Unique farm antiques draw questions and interest at Fall Fest

Gloria Hafemeister
Carl Friesch, Sullivan, displayed his unique collection of horn weights at Harnischfeger Park at Ashippun last week and shared stories about how these pieces are used to shape the horns on cattle.

ASHIPPUN – Carl Friesch has been collecting unusual farm items for almost 30 years and in that time he has learned all about things like horn weights, hog oilers, corn huskers and bull leaders. 

It seems that everybody at the shows has a story to share and those who don’t are full of questions about what these unique items are and why anyone would want them.

Last week Friesch visited Harnischfeger Park in Dodge County during Fall Fest where he featured horn weights and bull rings. His collection includes numerous brands, sizes and styles. These unique pieces were once very popular on cattle farms to train the horns to curve downward.

Why curve the horns? Those who use them say curved horns are safer for other cattle and for those who are working with the cattle.

Weights vary depending on the size of the animal and its horns and are placed on the ends of the horn and tightened with screws. A locking mechanism on the inside holds the weights firmly in place. There are two tiny little points on the inside of the weight to help keep the horn weight on, but those are quite small.

A handful of visitors eying these unique pieces remember a time when their grandparents paid them for each weight they found in the corrals. They say their grandparents had used horn weights on quite a few bulls, increasing the possibility of some of the devices coming loose and then falling to become lost.

It is the stories like that, shared at antique farm equipment shows and community festivals that make collecting so interesting, Friesch says.

The Sullivan man says he enjoys coming to the shows and learning more about the items he collects. He points out that there are collectors who have more in their collections than he has and he enjoys seeing those collections and learning about the companies that make these pieces.

Besides collecting horn weights he also collects a curious device called a hog oiler.

His vast collection of hog oilers invariably peaks the interest of show-goers who pepper him with questions about the wide variety of his collection and the item's purpose. It isn't unusual for him to field questions like: “How many ways are there to oil a hog/" or "Why would you want to do that anyway?”

According to the Sullivan collector, pigs don’t perspire and their hides would crack and dry out without some oil. When that happens the animals may become plagued with problems caused by insects. He points out that is the reason why pigs generally like to wallow in mud or water. The oilers help to keep the skin soft and lubricated.

The oilers in his collection date back to the early 1900’s but he says there are actually about 200 different styles of oilers.

Oilers are not used much anymore as modern facilities are better suited to providing the relief pigs require for their dry hides.

Besides the horn weights, bull leaders, and oilers, Friesch also collects hand held corn huskers, slush buckets and some pieces of farm equipment. When he comes to a show he likes to bring whatever he thinks might be unique at the particular event.

Old-time corn huskers, choppers and shellers were demonstrated at another area of the Harnischfeger Park near the old barn and silo that the Friends of the Dodge County Parks are currently working to restore.

Lavern Schmitz of Richfield was on hand to demonstrate several unique corn cutters dating back to the late 1800’s.

Among those in the collection were a Lever Cutter No. 8 made in 1893; a Belle City Mfg. Co. Racine Section Cutter No. 5, with the name A.M. Forrester;  a No. 1 Champion Feed Cutter, made by Henry Boehmer in a Mayville, WI foundry.

Throughout the Harnischfeger Park visitors had an opportunity to learn how crops were harvested generations ago. Children particularly enjoyed following behind the old-time potato harvester, picking what they find to take home for supper.

Throughout the grounds visitors shared their stories about the past and listened to exhibitors talk about the unique old pieces of farm equipment. Shows like this also provide an opportunity to buy, trade and sell. 

Collectors like Friesch isn’t sure what will become of the farm antiques that he has accumulated over the years but he says he does know that somewhere there is a collector of just about anything.