October 25, 2021 at 7:11 p.m.
“Somebody has to keep them going, and I enjoy the job,” Hintz said. “If I can help someone, I’m glad to do that.”
With more than 65 years of experience, Hintz’s special skills date back to 1955 when John Deere came out with a twine baler.
“We bought one and baled all around the neighborhood,” Hintz said. “If the baler wears out, you fix it. Once I learned how to do that, people started calling me to fix theirs. The more I fixed, the more experience I got. Those people told their neighbors and friends, and they started calling me too.”
Hintz travels a 50-mile radius fixing balers. Years ago, all of his customers were local, but as word of Hintz’s talents spread, he began to journey farther away.
“Nobody else fixes these types of balers,” Hintz said. “And big implement dealers don’t handle this stuff anymore. I’m not as busy as I used to be because little square balers aren’t used that much nowadays. Farming has changed a lot, and big square balers have taken over.”
His reputation for keeping farmers up and running during baling season has resulted in many happy customers for Hintz. Knowing his way around the popular brands, Hintz is the ideal man for keeping balers in good working order.
“I’ve worked on all the old John Deeres and New Hollands,” he said. “If you can fix one, you can fix the other. The design is a little different but it’s the same principles. They have the same knotting or tying mechanism.”
Rob Stone, who farms near Omro, calls on Hintz whenever he needs help fixing his John Deere baler.
“Lewis always finds the problem where nobody else can,” Stone said. “That’s his knack. Everyone calls [Hintz] to fix their John Deere baler.”
Stone milks 70 cows and farms 350 acres, and he has sought Hintz’s help to fix his baler twice this summer.
“The best part of this job is the people,” Hintz said. “I really enjoy the people. I’ve met a lot of nice folks and made a lot of good friends. It’s very rewarding.”
Hintz is an astute troubleshooter who tries to uncover the cause of the problem to hopefully prevent future issues for a farmer. As he has gotten older, Hintz tries to do less of the grunt work and more instructing instead. The farmers will get on the ground and help him with the heavy wrenching.
“I’m 91 years old, so it’s hard for me to do some of that stuff now,” Hintz said. “But I can tell someone what to do, how to do it and when to do it. I guide them through it. People are really great and are usually happy to do that.”
Stone is one such person.
“We work with [Hintz] because we want him to come back,” Stone said.
Hintz is a wealth of knowledge and likes passing his wisdom onto others when he makes farm visits.
“I’m not going to be here forever,” he said. “I try to train people so they can maybe fix the baler themselves next time. In the Amish communities, I’ve trained a couple people and now I don’t travel there as much.”
Hintz, a former dairy farmer, milked 35 cows and farmed 140 acres until 1994. He then raised heifers and steers before hanging up his livestock hat four years ago. Hintz continues to grow wheat and soybeans on 70 acres. His 1970s John Deere small square baler that he purchased in the 90s is parked in his shed.
“I don’t use it that much anymore,” he said. “We do between 1,000 to 2,000 bales a year for the horse people around here. My son-in-law, John, runs the baler most of the time.”
Every year, Hintz said there is one baler that sets him back a bit.
“It might be some little thing I learned 20 years ago that I have to relearn,” he said. “Each year I run into one that’s difficult.”
One of the biggest problems Hintz sees is a bad ball of twine.
“The string gets too thick or thin and breaks,” he said. “It causes a problem even though everything else will be just fine.”
Hintz’s car trunk is filled with tools and manuals that he takes to each job. When he arrives at the farm, he pops the trunk and his shop appears.
In addition to fixing balers, Hintz also helps host a tractor drive every year called Ridin’ for a Reason – a fundraiser he started in 2010 with Bill Carpenter and Russ Kleinschmidt. Last year, 58 tractors showed up to participate in the 20-mile trip along with four or five wagons to provide hayrides.
“When a neighbor’s house burned down, we wanted to help somehow,” Hintz said. “So, we started this benefit tractor ride and it exploded. Every year we find someone new to help. This year, we’re doing it for a young man diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. We raise money, but it’s more about the people and support they provide. They come from all over, and you find out there’s an awful lot of nice people around.”
Hintz has also kept busy nourishing the agricultural aspirations of the youth in his county. He was one of the first state officers to serve on the board of the Wisconsin Junior Dairyman’s Association started in 1947, and he also served on the State FFA Alumni board. Hintz was a 4-H dairy leader for years, and every fall, he hosts a bonfire on his farm for children and their families. They roast marshmallows and hot dogs, and Hintz gives kids a hayride.
“I’ve done that for years,” Hintz said. “We hosted two clubs this year and 100 people came.
I like kids and always enjoyed working with them. We have a great bunch of kids and parents in 4-H. It’s very enjoyable. Over the years, I keep making more friends.”
Hintz also does a hayride for his church and serves as an elder, videotaping the service for Facebook. For 60 years, Hintz has volunteered for the Omro-Rushford fire department and continues to do fire inspections.
“There’s a lot more to [Hintz] than just fixing balers,” Stone said. “He is a great promoter of youth and agriculture in our community as well. When I was growing up, [Hintz] chaperoned our FFA and 4-H trips. He would do anything for the kids.”
Hintz’s heart of gold keeps him young as this 90-something continues to help people whenever he gets the chance. A father of five, grandfather of nine and great-grandfather of 11, Hintz feels blessed and likes to be active.
“Life isn’t about how much you have; it’s about how much you enjoy it,” he said. “God was really good to me and my wife. He gave us a wonderful family and lots of good friends. I’ve had a very interesting, happy life, and I hope to keep fixing balers for a while. It’s been great.”
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