Down. On the farm.

old gin at Ladd, Arkansas

This old gin at Ladd, Arkansas was built in the late 1800s. The gin machinery was powered by steam. In the 1920s it was removed from service as a gin and has been used for storage since by a plethora of owners. Apparently it was built with the "right stuff."

Most of us enjoy looking at old barns and houses which, despite the ravages of time have managed to remain standing. These structures are monuments to the societal and economic fabric which helped make us what we are, for better or worse. In agricultural communities, there are other remnants of days gone by, to wit: abandoned farm equipment, another part of the living museum one observes in the hinterlands. Before we go much further, may I suggest that you click here and see another view of this old gin and a lilac-covered combine where this epistle started on the Corndancer Photo of the Week page. We’ll wait here.

abandoned tractor and combine

This old tractor and combine, long since abandoned are part and parcel of a farm I found which appeared to have come to a definitive and abrupt stop.

While old rejected tractors and combines don’t have the emotional appeal of old barns and cabins, they still have a story to tell. In March of 2009, I was cruising the roads of northern Lincoln County, Arkansas and happened upon a respectably sized farm through which was scattered a number of farm implements which appeared to have been abandoned in place. From the looks of things, someone said, “OK that’s it,” and everyone dismounted and left. Perhaps it was not quite that dramatic, but the appearance is there.

abandoned combine and grain auger

This abandoned combine and grain auger, are parked in the field where they were probably last used. The opening in the combine behind the cab shows evidence of someone harvesting some parts from the harvester.

Walking off from equipment of this type is no small thing. The combine you see above cost more than most people’s homes. Tractors are not far behind in the pecking order of cost. So while the equipment as it sits now is little more than junk, at one time, it represented a major league investment. We do not know the complete story here, but odds-on, it did not have a happy ending.

Cannabilized tractor

The cultivated fields of the farm were interspersed with patches of pine woods. This old tractor sat near some of those trees. It is older than some of the other equipment I saw. Probably it was cannibalized for parts to keep a similar unit operational.

Lest I give the impression that agriculture in this neck of the woods is all but sunk, hear me say that nothing could be further from the truth. While agriculture is feeling the same economic pinch all of us are experiencing, as an industry it is alive and well. At least in these parts. The face of the industry is different. Like all successful modern pursuits, agriculture takes advantage of cutting edge technology.  Agriculture, however, has one advantage that never changes. To change products, you do not have to rebuild the factory, you plant different seeds.

Combine harvesting soybeans

With the appearance of a horned apparition materializing from a a foreboding fog, this late model combine is harvesting soybeans off Townsend Road near Moscow, Arkansas.

As big as a house and as high-tech as an aircraft, the combine above does its job with great efficiency. However, most combine owners still complain that it is a machine which begins to shake itself apart as soon as you crank it up. But it cuts bean bushes, separates the beans from stalks and hulls and spits the latter out the back while storing the former in its innards. All so you can have margarine, cooking oil, and the gazillion other things that come from soybeans.


Each week we put all of our Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures along with the ones we did not publish anywhere else in a special pictures only gallery. Click here to go there and see for yourself.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Bean men

If you’ve arrived here from the Corndancer dot com Photo of the Week, this continues the saga. If you’ve arrived here independently of the original story, and your curiosity is piqued, you can check it out here.

Eight row combine harvesting soybeans north of Gillette, Arkansas. John Cover's college senior nephew is at the wheel.

John Cover had every right to be more than curious about the unknown pickup parked near his field and the stranger with a camera who was photographing his nephew operating a combine, harvesting soy beans in the field. I explained that I was gathering information for a weekly picture-story internet column, and that I had high hopes of finding someone cutting beans. Once he was satisfied, his gentlemanly demeanor  and well-honed conversational skills quickly became evident.

John Cover hitches a ride on the way to pull his mired 18 wheeler to dry ground. He is riding on the back of Scott Place's fully functional, restored '49 International Harvester KB5 Super dooly bob truck.

John showed up at the field driving an 18 wheeler consisting of a tandem axle Mack truck and an empty grain trailer. While trying to negotiate the tight turn from a hard surface highway to a turn-row next to the field, the right drive wheels of the tractor became mired in a mud hole. This sort of thing is to be expected and happens in the best of families. During our conversation, John whipped out his cell phone, called Scott Place, a relative, and asked Scott to come to his rescue.

’49 “binder” to the rescue

Scott arrived shortly in a well restored, fully operational 1949 International Harvester KB 5 Super dooly bob truck, a vehicle you just don’t see every day. The truck was well equipped as a quintessential farm operation support vehicle. Its trappings included a visible cutting torch setup, fuel tank, oil tank and welder. No doubt the tool boxes contain a plethora of tools, chains, cables and every other imaginable device one might require to keep the wheels of agricultural progress turning.

The "binder" makes short work of pulling the Mack free of the mud hole. The term "binder" was a nickname, even a term of endearment for International Harvester trucks. The term has recently fallen to disuse, due to the restructuring of the International Harvester company.

The "binder" makes short work of pulling the Mack out of the mud hole. "Binder" is a nickname, perhaps even a term of endearment, for International Harvester trucks. The term has fallen into disuse since the International Harvester company was restructured.

This was not John and Scott’s first rodeo when it came to pulling a stuck truck from a mud hole. Without a lot of conversation, knowing exactly what needed to be done, they hooked the tow chain in just the right places on both trucks. Seconds later, the deed was done and the Mack was on dry land. The big Mack proceeded down the turn row to receive recently harvested beans from engorged combines.

The agony of moisture

The Producers Rice Mill Dixie Dryer north of John Cover's fields is huge/

The Producers Rice Mill Dixie Dryer. It's huge.

At the turn row, the trucks are filled with beans. From here, they will probably to go storage and subsequently to a dryer similar to the Producers Rice Mill Dixie Dryer you see to the left. To give you an idea of the size of this giant facility, take a look a look at the small black dot at the bottom of the orange structure in the center of the picture. That dot is the door to the weigh house. Compare the height of the door to the tallest point of the building. It’s not a stretch to say it’s more than 12 stories tall. Agriculture in this neck of the woods is big. Products are shipped to the world from here.

Moisture content is a big deal with beans. Growers are generally penalized if their beans have too much moisture. After all, water weighs in at 8.34 pounds per gallon. Bean buyers are much more interested in buying beans than water. So you add moisture content to the “when to cut equation.” Cut too soon and the moisture content is too high. Wait too long and a big rain comes which keeps you out of the fields.

Soy beans, up close and personal

On the vine ready to harvest and fresh from the combine.

Soy beans. Left, on the vine ready to harvest; right, fresh from the combine, ready for the next steps in a long trip.

Presuming that not all readers have easy access to soy beans, it is my bounden duty to elucidate those not so privileged. To the left you see a handy soy bean composite. On the left side of the picture, you see some soy beans ready to harvest. To the right, you see what comes out of the combine. Hundreds of products contain soy beans or compounds extracted from soy beans. All of our homes benefit from this tiny legume, thanks to the likes of John Cover, his family and thousands just like them. Thanks folks.

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