Here’s a story of the joy a farmer had when he got a new corn picker after World War II… and of where the few bucks to pay for it were hidden.
The story comes from Gary Swensen, Yankton, S.D.
“During the war,” Gary writes, “automobile production stopped and farm implement production almost stopped due to the shortage of materials.
“My father, Luvern Swensen, was, like many others, on a waiting list for a new tractor. He finally was able to purchase one in 1946. Even though it came with no electric starter or lights and with no rubber tires front or back, Dad was still happy.
“Dad tried to join the military during the war but was refused three times, just as was our neighbor Clifford Currier, because, the government said, ‘We can not take everyone as we need farmers to feed the troops.’
“Clifford was a very hard-working farmer, like my dad, but he had a very special knack for business and was somewhat well off financially. My cousin said many times that everything Clifford touched turned to gold.”
Now, in 1947, Gary says, his dad didn’t own a corn picker, so he was picking his 160 acres by hand. Ah, but friend Clifford had an old two-row Oliver side pull picker. “I think many of you know how wide and cumbersome they were, knocking down four rows of corn instead of only two when they opened up lands,” Gary says.
One day Clifford called Luvern to tell him his (Clifford’s) name had come up for a new corn picker, but it was in Rapid City, S.D., and the two farmers lived near Yankton, about 400 miles away.
“Now Clifford had somehow just bought two brand-new M Farmall tractors, one for him and one for his wife,” Gary says. “So Clifford, knowing that Dad had no picker, made him an offer: He said, ‘Luvern, if you come along to Rapid City and help me bring the new IH picker back and then help me mount it on one of the Ms, I will pick your corn for FREE!’
“Dad was elated to say the least and agreed.
“Now they both milked cows by hand, so Clifford said that after they finished milking Friday night, they’d leave with his 2-ton truck and head for Rapid City, driving all night, after arranging for neighbors to milk their cows while they were gone.
“So they took off in the dark,” Gary continues. “But Dad said the truck was going so slow it felt as though it was loaded, to which Clifford replied, ‘Yah, I made a deal with a guy on the phone just before we left to bring him a load of corn, and we’d unload it in Winner, S.D. (about halfway to Rapid City). Dad said he just shook his head.”
But they dumped the load at Winner and went on to Rapid City, getting there just as the sun was coming up. There the guys found a shiny red IH corn picker on the loading dock.
“The owner said, ‘You guys must be hungry,’” Gary says; ‘There is a great place to eat across the street.’ So Dad and Clifford walked over and watched from the window of the cafe as men loaded the new picker on the truck.
“They quickly walked back over, and the dealer said, ‘All you need to do is pay me $2,500 and you can be on your way.’
“Now, to the surprise of the dealer and my dad, Clifford did not reach in his wallet for the cash. He simply went back to the old truck and tilted the seat ahead, and behind the seat were $100 bills wrapped with a rubber band.
“The dealer said, ‘If I had known that was back there, I might have taken it.’ But Clifford said, ‘I was watching every move you made while I was eating across the street.’
“Dad told me Clifford peeled off 25 $100 bills, and it did not even make a dent in the pile of money wrapped in the rubber band.
“After he paid the dealer, he put the rest of the money behind the seat again.”
A real deal
Back home, Clifford told Luvern, “When you are finished milking your cows Sunday, we will put the new picker on the M tractor.”
“So after the milking was done,” Gary says, “Dad drove in Clifford’s driveway about the same time Clifford came out of his barn with two 5-gallon pails with a BIG smile on his face.
“Dad looked around and saw both new M Farmalls, the old Oliver side pull corn picker and the old truck they had hauled the new picker home in. But one thing was missing: the NEW corn picker.
“Dad asked Clifford where it was.
“Clifford said, ‘A guy called my wife just after we left for Rapid City, said he was desperately in need of a new corn picker, and had heard through the grapevine I was bringing a new one back on Sunday.’
“Clifford said that after he’d dropped Dad off, he went home to find this man in his driveway.
“Well, after some negotiating and lots of cash offers — $5,000, to be exact — Clifford said he sold the picker!
“Well, Dad said, ‘I guess I would be smiling, too, if I doubled my money!’
“But with the new corn picker gone, Dad asked Clifford how he was going to pick his (Luvern’s) corn as he had promised.
“Clifford said, ‘I will still pick it for free, just with the old Oliver side pull,’ and he did.”
That ends the story of the two neighbors’ corn picker and corn picking experience.
Gary says his dad and Clifford “were friends for life, doing all sorts of wild things no one else would tackle.”
And Gary adds this church story about his dad and Clifford.
They and their families attended the same church. But they never had perfect attendance, because they felt the farm and the animals came first.
“One time,” Gary says, “Dad asked the pastor if they were wrong working on Sunday.
“The pastor said, ‘Luvern, Clifford, the Sabbath was made for man; man was not made for the Sabbath…’”
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