Whenever Bells, Tenn., cotton Jimmy Hargett peppered Case IH engineers with questions or suggestions for improving a piece of equipment, they listened. And when an idea seemed too far out, and Hargett decided to build it himself to prove his point, they came out to his farm to see it work.

From this give-and-take, personal as well as business relationships were formed and fostered.

George Hale retired from Case IH in 1999, but worked with Hargett as a contract employee for Case during the development of the on-board module builder. During that time, Hale spent as much as six months out of the year on Hargett’s farm, which became a sort of “research central” for Case.

Hale recalls their first meeting in the 1980s. “Jimmy roasted me well. It was a time when we still had chain-driven heads on pickers, and he wanted gear-driven heads. I used all the classic excuses that engineering uses when they don’t have technology available to them, and he didn’t buy any of it. He pushed, and he pushed hard.

“He can come on pretty strong when he wants to. When he gets an idea, he will not turn it loose. I would say that he is partly responsible for us putting gear drives on top of the drums.

“When Jimmy sees a problem that causes him difficulty, right away he starts searching for solutions. If he can’t find somebody to do it, he’s not a bit afraid to spend his own money to get it done. If he has to spend a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars to make the point, he will do that.”

“He’s more than our customer. He’s a friend,” said Kevin Richman, currently a product category manager for Case IH in Burr Ridge, Ill. Richman was formerly an engineering manager for Case, and still talks to Hargett regularly. “He was always pushing us, whether it was a row crop tractor or a cotton picker or a planter or a combine, for more productivity or different configurations.

“He had some pretty wild ideas on the module builder. In the mid-1990s, we built some prototypes of a square baler for cotton. The farmers who saw it thought it we were going in the right direction, but we had the wrong size.”

Hargett’s design eventually won Case engineers over, but it required some give-and-take on both sides. “When Jimmy thinks of something, there’s truth in it,” Hale said. “You just have to search it out and find it. You don’t always do it the way he wants you to do it, but he knows what needs to be done. That’s the way it was with the on-board module builder.”

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com