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My Connection To The Inventor Of The Skid Steer
I grew up in Pelican Rapids, a small town in Northern Minnesota where there are a lot of turkey growers, including my father, Bill. One of his fellow producers and friends, Eddie Velo, was responsible for the creation of the first skid steer in 1957. People in town would tell stories of sitting with Eddie at the local bowling alley sometime in 1956, looking at sketches and notes he had made about a new kind of “mini loader” that he could use on the upper floor of one of his double decker turkey barns. The upper floor had a low ceiling and posts spaced every 8 ft., so the machine had to be light, maneuverable, and low to the ground.
    In 1957, Eddie took his basic idea to Cyril and Louis Keller who ran a fabricating shop in nearby Rothsay, Minn. He told them he’d pay them a fair price if the loader worked. If it didn’t, he would just pay for materials and the men would be out their time. The first prototype was a small, 3-wheeled machine with car wheels, a 6.6 hp. Kohler engine, and a transmission from a Plymouth. The digging teeth on the loader bucket were cut from jail bars from an old jail that had been demolished. Left and right drive wheels operated independently, controlled by levers.
    Once the design proved its worth on Velo’s farm, the Kellers started making them to sell. Eventually, Melroe Manufacturing Co. bought rights to the machine and paid the brothers a royalty. Both of them joined the company and it took off rapidly.
    I asked my dad if his friend Eddie ever got rich from having the initial idea for the Bobcat skid steer. “If he did, no one could ever tell. Eddie wasn’t one to worry about things like that. He made a deal with the Kellers to build one machine and went back to work. He was a smart guy who never stopped moving and getting things done,” he told me.

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2020 - Volume #44, Issue #4