I was scrolling through my Twitter feed recently and saw a farmer tweeted that he put a heat houser on one of his tractors. Another farmer asked, "What is this?" The first farmer replied with a photo of his John Deere 4010/4020 tractor with the canvas contraption attached.
Do you know what a heat houser is? One thing I have learned over my years of being an ag journalist is never assume anything.
A heat houser is attached to open station tractors to protect the driver from the elements by pushing the heat from the engine compartment back to the operator's platform. This is accomplished with canvas/plastic material on the sides of the tractor and plastic/plexiglass windows (without a roof) for the driver to see out of.
From online research, I learned they are referred to by several different names. We always called it a heat houser but I guess that is/was a brand name; others called them "heater cabs," "comfort fronts," and even "agricultural weather protection."
I think I will stick with heat houser.
I was kind of surprised a farmer wouldn't know what a heat houser was. I'm probably on the younger side to even know what they were; I remember my dad and uncle putting one on their John Deere 4010.
Maybe this person asking was a southern farmer. I don't know this for a fact, but I would guess heat housers would not be very popular south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
I haven't thought about heat housers in a long time. Cabs on tractors have made heat housers obsolete.
When my dad was a kid in the 1950s, my grandpa had a heat houser for his Farmall M and one for his John Deere B. Dad said Grandpa didn't put them on his tractors too often, but he did own a couple.
In the late 1960s, when my dad and uncle took over the farm, they bought two heat housers -- one for their John Deere 620 and one for the 730. They wanted to do some fall plowing and this job was more pleasant with heat housers.
I don't remember them, as this was still before my time, but I do remember the one they put on the 4010. By then (which would have been the late 1970s/early 1980s) they had a 4020 with a cab so they didn't use the heat houser every winter.
The canvas was well worn and the plastic windows were held together with clear tape, but it did keep the cold winter air off you. Of course, the downside was your entire body was really warm as you went into the wind only to feel the cold wind blowing on your back when you drove with the wind.
At some point, the canvas heat houser fell apart and they bought a plastic-sided version; that was probably a couple decades ago by now. My uncle moved to central Iowa shortly after that and the 4010 went with him. But somehow the heat housers stayed with us. They are still hanging in the corner of our one shed.
My online research also yielded the info that you can still purchase heat housers today.
Farm stores like Tractor Supply Company (TSC) and Rural King still sell them, as do companies such as Burch Manufacturing (burchmfg.com) of Fort Dodge, Iowa. The company sells them for $443 according to the website, and you can even buy a Universal Cab to put on your heat houser to provide more protection from the elements for another $193.
I wonder if anyone reading this column still puts a heat houser on any of their tractors in the winter. Let me know if you still use a heat houser or if you have any memories of them from the past.
I look forward to sharing any responses in future columns.
Russ can be reached at email@example.com
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