By Phil Pitzenberger | 2011
My parents, Ted and Judy Pitzenberger own a 40x 140 foot barn that is as big as it is full of history. Emil Tyden built the barn in 1936 along with 7 other farm sites. Tyden was a Swedish immigrant who made a fortune with his mechanical ingenuity. Emil invented the box car seal, along with many other inventions that are still used today.
In 1915 Mr. Tyden invested his wealth into agriculture. “Agriculture-there’s the basis for all industry, for our very existence,” he declared. Dougherty, Iowa was his geographic choice to base his farming operations. In a 25-year period Tyden acquired 8 farms with over 3,000 acres of tillable soil. Tyden spared no expense in building up the land to a level of production that was ahead if its time. He installed clay tile to help drain the wet saturated soils and to help improve efficiency of the planting and harvesting of the crops. He applied manure and commercial fertilizers to improve the overall fertility of the ground. Emil Tyden was a steward to implementing science into farming practices.
All of these farms were built with longevity in mind. Emil never spared the use of concrete. Our barn has a four foot high concrete foundation all the way around it. With large concrete feed lots and bunkers, Emil was quoted to say “look to the future, build not for next year but for 50 years down the road.” Well here we are 71 years later with the barn and farm still going strong.
My parent’s farm is Tyden Farm #6 and is located approximately 2 miles east of Dougherty Iowa. They purchased the 10 acre building site in 1993 with some of our close relatives buying the farmland that surrounds it. This wasn’t the first time we had occupied a Tyden Farm. My grandparents Richard and Virginia Pitzenberger moved onto Tyden Farm #3 in 1969 and resided there until 1991 when my grandfather retired from farming. Together with my father and two uncles they farmed the 550 acres and raised hogs on the farm.
It was not uncommon for the tenants of the Tyden Farms to exchange labor and machinery. In the early years when Tyden was the main producer and the tenants were hired hands machinery was shared among the farms. This was one of the ways Emil made his farms so efficient. Some of these practices seemed to carry on even after the farms were rented or crop shared.
Henry Wright lived on Tyden Farm # 6 before my parents purchased it. In the early 1970’s my grandfather Richard and Henry would often exchange labor with one and another. In 1971 they were filling a silo on Henry’s farm. Grandpa was up in the silo during the course of the day while the filling process was taking place. Well something must have gone awry during the filling of the silo. That night after the days work was finished the silo tumbled to the ground in shambles. The only explanation was that the silo some how filled unevenly and the weight of the silage to the one side pulled the structure over. The following year another silo was constructed to the north of the barn. This silo was filled once only to get hit by a tornado. The twister did not bring it to the ground but it ripped the roof off and left it egg shaped and unusable. That silo still stands on my parents’ current farm.
Though I did not live my whole life on Tyden Farm #6 doesn’t mean it was not able to give me fond memories of growing up on a piece of history. I was 15 when we moved there so I was still young enough to appreciate what a large farm can offer a growing boy. My younger brother was 12, but always seemed to be braver than I was. This didn’t bother me (and still doesn’t) for I have always known I will live longer. The hay loft in the barn is like standing in Veterans Auditorium in Des Moines, Iowa. It is huge and is hard to fully appreciate unless you actually step into it. We are told that the hay loft had a capacity to hold up to 25,000 bails of hay, and was filled from both ends of the barn with an electric winch in the center of the barn. The loft is still fully equipped with ropes for filling with hay. There are ledges way up atop the walls for standing on when the hay or straw is coming in. It didn’t take my brother long to figure out it was fun to ride the ropes across the barn down into the old hay. The ledge was about 50 feet high at least that is what it felt like if you were standing on it. Actually you were about 15 feet up in air. One person would hold on to the end of the rope at the bottom, this would keep the person riding suspended up in the air. The person atop the ledge would lunge off holding onto the rope for dear life and would glide along the pulleys as if he were a large bail. It was the responsibility of the person at the bottom to let you down safely or have a little fun and make you hang on up there for a while. Anyway I think you have all figured out that younger brother did most of the riding, while I got my kicks out of making him hang up in the air and contemplate if he should trust his older brother next time.
Presently my brother and I have come back home to farm with our parents. Tyden Farm #6 is our base of operations. Dad still has the barn full of feeder pigs. Though the machinery and people are different then were on the farm in the 1930’s, I would still like to think Emil Tyden would be proud that his farm is still in heavy use and moving forward with today’s new and exciting agricultural practices.