being operated by Fred Eitner, of Collins. In the grain wagon, keeping the ears spread evenly was Ed Kuening, of Pella.

But there were also young future farmers in the field, members of the Iowa State University Antique Tractor Club, including Charles Morton, of Indianola, and Clark Hall, of Montezuma.

Hall was driving a Farmall M with a New Idea Model No. 20 picker.

Morton was operating a Case 730 tractor with a Case Model 425 picker.

“It was the only diesel tractor out here,” Morton said. “That’s why I jumped on it. I love diesel.”

CHARLES MORTON, of Indianola, a member of the Iowa State University Antique Tractor Club, watches the corn rows closely to stay on track, since there is no GPS-guided auto-steering on his Case 730 diesel-powered tractor.

Both club members have their own antique tractors back home. The club, Morton said, restores an antique tractor each year, sells it and uses the proceeds to buy the next year’s project.

Struthers said the day was pock-marked with some breakdowns, a few from clogged fuel lines. “The biggest drawback,” he said, “is they don’t run them often enough to keep them running well.”

Wet ground from rains two days earlier gave some of the machines traction challenges, and a bearing burned out in a picker during the day.

But as a whole, Struthers said the project was a success and the 25 acres were harvested before dusk.

In the distance, other farmers took tractors that were the leading technology four and five decades ago, attached moldboard plows and started turning over soil, again, the old-fashioned way that grandpa used to do.

Those who showed up to “work” Saturday came from Collins, Colo, Maxwell, Newton, Kellogg, State Center, Nevada, Marshalltown, Indianola, Independence, Huxley, Ames, Rhodes and Zearing.

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