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Brainerd lakes area brothers realize 50-year-old dream

Dave, Tim, Alvin, Gary and Eddie Schubert put in more than 150 hours restoring a 1938 John Deere hay loader that was sitting unused since the 1960s.

People working with a hay loader.
Schubert family members and friends work with a restored 1938 John Deere hay loader.
Contributed / Bethany Schubert-Bertram
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BRAINERD — In the late 1960s the oldest of five Schubert brothers, Dave, came home from an assignment in the U.S. Army, was newly married, farming and started an auction business.

Brothers stand next to a 1938 John Deere hay loader.
Alvin, left, Eddie, Tim and Dave Schubert stand next to the 1938 John Deere hay loader they restored.
Contributed / Bethany Schubert-Bertram

At one of these auctions, he paid $5 to John Schley for a 1938 John Deere A306 hay loader that he immediately put to use on his farm about 15 miles south of Brainerd. He said the family used the machine, saving grueling manual labor for a few years, until modern balers came out, saving yet more time and effort. That’s when Dave parked the auction baler against the fence line where it sat weathering through seasons that turned into years and then decades, collecting layers of dirt and rust.

Meanwhile, Dave’s youngest brother by 23 years, Tim, said he remembered playing as a kid on the baler at the edge of the field. When all of the five brothers were together one night in 2019 with their families at the home of Eddie, another Schubert brother, one of Dave’s granddaughters, Nikki, saw the machine and asked whether someone could dig it out so she could use it as a flower box.

“I’d like to see that thing run one more time before I croak,” Dave replied.

By the end of the night, a decision was made. Tim committed to taking on the project.

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After decades of sitting in the field, the baler sank so much and dirt blew around it that it was buried down to the axles. Tim first involved brother Gary, who used his backhoe to dig the loader out of the field and haul it to Tim’s garage, where the tedious process of cleanup would take place.

Tim described the grueling labor of love that followed: More than 150 hours taking the baler apart piece by piece, loosening 200 worn and stripped rubble catches, sandblasting, rubbing rust off, finding the perfect John Deere green color match and repainting the machine bit by bit. All of the brothers live within a 5 mile radius of one another and Tim said he wasn’t alone in the work — each of the brothers, including Eddie and Alvin, had a hand in it. Dave made new wood shaker slats to push the hay up, and family friend Warren Barnes and Tim’s brother-in-law Curt Plante contributed. Nearly three years after the commitment was made in Eddie’s kitchen, the work was completed at Trobec’s Bus Garage in St. Joseph in January 2022.

Hay Day

Horses pulling a hay loader.
A team of Belgian horses, driven by Brandon Tautges, pull a restored 1938 John Deere hay loader July 9 while Mike Schubert and Paul Pulak rake hay into a wagon.
Contributed / Bethany Schubert-Bertram

On Saturday, July 9, it was a humid 80 degrees and Dave and his wife Beverly hosted 50 to 60 family members, neighbors and close friends in one of their fields for the first demonstration of the baler since Dave parked it more than five decades ago.

The two-hour event started with Dave’s oldest son, Greg, raking hay with a team of Percherons. Dave’s youngest son Mike and family friend Paul Pulak had pitchforks and were assigned the job of stacking the hay while another team of Belgian horses led by Brandon Tautges pulled the hay loader for the first time.

When Dave was asked how he felt seeing it in action, he said, “Tim was worried it wasn’t going to work. I wasn’t concerned about that at all — it worked the last time we used it.”

Others had an opportunity to try their hand at raking and loading. The youngest was 3-year-old Colter, who enjoyed working alongside his great-grandpa Dave.

Seeing the generations come together and an old piece of machinery put to use was eye-opening for a lot of the people there, Dave said.

“The young kids seeing it will remember that (day) for the rest of their life, otherwise it’s just a machine that they really didn’t understand how it worked,” he said. “A lot of people were surprised by the actual mechanics of it.”

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Tim validated that point.

“I’ve never seen one operate before. I had no idea about the concept of it,” Tim said, adding that before reconstructing the hay loader, “I had to look it up … to see it work.”

Dave’s wife Beverly ended the day with a sloppy Joe lunch that gave everyone a chance to comment on what they’d seen and reminisce about the harder days of farming and how modern conveniences have changed things.

“It feels good in the heart to work on a project and see it come through,” Tim said.

Dave added: “All in all, it was a good day. I feel good. It was a nice turnout. The people all enjoyed it. They (the brothers) got compliments. They made me feel pretty good. (I’m) pretty close to getting a tear in my eye when I think about it.”

Historical Notes

  • Started in production 1938-1941, original price was $99.
  • Tim’s research shows that there are only about three or four balers of this sort left in the U.S. and Canada
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