For the Lamp Post January 15, 2015
No, that’s not the name of the bird that just pooped on your car window.
At Lathrop east campus, we really do have an old farm manure spreader. It sits, abandoned and rusting, at the end of the Mulberry Lane fire lane. You can walk down to see it.
Our manure spreader would have been pulled by a tractor. A metal tag on the machine tells us it carries ten patents, filed from 1962 through 1976. People have been spreading manure on their fields for thousands of years, but here they were, still making improvements.
Some of the patents are by a guy named Orvie Daubenberger, born in 1912 in Iowa. An online search shows he sold his patent to Sperry Rand and eventually retired to Arizona, so farming and inventing worked out fine for him. The spreader was made in New Holland, PA, by the E.Z Manufacturing company, which today makes parts for trucks.
The huge tires of our spreader not only moved it across the field; they also powered gears, a drive shaft, and, at the back, curved paddles that would scoop the poop from the bed of the spreader and strew it onto the field. The curved shape of those paddles is the subject of one of the patents. I can just picture Orvie in his straw hat, out in the field with his old spreader, looking at the old-style paddles and thinking, hmmm….
Our Lathrop farmer invested a lot of money in this huge, up-to-date, beautiful red spreader. However, during the 1970’s, due to development and competition from commercial agriculture, family farming was declining in the Valley. Farmers, or their heirs, donated or sold the several farms that contribute to our current Easthampton lands. Now the only manure spreaders on our land are the bears, bobcats, foxes, and, yes, the birds, nourished by our fields, forests, and wetlands.