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Back in the day

Slayton man keeps the tradition of old-time farming alive with day of demonstrations

October 22, 2011
Story, photo by Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

RURAL SLAYTON

Corncobs flew from a cornfield on Vince Crowley's farm in rural Slayton as friends and members of his family tossed them into a horse-drawn wagon, driven by Crowley's grandson Travis Spartz.

For the last 10 years, Crowley has invited friends, neighbors, family and others out to his place for the day to see what farming was like back in the olden days with horse-powered equipment and hand-picking corn.

Article Photos

Ross Engelkes lobs a cob of corn toward the wagon Saturday at Vince Crowley’s farm in rural Slayton. For the last decade, Crowley has invited family and friends to his place for the day to show what farming was like back in the day with handpicking corn and using horse power.

"Vince tries to do this each fall," said Dale Pavlis, one of Crowley's friends. "He likes to show the younger generation what it used to be like."

And it brings relatives from all around the state.

"We all come down from the Cities," said Valerie Crowley of Maple Grove, one of Vince's extended family members.

Usually Crowley has everyone out at the farm when the corn is dry enough to pick. Those old and young are eager to lend a hand, including a couple of young boys, Aidan Dierks and Ross Engelkes. The two gathered up armloads of dried-out cobs and threw them into the wagon.

"I got more than you Aidan," Engelkes told Dierks.

"It's a lost art," Crowley said about picking corn by hand. "People did it in the '30s for a cent a bushel."

He remembers how one could pick all day long, earning $2 for 100 bushels. He never got close to getting 100 bushels, Crowley said.

Although they may not have picked all day, let alone 100 bushels, Engelkes, Dierks and the other hand pickers had fun flinging the corn toward Spartz in the wagon.

"The corn keeps going, the corn keeps going," Engelkes said.

Spartz said he remembered corn picking contests on his grandfather's farm back in the 1980s.

"They were serious pickers," both Spartz and Crowley said.

A few minutes later, Kevin Crowley swung by the cornfield with a picker to gather up any stray cobs.

"(There was) never a machine that saved more time than a corn picker," said Frank Post of Chandler.

Post, along with Laddie Carda, a retired schoolteacher, were helping handpick the corn. Carda was born in South Dakota and his father was a farmer.

"(It's nice) to see that there's (older) equipment out there that's operating," Carda said. "There aren't that many things around like this if you think of it."

Case Vos and Ernie Engelkes helped Crowley with the day as well.

"We've helped him all year," Vos said.

Ernie Engelkes said Crowley has been with the threshing shows he has at his place since they've started.

For one of the demonstrations, Jerry Fleace of Round Lake had a team of horses hitched to a wagon lift, which eventually brings the corn to where it will be stored.

Crowley said a little patch of cornfield is used for the demonstrations. Then the corn is used to feed his horses during the winter.

Besides showing how a team of horses is used in the corn-picking process, other equipment demonstrations are done throughout the day, includes an antique baler. A pulley of sorts is placed between the baler and a Farmall tractor to run the baler. Crowley said he bought the old baler, which was taken out of a grove, from a man more than 20 years ago.

"It was rusted to high heaven," Crowley said. Crowley said the man who sold him the baler said he won't get it going. Crowley was determined to get the baler running.

"It took me two years to get it to move a little bit," he said. And on Saturday, it was running smoothly as several men demonstrated how the piece of machinery baled hay, using wire ties.

Spartz said he's been helping his grandfather with the old-time farming demonstrations for "as long as I can remember."

"I enjoy doing it," Spartz said. "Everybody comes back to make it work."

"It's nice to keep the tradition going," Spartz added.

 
 

 

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