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Harvest Tales - Stafford County

Harvest stories submitted by Kansans for the online exhibit, Wheat People.
Submit your own at KansasMuseum@kshs.org.

Howard Stude

A New 1927 Model D John Deere Tractor

My parents, John and Grace (Jones) Stude, lived in Cooper Township near the town of Stafford in Stafford County, Kansas. I was born there on April 28, 1919.

Farm trucks lined up to unload at the three Copeland grain elevators in 1928:  Jennings, Security, and Farmer's Co-op.

Dad bought a new 1927 Model D John Deere tractor. That same year, my dad bought some land in Haskell County south of Copeland in Lockport Township. But we didn't move out there until 1929. Listing was a popular thing to do in Stafford County but I don't know about Haskell County. Anyway, he listed the ground out in Haskell County.

When Dad finished the listing, he had Chris Akers haul the tractor back to Stafford County to do the listing there. They backed the truck up to a sand bank and unloaded it. Of course, I was watching. Dad drove it up to the yard and told us boys to leave it alone. Then he went into the house for some breakfast. We boys were all eyes, looking the tractor over.

There was a lot to do to start that tractor. There was a petcock on each side that you had to shoot in a little gas. This would ignite the cylinders, when the cylinders compressed the gas. There also was an impulse on the magneto that you had to push down. I was only eight years old and I don't know how I got all the steps right, but I did. That tractor started on about the first cylinder over compression.

Dad probably hadn't finished eating yet when the "Ole D" started popping. I don't think it popped more than three or four times before Dad came flying out that back door.

I can still see the screen door flying open and Dad landing about 6 to 8 feet out on the plank we had for a walk, missing the steps entirely. He came running over to the tractor. Even though all of his boys were standing out there, he knew who started it. He grabbed me up by the overalls and gave me a good spanking. Mom was right behind him saying, "John, those boys are going to kill themselves with that fool machine!"

I was eight years old in 1927 when I started farming. Dad had me help with the farming by driving a team of horses to pull the farming equipment. We had an old lazy team of Belgian horses named Bill and Nell. Those horses were big but lazy, lazy as could be. I had a stick about four or five foot long with a nail in the end of it. I used this to give them a poke once in awhile to get them to move along.

I remember hauling wheat in 1927 to the Bedford elevator, with Bill and Nell, when the men did the threshing that fall. The elevator was northwest of Stafford and about 1/2 to 1 mile away from our farm. I drove that team down a sandy road with a full load of wheat so those horses had a big job.

After Dad got the listing done in 1927, it came time to sled the ridges down. A sled had two disks on each side and it pulled the dirt back into the furrow. This would cut some weeds and cover up some stubble. Then, they'd generally drag a single disk, tandem disk, or a drag harrow over it before they'd plant it.

My oldest brother, Lawrence, used a two-row sled and took the two outside rows from the three-row lister. I had a one-row sled pulled by those Belgian horses that got the middle row.

During the 1920s my dad had a header to cut the wheat. He also had a header barge which was a wagon with a high rack on one side and a low rack on the other. He used the header to cut the wheat when it was beginning to ripen but was still pretty green. They didn't let it fully ripen like the farmers do today. The team of horses, usually five, stood behind the header and provided the power to push the header forward to cut wheat. That way, the horses didn't trample the wheat down. The cut wheat fell onto a canvas conveyor belt and went to one end of the header. At that point it fell between two more canvas belts and went up an elevator and to the header barge.

Harvest crew on Stude farm near Stafford, ca. 1925. John Stude is second from left.

The header barge was pulled by horses, usually two of them, and it moved alongside the header. Two men, called pitchers, stood inside the header barge. One pitcher was usually in charge of driving the horses, too. They used pitch forks to stack the wheat in the header barge. When the header barge was full, they stopped and stacked the wheat on the ground in large stacks about ten feet wide, fifteen feet long, and ten to twelve feet high. They let the wheat dry and ripen for about 30 days.

When the wheat was ripe and dry, a threshing machine was hauled into the field. The threshing machine was powered by a steam engine. A threshing crew was assembled, usually made up of neighbors helping each other. They used pitchforks to pitch the wheat from the stacks onto a conveyor belt that elevated it up to the thresher. The wheat berries came out a spout and dropped into a wagon. The straw was blown into a stack on the ground by a blower pipe.

The straw was used later for bedding for livestock and for mulch in the garden. They also used straw to insulate the ice houses to keep the ice that was harvested in the winter from thawing too quickly.

In 1929, John and Grace Stude moved their family to Lockport Township, south of Copeland, in Haskell County, Kansas.

I farmed in Stafford County, Haskell County, Meade County, and Gray County during my lifetime. Farming was my joy through the years. I felt like I was just a steward of the land while I farmed it, whether I owned it or rented the land. I appreciated my wife's support through the years, for without that support I know our farming career would not have been as successful as it was.

In 1990 we sold our farmstead in Meade County, south of Copeland, and moved to Dodge City.

Howard Stude also submitted Farming in Gray and Meade Counties and Dirty Thirties and World War II.

"Harvest Tales" is part of the online exhibit, Wheat People:  Celebrating Kansas Harvest.