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The longer days are causing spring fever. Here are some pictures from last spring of a horse-drawn McCormick model M grain drill, 20-6, (20 seeders, 6” apart) with the high steel 6” wide wheels, and double disk seeders. Total width is about 12 feet. The hitch and other features make this a horse-drawn unit according to the manual. This machine has been in the family, and in continuous use, since sometime in the 1930’s. As this is mainly cattle and alfalfa country, it has planted 10 to 50 acres of grain about every year, but rarely had to plant more than 150 acres in any given year. An alfalfa crop only needs re-planted every 7 or 8 years.

For first 40 years, grandpa and great-grandpa used it on their home place, and stored it in a shed in the off seasons. For a 20 year period between the mid-70’s until the mid-90’s, it was bounced around and shared between 3 and sometimes 4 different operations owned by different branches of the family, and occasionally a neighbor would borrow it. These operations were up to 20 miles apart. The old drill would get towed up the highway, waddling along with one wheel in the ditch. It may not have had the greatest care in this time. Like most common property, “the next guy will take care of it”.

When I was about 14 or 15 I rebuilt the wooden hitch one weekend. A year or so later, I welded one of the axles that had broken while in a field. I kept it clamped and rotated it carefully to make sure it didn’t warp. Later that spring I was the flagcar following the machine home, and I observed that the axle I welded ran true, while the other wheel wobbled. After this, I adopted the machine. I made sure the drill made it back home after everybody’s spring planting, and that the grain box was cleaned out and covered. One spring a neighbor borrowed it, and it got towed across a cattle guard with a couple of the drags not tied up properly. This broke a couple of the seeder disk units. I was able to weld the cast iron pieces together. But one of the disk units cracked, and fell off in the neighbor’s field. As we never got it back, I grafted a single disk seeder from an old Minneapolis Monitor drill in its place. And it’s still there (about 15 years now). When I bought my own place about 10 years ago, the old drill went with me to plant grain until I could get my formerly neglected fields in a decent condition to plant alfalfa. It now lives in a shed again.
Last spring a larger field needed re-planting, so I put the drill in the shop to go thru it. The main items on my list were to work over the grain box, seed tubes and paint the wooden parts. However, there ended up being a lot of metal work, tightening and replacing bolts and broken rivets, and adjusting braces and keepers. One of the disks on the double disk seeder had been missing for many years. I found a 13.5” seeder disk from Agri-Supply that I adapted. I planned on painting the seed box, but didn’t intend to paint the wheels and frame. And then a late snowstorm in mid-April made another couple weekends in the shop sound pretty good, so I kept on sanding and painting. Note, this work is not intended to be a restoration, just a thorough field-ready preparation.
The 12 foot width of the machine was likely cussed in the 30’s and 40’s as it required gates to be widened, and took up nearly an entire shed in the off-season. It also required 4 horse on the steeper fields. However, the size is probably what kept it from getting abandoned on a rock pile in favor of a bigger machine in the 60’s and 70’s.
In summary, we all buy the best equipment we can afford or find. Most of us have a favorite brand or even a particular model we use and love. We trust it will serve us a long time with reasonable issues. Or in some cases, because you know it will break down, and are confident you can fix it as often as needed (like a pickup with a carburetor instead of fuel injection). Many of us do maintenance religiously, using only the best oil, filters, etc. And all of this is to get a long service life out of our equipment. How about 85 to 90 years of service?
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· Super Moderator
9,148 Posts
A very nice drill, tractor, and post. Thanks for showing us some of your nice equipment.

· Administrator
4,893 Posts
That's a nice old drill. It's great that it's been family owned and you know it's whole history.
I can't recall how many times fixing one thing led to another, then finding another, till the whole piece gets redone.
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