Collector has strong ties to antique farm equipment
By Allen Brewer
Old farm equipment might make for unique home decor, but for Lafayette County native I. W. McLarty, it’s tied to part of his life.
Born in 1929, McLarty was raised on his father and grandfather’s farm. While tractors were becoming popular tools for agriculture at the time, McLarty still remembers depending on mule-drawn wagons for transportation.
“We lived on the land,” McLarty said. “We grew our own food and that’s how we survived.”
Living on a farm in the Great Depression meant having to fix your own broken equipment. Tools held great importance to the framers and were often passed down to the next generation.
“People had to be craftsmen because there were not any shops to go to,” McLarty said.
Most of the farm tools McLarty has collected have been in his family for three generations.
Some items include a mule harness used to tether mules to plows and wagons; a well bucket to draw ground water; and cotton scales, used to determine how much cotton to pack into a bale. McLarty also has many of his grandfather’s blacksmith tools and leather working equipment.
One of the most valuable pieces in McLarty’s collection is not a tool, but the land that he lives on, also passed on to him by his father.
Before the land belonged to McLarty’s ancestors, it was once a piece of the McGlowin Plantation. After the Civil War, the plantation was divided and sold. Besides being the McLarty’s farmland, there was also a schoolhouse built on the property that once taught children from the area. The only thing left from the school structure is a large rock that acted as the doorstep.
Agriculture has always been a large part of McLarty’s life. After being discharged from the service, McLarty went to college to study animal sciences and earn a master’s degree in agronomy. McLarty worked for the County Extension Center for 32 years before retiring.
McLarty still grows a garden and has a new tool — a John Deere Gator Golf Cart that saves him a walk to his garden. The small mobile vehicle can travel up hills and in rain to carry all of McLarty’s large watermelons.
While McLarty plans to enjoy his 87th birthday on Aug. 28, his collection will continue to stay timeless. Although they are no longer usable in the garden, they remain important reminders of how far agriculture technology has come.
“That lifestyle gave way to the things we have now,” McLarty said.
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