The Rutherford Take-Out
Donald A. Rowland
I like to keep up on all the residents of Wayne Town, past and present, so when I read in a newspaper obituary column that Lynn N. Day, recently of Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, had been born in Wayne in 1911 and had owned and operated the Rutherford Take-Out Company in Keuka, my curiosity was piqued. Did he own a fast-food business?
At the August 1989, senior citizen's pot-luck dinner in the Wayne Town Hall I sat next to Howard Warren and I asked him if he could tell me about Lynn Day and his take-out business here. Howard said that I ought to talk to Joe Stopka who was sitting at the next table visiting with Walter Swarthout. He would know all about it. So I moved over and interjected myself into their conversation to find out about the take-out venture.
I had guessed all wrong. Had I been a vineyardist, I would have known that a take-out is a tool used to move soil from under the grape vines in the spring tillage season. It has an angled blade offset to reach under the trellises and scrape back the ridge that was thrown there when the space between the rows was plowed the fall before. Originally this arduous work was done with heavy hoes, by hand. Later a simple horse-drawn machine was used to take out the excess soil. In addition to the short blade it had a rolling disk, a coulter, to keep the scraper extended to the side and under the vines where the horse couldn't walk. To operate a horse-drawn take-out required an agile man and a very sensible horse because whenever the blade came to a post or a vine in the row it had to be withdrawn enough to slide around the post or grape without hooking and damaging the post, or vine, or the machine.
John Rutherford was a grape grower in Wayne who thought there must be a better way. Some say he was a little difficult to get along with. He probably had a temperament that wouldn't put up with the endless dodging of obstacles in the grape rows. All of those long monotonous hours in the solitude of the vineyard gave him time for deep thinking.
He came up with an idea for a blade that could be mounted on a tractor and positioned far out to the side or withdrawn when necessary to miss obstructions. His design included three hydraulically operated rams that would by manipulating valves position the scraping blade. The three cylinders and their pistons could independently move the blade arm in or out, up or down, or tip it forward or back to lessen or increase the bite of the blade into the soil.
All the necessary movements of the blade were controlled by the tractor driver as the tractor moved along the row. He could push the arm out to reach under the vines by moving a lever that opened a valve, or he could move the blade lower to pull more dirt by touching another valve lever, and, if necessary, he could toggle another valve to sharpen the angle of attack so the blade would cut into the ridge more easily. When he came to a vine he could withdraw the blade to pass around the plant with the pressure of his finger on a valve lever. It all worked beautifully when John Rutherford got one built, and he got a patent on his idea.
At sometime in the 1960s he sold his patent rights to Lynn and Francis Day and they started to make the machines in a shop they fixed up in a row of garages next to the old Keuka Hotel. They rented their shop space from Bessie Young, proprietor of the hotel. Business went pretty well. Joe Stopka remembers trucking in material for them to use to make Rutherford Take-Outs. They did make some and a few are still about. Less tillage work is done in vineyards today when herbicides are used extensively to control weeds. Eventually the business was sold out and the unused parts were auctioned off.
Because there are a few old hands around Wayne who recall the operation, I was able to find out what a take-out is.
© 1990, Donald A. Rowland