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Mary Lou Ihrke remembers "The Parts Lady"


Mary Lou Ihrke

June 10, 2020

This article was written and submitted by Mary Lou Ihrke of Madison Lake, MN, niece to Alice Morgan and Bud Yackel, an IH dealer.​  Originally appeared in Harvester Highlights, July 2005 and is reprinted at the request of and with the permission of  the author. Photos are the express property of Mary Lou Ihrke, shared here with her permission.

When my Aunt Alice Morgan married Bud Yackel in 1950, they moved to Lewiston, MN to work with the family’s International Harvester business. Her new father-in-law, Louis Yackel, one of the founding partners, assigned her the job of bookkeeper and proceeded with the orientation, before she could agree to the job or not. That was her first job in the company.


When the company needed a parts person, she became the parts “lady”, the first woman to do that job in the community. She’d be the first to admit she knew more about bookkeeping than farm machinery. During her growing up years, her dad farmed with horses so her knowledge of modern farm equipment was limited.  She had to learn quickly, without the aid of computerized parts manuals—regular books and pictures on the bins.  “We sold a lot of filters for ‘M’ tractors because it was a favorite tractor of everyone.  For $1500-$2500, they could have one, without all the fancy stuff on it. The ‘H’ was just too small”.  When she’d ask them which ‘M’ they had or other questions like “where does the part go?” many would get impatient and scuffle the floor with their feet. That was one thing about the customers; “they were always in a hurry”. 

She said you might as well forget about having manicured nails when you did parts. She didn’t allow any off-color stories told at her parts counter but she did pick up some unlady-like language, much to the chagrin of her mother. She didn’t start chewing, though. She was proud of her work, even when the “upper crust ladies of the community” questioned whether her work was fit for a lady.

One assistant was her 20-pound mascot cat, Blackie.  It wasn’t unusual to find a hunk of raw kidney sitting on the counter, Blackie’s favorite. To a new customer, it could be a bit intimidating! Her other helpers were young guys just out of high school, that “hung close to her if they thought they did something wrong”. One such mistake that she remembers involved a wrong part being ordered.  When the huge box was unloaded off the delivery truck and they realized it was for commercial type equipment, she told her assistant he had to be more careful with the order numbers. As her husband, the “boss”, tended to be kind of gruff, she hid the box in the women’s bathroom while they waited for the confirmation to return the shipment. You can picture her having to switch the box around so she could use the bathroom and giving her husband excuses so he wouldn’t go in there. They almost pulled it off, except for loading day.  A huge box was pretty hard to reload on a truck without it being seen and her husband starting scolding. That’s when the second part of the ruse started—she blamed the wrong order on a mechanic who claimed he “never did anything wrong”. Whether believed or not, she was glad that they only had one day of scolding rather than the two weeks while they were waiting to reship the item.

She continued as the “parts lady” until she and Bud retired and sold Yackel Implement in the early 70’s. Even after her husband's death in 1986 she continued to live in the community and loved visiting with former customers, many of whom recognize her before she can name them because they were youngsters when they came into the shop.


The “Parts Lady” Alice Yackel and her husband Bud (left) received many awards during their long history with the company. One special award was a trip to Ireland.


Bud Yackel, left, with other IH employees.  Many of their customers were dairy farmers.


Bud Yackel, right and Alice holding her assistant Blackie, along with servicemen who worked at the dealership

Loyal to International, she’s was always quick to stand up for the red when she gets teased from the green guys!  When Uncle Bud died she found a need to get a driver's license. She had practiced driving with her Cub Cadet! When this article was first published in "Harvester Highlights" she loved autographing copies and passing them out. Aunt Alice died in 2011.


Above: Shop1 - Bud and Alice Yackel in their dealership on main street, Lewison, MN (SE MN)

Above: Baler- Harold (Bud) Yackel, third from right, was one of the dealers being introduced to the new McCormick baler.  Note the IH logo on the water tower. (Maybe a reader can identify the town where this might have been taken)

Top Photo: Wheelbarrow- Everyone liked to visit the "Parts Lady", even if they didn't have something to repair.  The author is the one on the left with her little brother Tom. "When I got too old for kid stuff like riding around in a wheelbarrow, Aunt Alice introduced me to one of her nice farm boy customers--but that's another story".

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