Max Louder a custom wheat harvester for over 5 decades was based first in North Central Kansas (Mankato) and later in the Columbia Basin region of Washington (Pasco).

He worked in custom harvesting for over 50 years total, among his numerous career highlights, being recognized several times in newspaper articles, including his 2 decades of starting his annual harvest run at the Baker family farm in Munday Texas.

Our family harvest operation was also published in National Geographic (August 1972 article "North With The Wheat Cutters"), which became the basis for the 1979-1980 television movie "Amber Waves" (starring, Dennis Weaver and Kurt Russell). Dennis Weaver's character (Mid-Western Custom Harvester) was loosely based on my dad.

In 1990 Max was holder of the (Guinness Book) world record for most wheat harvested in an hour (54 ton). A record set during our yearly harvest at Eastern Oregon Farms, near Irrigon, Oregon.

We harvested wheat, corn, barley...etc. for farmers in cities throughout the midwest & western United States including; Munday Texas, Hooker Oklahoma, Manter Kansas, Alliance Nebraska, Isabel South Dakota, Dickinson North Dakota, Cut Bank/Fort Benton/Opheim Montana, Yuma/Mohave Valley/Parker Arizona, Blythe/Needles/Winterhaven California, Boardman/Irrigon/La Grande Oregon & Pasco/Basin City/Othello Washington.

Posthumously, Max has had several articles written summarizing his career with more to follow.  In March 2008 he was inducted into the U.S. Custom Harvesters Hall of Fame.  The ceremony was attended by family, friends, former customers/farmers and crew.


Max received his first taste of custom harvesting in the early 40’s working with his Uncle's Roosevelt (Rose), Melvin, Delmont & Lester (Red) Jones.

’42-Max working for (Uncle) Melvin Jones
near Colby, KS

’43-Max working for (Uncle) Roosevelt
“Rose” Jones.

’44-Max working for (Uncle) Delmont Jones
near Dickinson, ND.

In March 2008, Larry Jones (Delmont's son) and Bob Jones (Melvin's son), joined us in Wichita Falls for Max’s induction into the U.S. Custom Harvesters Hall of Fame.

Active Duty from August 16th 1944 to July 8th 1946 Honorable Discharge, rank=Aviation Machinist Mate Third Class.  He was stationed in Jacksonville, FL and Corpus Christi, TX. and discharged from the Naval Personnel Seperation Center in Norman Oklahoma.  He was awarded the American Campaign Medal and the Victory Medal.

After returning from the service he, brother Roland (Rollie) Louder & Lyle Bird teamed up to travel the harvest circuit.

In 1947, Max ventured out on his own, heading from his home in Jewell Kansas to start the season in Texas where harvest began in late May.

1948 in Oklahoma

The family & crews annual trip would start near Munday Texas traveling through Hooker/Tyrone Oklahoma, Manter Kansas, Otis Colorado, Alliance Nebraska, Cheyenne Wyoming, Opheim & Cut Bank Montana. There were also years where trips to Dickinson North Dakota, Isabel South Dakota, Douglas Arizona & Alice Texas sprinkled Max’s harvest itinerary.

This was the route taken in ’71 (indicated by the “red” line).

Max bought the Sweet farm off Highway 14 near Mankato in 1952 and based his operations from there. The farm was purchased by the Becker family when we moved to Washington in 1972 and is still owned by them. Their grandson's live on the farm.

The farm off Hiway 14 Northeast of
Mankato with the original house

The farm off of Hiway 14 after the
new house was built

The last of the Massey Harris combines

1958 brought a change to the name of the Louder combines, when Massey Harris became Massey-Ferguson. Max ran Massey Ferguson combines until the early 1980's.

1958: Max, (brother-in-law) Bob Wilson and Pitzer Baker

1967 celebrated his twentieth consecutive year of harvesting for the Baker family of Munday Texas a feat recognized in the “Munday Times” local newspaper. Dad originally harvested for Pitzer Baker, and then his son Kenneth.

Raymond Hitchcock asks Max
to harvest rice with him in
1968 traveling to Louisiana.

The first cab’s and air
conditioning were on the
Louder combines in 1970.

Possibly his biggest moment would come in 1971 when his family, crew and business were accompanied by a writer and photographer from National Geographic. That article would become published in August 1972’s “North with the Wheat Cutters”. The Geographic society also welcomed him as a member that same year.

To the left - National Geographic Writer, Noel Grove climbs aboard a “Prairie Lawn Mower”.

That article spawned the 1980 made for tv movie "Amber Waves" (which starred, Dennis Weaver, Kurt Russell & Mare Winningham). The movie used the idea from the National Geographic article, but didn't use our names. They added more dramatic changes to the story as well.

Near the time the Louders were published in National Geographic, Max relocated his family and operations to Pasco, Washington. He soon was traveling to the Arizona/California border to start the harvest season.

©1973 National Geographic Society used with permission

If you ever need further info for someone who contacts you, you can send them to me. This is a personal copy, my family is granted permission by 2 things, 1) we are the subject of the story 2) what is called "imparting (National) geographic knowledge".

The house in the 70’s

and more recently!!

1978: SimTag, a farm between Boardman and Arlington Oregon, which was co-owned by Pete (PJ) Taggares and J.R. Simplot.  The first 5 combines are Max’s (with white reels on the headers), the second 5 combines belonged to Bernie Crutchmeier of Oklahoma.

One summer in the early 80’s Max and his crew traveled to a nearby farm to watch a fellow custom cutter. This particular crew had a mixture of Massey Ferguson, International & White combines. The White and International’s were equipped with the rotor thrashing system opposed to the Massey, which still had the cylinder type. The International’s and the White were literally “lapping” the Massey’s in the field, while still doing a better job of thrashing the grain out of the wheat head.

The next season Max started the transition from Massey Ferguson to International (which would later become Case-IH, then simply Case). Max ended up running Case combines for over 15 years to go along with his 30 plus years with Massey Harris/Ferguson.

The Guinness Book recognized Max in 1990 for establishing a new record for most wheat thrashed in an hour at 54 ton, smashing the previous record of 40.48. The key to the run was the use of the Shelbourne stripper, a header without a reel or cutter bar, which literally beat only the heads into the combine. This meant the combine could travel at 6 miles per hour or double it’s usually speed.

Upon his retirement in 1997 he had spent 50 years in the industry and worked alongside numerous custom harvesters over the years including; Ted Heininger, Ron Ressler, Gene Kohn and Bernie Crutchmeier to name a few. He’d also witnessed former crew members who followed his path into custom cutting, Jerry & Joyce David, Willie Thull & the late Willie Fichtenberg.

Max with one of his last combines prior to retiring and selling his machinery to Jerry Sheffels of Wilbur Washington.

1958-Double “O”
Putnam and Max

‘08-Mikel with Grain truck which used to be owned
by Willie Fictenburg (Max’s former harvest Crew)

"Your dad, at his best, was one of the cleverest, craftiest people I ever met. I learned a lot about getting along with people, telling what you knew and didn't know, and negotiating, by watching Max Louder operate. He didn't say much. You just had to look and listen. "Jim Sugar National Geographic Contributing Photographer among his works, "North with the Wheat Cutters".

Your whole family was perfect for telling the story of the wheat cutters, and especially your dad, with his laconic, lean-waisted persona and his extreme professionalism. He made it possible for me to illustrate the urgency of the harvest with his concerns about efficiency and his careful planning, which we talked about when I accompanied him on a scouting trip into Colorado. He was extremely quotable: I'll never forget when I asked him if he had other interests such as baseball, and he answered, "My mind is kind of like a bucket, and if I get too much in it some of it runs over and a little bit of everything gets lost." I've quoted your dad many times through the years with that "mind is like a bucket" speech. And of course, there was that great closer when he was under a combine making repairs when I said goodbye for the last time. I expressed my regret that he was having some trouble and he answered with a grin that they would fix this combine and be ready for whatever lay ahead. It made the perfect end to my story about a working hero and was a fitting tribute to American optimism: we'll take whatever life dishes out and make the best of it.

That was your dad, and that was my story. It made such an impression at the Geographic that some staff members said it changed the way we wrote texts at the magazine. "You made those wheat cutters real people who get mad and discouraged, who get in fights, but who prevail in the end," said one old hand. "We have tended to create porcelain people, who are perfect in every way. Real people aren't like that." Noel Grove National Geographic Writer among his credits "North with the Wheat Cutters".

’50-Joe Rooker, Bob McAlavy
& Tom McIntosh

’59-Dean Roberts, Bob Wilson, Nacho Alcala,
Jerry Jetton, Clint Killen, Melvin Sanders,
Max Louder and Duane Flippin.

’60-Wanda Louder, Marilyn (George) Creed,
Jerry Jetton, Max Louder (with arms around), Melvin Sanders, Bob Flowers (on the hood of
the truck) and Nacho Alcala.

’71-Mike Grout, Mikel Louder (young boy)
and Max Louder.

’50 or ’51? Max Louder on the left
and Bob McAlavy on the right.

59-Back Row: Dean Roberts, Jerry Jetton,
Duane Flippin, Melvin Sanders and Bob Wilson Front Row: Max Louder, Clint Killen, Nacho Alcala

’62-Richard McCollough, Ira Hooker, Darrell McCorkle, Gene Wester and Roger McCollough

’78-Tex, Bob Davidson, Pat Phillips,
Darrell, David Russell, Clark McAlavy

’51-Bob McAlavy and Waldo Pierson

’67-Back Row: Max Louder, Charles “Matt” Dillon, Gary Bachman, Darcy Williams, Rodney Imler,
Max Freeman, Bill Wadworth.
Front Row: Linda (Louder) Grout-Mayhew-
Cerdeira, Janis Louder, Karen (Louder) Strobe, Helen Mollohan.

’81-Janis Louder, Neil/Sam Becker (blue shirt), Loren Scheidel, Danny Poole and Alvin Thull.
This is in the parking lot of the C&D Drive-in Boardman Oregon.  Thank you to the owners
(Jack and Laverne) for putting up with us, showing up at closing to eat dinner, all of the time!!

’82-Rick Stultz, Gayle Buhman, Jack Mayhew (Jack was just visiting), Mikel Louder and Troy Groneveld.  Picture on the right is: (legs and feet of Rick and Gayle);  (on the couch) Gary Pulley, Mikel Louder, Troy Groneveld, and Chris White (from England)

(Disclaimer: Photographs taken on this tribute page were NOT taken by MML Photography)

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