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One of the most interesting parts of my job is looking through old bearing catalogs. The USA has a long and interesting manufacturing history and looking through those old catalogs is like looking through how the Midwest was built.
A couple of these catalogs, I have put online: one from the 1930's and one from the 1960's. In those catalogs are the names of dozens of companies, some of which are long gone, some of which are still around and some of which are still around but are now part of a much bigger corporation. I have spent many minutes perusing those old catalogs regretting the fact that our economy today can't support as much diversity as our much smaller economy of the 1950's.
Sometimes I get interesting calls from people looking for bearings for these old tractors. One guy was looking for bearings for his WWII-era Minneapolis Moline plow. The bearings had all rotted away and he could give me dimensions but not a part number. I searched in vain and he later called me back to say that—because of metal shortages during the war—they had used wooden bearings or bushings. They say necessity is the mother of invention and the “greatest generation” may have been the greatest because their every need couldn't be met by a few clicks on Amazon.
I have a lot of respect for these people trying to keep this part of our heritage alive and I am always excited when I can sell a bearing for an old tractor.
One recent customer (Bruce from Brainerd) inherited an old farm and with it an old tractor that he has restored. The tractor is smaller, reflecting the smaller farms that used to make up the bulk of all farms in this country. It's a lot of work to restore an old tractor and I can only imagine the kind of research that needs to go into it. It takes a special kind of person because—I would imagine—the spiritual rewards of bringing this old equipment back to life must be much greater than the monetary rewards.
In addition to old tractors, there are a lot of deer on this old farm that Bruce inherited. In addition to too many deer, Bruce also noticed too many soldiers coming home from the wars who are having trouble re-integrating into society. The U.S. is actively at war in locations all over the world and war is hell. These soldiers coming back are having all kinds of mental health issues.
But Bruce has noticed that a day in a tree stand, breathing fresh air and being out in nature is doing a lot of good for these vets, as is the feeling of accomplishment from a successful hunt. I don't where the old tractor and the bearings fit into this narrative, but I like what Bruce is doing: preserving some of the best parts of our past and serving the young veterans that are part of our present and future.
That's what makes America great.
Note: if you recognize the tractor in this picture and are trying to restore one like it, or if you know a veteran in the greater Brainerd area who would benefit from a day on Bruce's farm, feel free to contact bearings.parts and I will try to put you in touch.