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Tales of a Hay Hauler: The good old days? Maybe not so much ….

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 30 August 2019

I survived, among other things over the years, riding home from Preston, Idaho, 16 miles to Mink Creek atop bagged grain that was loaded in the back of Dad’s 1948 or ’49 Ford F-3 pickup.

I was 4 or 5 years old at the time. My mother was driving, and my aunt Gloria was riding in front with her. I had a couple of cousins on top of the load with me.

I was with Dad one day in that pickup, and we stopped near the log house (now doing granary duty). It was under that roof, years before, that Dad was born in 1915. One of my older cousins was there, and I remember asking about the sound coming from the far side of my cousin’s car. We went to look, and the sound was the air escaping from a nail hole in one of his tires.

Another day, Dad had stopped to talk to a fellow driving a Dodge pickup of about the same age as our Ford. I asked Dad, as we drove away, why the Dodge pickup had two tires on each side in the back and ours only had one. I still remember the “that’s a strange question coming from a 5-year-old” look on Dad’s face. Then he explained the tires on our pickup were larger, so we only needed one instead of two. I remember pondering the whys and wherefores of tires on pickups all the way home.

Not long after Dad bought the truck, he took it back to the dealer because at highway speed it would make a whirring, whistling sound (at 45 or 50 miles per hour). Dad said the dealer test drove it, then the mechanic got a pair of pliers, reached behind the grill in front of the radiator and slightly tweaked or bent the back edge of both sides of each rectangular bar that made the grill.

“We’ve had a few of these that want to whistle. If that doesn’t cure it, give it a little more twist,” explained the mechanic as he closed the hood.

The pickup went away when Dad needed a bigger truck to move us across southern Idaho to Parma.

Twenty-some years later, I found another F-3 because it had a different grill (’51 or ’52 model). It had Henry’s legendary flathead V-8 engine and the equally legendary grinder-box four-speed transmission.

Compared to my memories of Dad’s F-3, this one rode rougher, made more noise and wouldn’t go fast enough. It was geared to cruise at about 45 miles per hour. Planning to haul a few heavy loads in it, I replaced the rear tires. The only ones I could find were a highway tread. Unloaded, if there was a cloud in the sky – let alone a raindrop within 5 miles, I’d be stuck.

Like Dad’s F-3, this one went away in a trade when I needed to put a larger truck in service – a Ford C-600 with the shoebox shaped tilt cab. A 1958 model, I got it cheap because the engine had a miss in it that we correctly (luckily) diagnosed as a burned valve. Thinking it was the Ford 292 cubic-inch engine, whilst looking for parts, I was delighted to find it was actually the larger 332 cubic-inch heavy truck engine. It was the Lincoln engine that had heavy-duty tweaks added so it would survive wide-open throttle operation all day.

With a salvage yard cylinder head, it ran fine. It even had the five-speed transmission (as opposed to the standard four-speed) and a two-speed rear axle. Now I could haul locally sourced hay to my dairy cows. The big (for its day) V-8 engine had a robust, thumping, powerful sound to it and felt like it could climb any hill. Then I broke an axle. Luckily, I was unloaded and close to home when it snapped.

The axle shaft shrapneled as it broke, leaving about an eighth-inch chunk of it wedged solidly inside the axle tube. It took me about a month of every spare minute to get that obstinate chunk of steel out of the housing. I pulled the opposite side-axle shaft out and hammered with a long bar to drive it out.

From the other end I chipped away at the piece I could see. I welded two 6011 welding rods together to get enough length to reach inside the axle tube housing and melt the bigger pieces into smaller chunks that I could pull out. Then with one mighty swing of the sledgehammer the ignorant piece flew out of the housing. (The next county over heard me cheer.)

Searching for parts from salvage yards, the axle was identified as originally being under a 1938 International Harvester truck. With the beast back together, I was gentler on the throttle.

I suppose we need some reality checks as we reminisce about the “good old days,” like I had a major dose of when I got my own F-3. Seems I was only recalling the pleasant memories. Yes, we made things work, even trucks cobbled together by previous owners. But I think I’ll pass on going back and living in those “good old days.” I’ve become accustomed to things like flush toilets, synchronized transmissions and air conditioning.  end mark