Creative Collaborators Repurpose Discarded Parts Into New Time-Saving Equipment

Harry Crawford

By Dianna Troyer and Kathy Corgatelli Neville

When a job requires specific equipment, you shop for it or build it. More often than not, inventive rancher Harry Crawford of Darlington in central Idaho chooses the latter.

Crawford collaborates with his brother Ron of Sandpoint to build new time-saving devices, using parts salvaged from his “gold mine,” a cache of discarded machinery on his property.

“Whatever we build, it’s really challenging and rewarding when you get done and use it,” Crawford said of the times he and his brother work together on a project at his ranch.

They attribute their creative inspiration to thriftiness, Crawford living 120 miles (193.12 km) from implement dealers, a strong work ethic, and a sense of humor.

Crawford said his father was a remarkable role model. “Dad did all the maintenance work on log-handling equipment for a career and always did his own repairs on our small farm—welding, fabricating whatever was needed.”

Ron said, “He taught us to be creative and to repurpose parts to make things you can’t find or can’t afford.”


The trio’s inventions reduce chore time for Crawford and his wife, Bev, who have been raising grain, hay, and Hereford cattle since 1974 on the ranch where Bev grew up.

With calving season starting in January, they rely on an extra wide snowplow Crawford and Ron fabricated. It attaches to the front of Crawford’s tractor and extends beyond the sides of it, enabling wide swaths of snow to be cleared from their 10-acre calving ground. A scraper on the back functions as a counterweight.

“Bev got tired of pushing one little bucket of snow at a time,” Crawford said. “It’s so much quicker and so much better than anything you can buy.”

Another time-saver is an attachment that holds several large round hay bales and connects to the back of Crawford’s tractor, enabling him to make fewer trips to feed his cattle. He and a neighbor worked on it all last winter, using parts from several old round bale feeders, the frame of a ’51 Chevy truck, snowmobile skids, and a trailer. They finished it by spring.

When confronted with the colossal job of clearing dead trees, logs, and brush from their property, Crawford brainstormed with his brother. To tackle the task, they built a grapple for Crawford’s John Deere 4455, 140-horsepower four-wheel-drive tractor, combining used parts from Ron’s Sandpoint property as well as Harry’s “gold mine.”

Ron’s old stumping rig that was once used to gather brush became the backbone of the grapple. They combined it with parts from an old hay swather, an old round hay bale baler, an old ripper, many old corrugators, and an old three-point roll-over plow.

“Everything around here has two lives,” Crawford said.

“Or four or five lives,” Ron said, laughing.

Creative childhoods

Whenever they work together, Ron said, “It brings back memories of all the stuff we did as kids and reminds us of our parents.”

They credit their parents, Harlan and Hazel Crawford, for encouraging them to confront and solve problems—especially mechanical ones—with ingenuity, thriftiness, and persistence.

During World War II, Harlan was a mechanic who repaired bombers in the United States Air Force while stationed in England. After the war, he returned to his hometown of Sandpoint and spent his career maintaining huge log-handling machinery and running the family farm.

While building whatever they have brainstormed, the trio works comfortably in a 24-foot-by-36-foot shop that Ron designed. He cut the wood for it and hauled it from Sandpoint to Darlington, where friends and family built it.

Crawford sees no end to their project pipeline, as long as “the gold mine” holds out, that is. Some neighbors have helped fortify it, dropping off their castaway parts, while others who need something know they can stop by to browse.

“As long as the ‘gold mine’ lasts, we’ll always find something that needs to be done or built around here,” Crawford said, grinning. ISI

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