I baled hay once as a teen where the farmer used a hay trolley to lift and convey the bales into the barn instead of an elevator. It worked pretty slick. The farmer used a little Ford tractor to pull the bales up, instead of a team of horses, but everything else was the same as turn-of-the-century hay conveying. The farmer had us teens in the barn stacking bales. He was adamant about us not standing under the bales before they dropped, about eight at a time. Good advice.
I've made different sculptures out of hay trolley parts—mainly big spiders using the hay forks as legs, motorcycles out of trolleys, and banana holders out of hole hooks.
Bill and Angie Anderson ran an antique store in Downing, MO. Bill's pretty creative and handy with a cutting torch and welder. Besides making benches from the front end of cars and trucks, he makes chandeliers out of hay trolley parts. Super cool. I bought a hay-trolley chandelier for Ginnie for her birthday. She loves it! It's quite unique.
Anywho, I text Bill to see if he was coming to the Greater Iowa Swap Meet in Mt. Pleasant, where I first met him. He said, “Naw, I'm hosting the 17th Annual Hay-Tool Swap Meet at our barn next week in Downing, and am getting ready for that.” I asked if we could come. He said, “Why, shore.”
Their big red barn on the east side of Downing is visible for a couple of miles. He built it himself from a pole barn, tearing down nine barns for lumber and sawing over two semi loads of beetle-kill pine logs. (This is all a little amazing since Bill almost died in a car accident a few years ago and had to be resuscitated at the scene. The doctor told him he might never walk and talk again. But like a reliable hay trolley, Bill just keeps on roll'n.) Their barn now serves as a farm equipment museum and their home. It's 97' x 46' (minimum) and has two stories. I asked what the square footage was and he shot me his pat answer, “All of'm.” You do the math.
Lordy! Talk about hay-trolleys and other miscellaneous farm parts and equipment! There were collectors from all over the country, including Canada. A running head count for the three-day event was 350 people, culminating in an auction on Saturday. Some of those hay trolleys bring over $2,000 each. There were a lot of Amish there also. I wondered if they still used the trolley system for conveying bales. Bill said, “Nope. The Amish are collectors, too.”
Louden Machinery Company, that used to be in Fairfield, Iowa, is the king of the hay-trolley world. Louden owned the first patent for a hay trolley in 1867.
Bill has about 275 trolleys in his private collection in their barn/museum/home. Six of the trolleys are wooden. One of them is very rare. There are only five in the world that they know of.
What got Bill really serious about hay trolleys was that he had one he really liked and wanted to keep. One of his customers saw and wanted to buy it. Bill said no. Well, the guy came back and offered Bill $500. Bill and Angie were in a tight spot so Bill sold it. But he got to wondering why the guy had offered so much. Bill researched the trolley and found out that in reality, it was worth $1,500. That did it. Bill became book smart about trolleys real fast.
Bill and Angie Anderson are becoming well known nationally. Some of his unique creations, like car-and-truck benches are in the MGM Studio in Beverly Hills, CA and the Dallas-Ft. Worth Stock yards. Just this year “Farm Collector” magazine did a major article on Bill's hay trolleys.
Life is interesting when you're retired (busy, full-time). I never dreamed Ginnie and I would attend a hay-trolley swap meet. But after going to a Corn Item Collectors meeting earlier this year, what the hay? The Kahoka, Missouri Mule Festival is coming up September 14-16. I'm sure we'll go to that, too. Ginnie is Missouri stubborn and has to be shown.
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