Approximately 1948, my Dad bought a power takeoff manure spreader. It was made by Skyline. It was one of the first power takeoff spreaders in our neck of the woods. This meant the power takeoff shaft on the tractor powered the spreader.
Most other spreaders were ground driven. As the wheels turned, this unloaded the manure. These spreaders were not very big and you had to load them in such a way that they did not plug up.
This power takeoff spreader of Dad’s may have worked alright the first year or two, but then things started to go wrong. We had an 8N Ford tractor. We kept the tractor and the manure spreader in the barn in the winter.
During my high school years, it was my job to clean the barn out by hand, once in the morning and once in the evening. This meant taking the load of manure out and spreading it. Some days or nights it was really a challenge due to the cold, windy, snowy conditions, getting stuck, breakdowns, etc.
Anyway, the Skyline spreader got to the point that it would not ratchet or unload like it was supposed to all the time. When this happened, I had to take a pipe wrench and put it on the end of the shaft and help it along. Dad worked on solving this problem and eventually he did.
His solution was to get a direct current motor and mount it so it could drive a belt that drove the shaft when it needed help. This meant there was a wire leading from the battery on the tractor to the motor on the spreader. Probably the first electric over power takeoff spreader in existence. There was a switch on the wire so when help was needed we just flipped the switch. It worked well.
Several years passed and all the bearings had to be replaced. Dad made them out of hard maple boiled in oil. We went through several apron chains which, of course, broke with a full load on. Lots of fun fixing that!
Dad struggled with that spreader for many years. It was his personal challenge to make it work. One day he was making an adjustment on the chain drive to the top beater. In order to do this, the spreader had to be running. He doesn’t know how, but somehow he got his thumb under the chain and between the sprocket. The tractor was idling so it took a while for his thumb to come out the other side of the sprocket. OUCH! Needless to say, it broke his thumb but luckily it didn’t cut it off. Probably because the spreader was worn out.
Eventually, Dad admitted defeat and bought a different spreader. He spent countless hours repairing, rebuilding, adjusting and cussing at the Skyline spreader, which he maintained must have been the only one ever made. Surely the company would not be able to duplicate Rube Goldberg and find some sucker gullible enough to buy it.
You may have wondered about the title of this story. The Hearse. Well, kids think of names, so the spreader was called “The Turd Hearse.” There, now you know the rest of the story!