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What’s still sitting in the back of your sheds?

March 4, 2021

3 Min Read
John Deere 999 planter
WHY 3 BOXES? Your task this month is to determine why this John Deere 999 planter, famous in its day, has three individual row boxes.Tom J. Bechman

The Letz burr mill pictured in the February issue, and displayed on, brought lots of responses. Emails rolled in from everywhere. And many readers took time to call. Thanks to all who responded and shared memories about a machine either they, their father or grandfather once used. Surprisingly, apparently many are still stored in the back of sheds!

Related: Livestock farmers might recognize this tool

The winner drawn for the gift card was Richard Kerlin, Silver Lake, Ind. As a matter of fact, he says he has a PTO version of the burr mill tucked away in his shed. His was used primarily to grind ear corn.

Planting time

Before sharing more on burr mills, look at the planter pictured here. It’s a two-row, John Deere 999 planter, popular in its day. Note that there are three boxes on the planter, not just one for seed corn.

Your job is to report what the three boxes were used for back in the day. Specify what a farmer might have put in the big, medium and small boxes. If more than one person answers correctly, a name will be drawn at random for a gift card.

Send your response to [email protected]. Or you can call 317-431-8766.

Reliving livestock days

Here are comments from some readers about the Letz burr mill:

Letz burr mill model 220 hopper-grinder
RARE FIND: The Letz burr mill pictured in print was a model 220, Type A. The Letz model pictured here is a model 220 hopper-grinder with a wooden elevator for feed transport still attached.

Bill Vieck, Vincennes. “I used two different mills in my younger years. We had one that ran off the PTO with an auger that after it was ground, would auger feed into a wagon next to the grinder. Later, we bought a used one that had the mix tank attached. If you set the plates too close to one another in the mill, and it ran out of corn, it was common to see sparks coming from the plates being too close.”

David Deer, Bargersville. “I’ve got one in the shed my dad used. There are lots of things in his shed — the other day I found a roll of wire and stakes for a check-row corn planter!”

Al Plumlee, Crown Point. “I grew up on a farm in Illinois, and I remember my dad had one. I also remember that if somehow someone let a scoop shovel fall into the hopper, it tore up the burrs!”

Howard Springer, Paoli. “I still have the one dad used. We pulled it with a John Deere model A tractor, using a belt.”

Spencer Aldrich, Mount Vernon. “Grandpa’s had a bagger on it. He ground ear corn, and even ground corn cobs for the chicken houses. An F-12 with a belt pulley ran it. After it was sold a couple times, someone tried to put a PTO on it, but it ran backwards!”

Myron Schafer, La Crosse.  “Both Letz and Helix made farm equipment in Crown Point. Helix was linked to Colby wagons in Ohio. When Letz finally shut down in 1966, my grandpa bought several mills, some with mix tanks, at auction. Some weren’t fully assembled. I remember getting inside those small tanks to put bolts in!”  

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