Northeast of Bloomfield or Southeast of Floris is what might be considered an outdoor museum of not only old farm plows but also old tractors, combines, balers, one-row pickers, hay rakes, running gears, horse-drawn sickle mowers, planters and miscellaneous farm equipment and gadgets too numerous to mention. Oscar Bales and his two sons, Cory and Dan, started collecting old farm plows a few years ago as a way of keeping them out of the scrap pile. If they ran across an old plow at a farm sale, they bought it for little or nothing (the price of scrap) and brought it home to live out its life in glory, on display to the world and any would-be traveler along 160th Street in rural Bloomfield.
Lining 160th Street are 54 or the 160 plows (no two alike). Cory or Dan or Oscar Bales will walk you down the line and give a little history of each. “This one’s a John Deere, this one’s an Oliver. That’s an International One-Bottom. This is a Wonder Plow. If you bought a brand new Farmall F12 back in the day, you got the plow with it. That’s a Case. That’s a Minnie (Minneapolis Moline). That’s a Cockshutt, which is sort of rare. That’s a Sears and Roebuck. That’s a Tumble Bug Plow. It plows the ground in one direction. The whole thing tumbles over and then you go back the same direction you came. There’s a Terrace Plow. Every county was given one of these for making terraces. It has a three-speed transmission hooked to a PTO for driving the auger. First gear is 500 RPMs. It throws the dirt a little ways. Second gear throws it a little further. Third gear really throws the dirt out. There’s one plow we call the ‘I Don’t Know Plow.’ We’re trying to find information on it. There’s a breaking plow for breaking virgin prairie. We have the steel-wheel plows on this end of the line and the rubber-wheel plows on the other. That one is a steel-wheeled Avery. We have another plow we don’t what it is, but call it a Madison. It looks like a John Deere, but there’s no stamp. We move every one of the plows by hand to mow. It takes about an hour.”
He points to a humongous contraption. “That’s a stationary hay baler. It’s supposed to have a great big hit-and-miss engine. Collectors just want the engine — they go for $10,000. A lot of people want us to get the baler running. I tell them to find me an engine. However, you can run the baler with a belt from a tractor.” Cory pulls the tarp off another contraption. “Have you ever seen anything like this?” he asks. I admit I haven’t. “It’s the first four-row planter. It’s two, two-row International planters strapped together.”
Oh, yes. There’s 75-80 old tractors: Case, AC, John Deere, Massey Harris, Shaw, Farmall, Cub, Ford, even their Granddad’s W30 Farmall, with four steel wheels. There’s a “Wartime ‘44H.” It has two fuel tanks: one small tank for gasoline, a larger tank for kerosene. You start the tractor with gasoline and let it warm up. Then you switch over to kerosene. When you’re done, you reverse the process. (I’ve never heard of such a thing.)
4020 John Deere tractors that sold for $6,000 new, now bring $12,000-$15,000 at farm sales. The Bales do not paint the equipment and make it all pretty. The machinery is more valuable with the patina still on.
There’s two husker-shellers — one New Idea and one made of wood.
On holidays, the Bales often park the tractors out by the road for people to ogle at. For a Sunday drive and a little step back in history, take a trip to the Bales’ 160 x 160 x 160 Farm Museum. Their address is 28382 160th Street in Bloomfield. They do farm work in the summer (baling hay, after-all, their name is “Bales”) and equipment restoration in the winter.