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Take a walk down memory lane: 1950s IH No. 64 combine

TAGS: Farm Life
Commentary: This slideshow of an antique combine illustrates that next to today’s machines, there is no comparison in technology.

During late summer 2020, I sat in the cab of a Case IH Axial-Flow 9250 combine equipped with so much automation, you can put in parameters for grain quality and the combine will determine internal settings itself.

Just four days later, I stood in the Hancock County Agricultural Museum in Britt, Iowa, staring at an International Harvester McCormick No. 64 pull-type combine, like the first combine I remember my dad using. I was planning to do a story of a virtual walk-around of the new Case IH Axial-Flow 9250. Immediately, I decided I would do a walk-around of the McCormick 64, as well. The comparison would be striking.

The walk-around of the latest Case IH combine model appeared on this website a couple of weeks ago. As far as I can see, the old machine and the new machine have two things in common: They’re both painted red, and both can harvest wheat and soybeans.

Dad’s McCormick No. 64

The pull-type combine with a canvas was well used when my dad bought it. Dad wasn’t a mechanic, and he passed his lack of mechanical prowess on to me.

Unfortunately, our No. 64 PTO-driven combine broke a lot, especially by the time I was old enough to be in the field with Dad. He knew more than a few cuss words, and he typically used all of them before he had a chain pieced back together or a bearing replaced.

One of my earliest memories with that old combine is getting it ready to run wheat one hot summer morning. Dad hooked it to the John Deere 620 and pulled it under a shade tree in the pasture near the wheat field, where he banged around on it all morning. Occasionally, he pulled out the faded, grimy owner’s manual, then got some wrenches and attempted to loosen a couple of nuts so he could adjust a setting. They were often stuck. Technically, WD-40 was invented by then, but we hadn’t found out about it yet!

By the late 1960s, my dad finally persuaded his landlord, who owned half the harvesting equipment, that it was time to find a different combine, which they did — a used John Deere 42 pull-type combine.

My best friend’s dad was selling his dairy herd and equipment to concentrate on working full time off the farm, for International Harvester, no less. Our worn-out No. 64 found its way into the auction and sold for $35, to a junk dealer!

I can’t say I shed any tears. That makes my wife, Carla, wonder why I spend good money to buy toy models of McCormick combines similar to the one we had. What can I say? Nostalgia will do that to you. We tend to remember the good things from the old days, not the frustrating moments.

Hey, if they make a toy Case IH Axial-Flow 9250, I’ll probably buy it, too. It will remind me of when I got to sit in the cab of a machine that even my dad would have appreciated!

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