California Steamin'

Steam Threshing Bee

G. A. Humann

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The South Shasta Steam Threshing Bee, the only one in California, operates every her year in the odd-numbered years on Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend. In the even-numbered years, our huge 0 gauge Model Railroad is operated for the public on Sunday afternoons during April and May.

In spite of the scarcity of gasoline, the 11th show in 1979 had an attendance equal to the 1977 show nearly 5,000 people. They came from 16 states and 307 California towns. The show is held on the farm of Godfrey and Betty Humann near Gerber. The Humanns begin preparation for the bee in January each month requires more work as the show date nears. Here is their story as told by Godfrey:

'At 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, the show begins with the blast-off of several steam whistles. The show proceeds on a strict schedule, and most events are repeated twice a day.'

The first event you are about to witness. A small 14-40 HP Case steamer owned by Hank Beebe, or a homemade 2 cylinder steamer of about 8 HP owned by Melvin Harris, is belted to a small 18 x 28 Case slat stacker thresher owned by Marvin Cairns who rescued and restored it. The slat stacker, meaning no blower, is unusual and will require someone to move the straw. I am the separator man and I climb on to the top of the little machine to keep an eye on things. The grain is being sacked and requires a sack sewer. The bundles are pitched by a volunteer.

'At 10 a.m. we move to a much bigger outfit we own. A 28 x 46 Case separator and one of the four steamers that will take turns threshing the two days is all belted up and ready to go. David Cripe, my grandson, is engineer on the 20-60 Case. Here again, I am the separator man and I am right at home as I used to run a Case stationary in my youth. We thresh bulk into my truck so grandsons Ricky and Billy level the grain. In about 30 minutes the stack is gone and the sounds and sights of the steamer with the long crossed belt over the flywheel will cease. It was these sights and sounds that inspired me to promote these shows for the public.'

'The next event takes place immediately. I walk over to a 16-30 Rumely Oil Pull that is belted to a 22 x 36 Red River Special thresher. This machine will sack the grain. Roy Stoner keeps an eye on the volunteer sack sewers, giving a hand if needed. At times it is really a show in itself to see some folks try to sew sacks. The Oil Pull with its peculiar sound keeps the separator right up in the collar. With this outfit, we thresh only half a stack at a time. That done, we shut down and go over to the next event.'

'This is a 1904 Auto Fedan horse-powered baler, with horses going in a circle. We have to use a small Model B O John Deere tractor driven by David Cripe because one of the horses scheduled for the run died three days before show time. I pitch in the straw and put in blocks on schedule. Roy Stoner puts in the wires, ties them and piles the bales. At the same time this is going on, over under a big walnut tree, you can hear the exhaust of a 15-30 McCormick Deering tractor, 1928 vintage, milling wheat into flour. It is operated by Jack Williams, who has been with the Bee since its beginning. Nearby is a very old Marsailles 2 hole corn sheller belted to a small upright steam engine which takes its steam from our 1908 Advance operated by Lance Starkey.

Wulf Reinhold, engineer or fireman on locomotive No. 4, the passenger hauling foot gauge steam train, oils around while waiting for the passengers tod. In cab, with his back to camera Wulf, also engineer or fireman. The locomotive is German-built and is burning wood.

The big parade in progress! Here the camera has focused on a 16-30 Oil Pull of 1916 vintage pulling a wooden 36 x 54 Advance Rumely separator of 1917 intage. Following is a 1938 Model D John Deere pulling a 1936 Model 5-A John Deere pull combine. Both owned by Godfrey Humann. Facing page: A 1908 Advance steamer towing a 1927 Case thresher. Ready for moving as it was done years ago.hese machines, along with many others, will be in action during the South Shasta Steam Threshing Bee. All photos courtesy of G. A. Humann, Rt. 1, Box 455, Gerber, California 96035.

Five steamers are owned by Godfrey Humann and operated during the South Shasta Steam Threshing Bee. From left to right, a 1912 20-60 HP Case, 1908 20-60 Advance, a 1912 16-48 Russell, a 1912 20-60 Gaar Scott and a 1936 2' gauge Koppel steam locomotive from Germany.

'The rest of the shady yard is filled with 50 or 60 operating gas engines of all kinds. The single cylinder gas engine can always be heard doing some interesting job. Oliver Wilson perates one of the largest engines, a 20 HP, using diesel fuel. Cliff Hardy has a large one belted to a line shaft and powering several different things at once.

'Home-built steam engines of all sizes are operating and all but the very smallest paraded with the big ones. Very unusual is a scale model of the Best 110 HP steamer built by John Faria and a scale model of a return flue by the late Sam Enstad and operated by his son Oclair.'

'Three steamers are being lined up to plow, one behind the other. In the lead is our 20 HP Gaar Scott double simple pulling five 14' plows. Paul Humann is engineer and Marvin Cairns is steering. Second is a 20-70 HP double simple Nichols & Shepard pulling five 14' plows. Hank Beebe owns this engineBob McMillan is engineer and Gene Maquire is steering. Third is a 14-40 HP Case single cylinder pulling three 14' plows. Hank Beebe is owner and engineer, and steering is Mr. Gust. This is a glorious and unusual sight people came into the fields by the hundreds with cameras clicking away.'

'As the clock hands point to 12 noon, all steam whistles are blown. This is very surprising to many who have never heard so many steam whistles at once.'

'After a lunch served by the Boy Scouts, MC, Charles DeFrates, calls for volunteer tractor drivers for the parade. The steamers head the parade. The parade moves slowly so that the MC has time to give a short description of each item as it passes. After all the steam tractors, come the old gas tractors. Next comes the harvest section, from the hand sickle demonstrated by Gisela Reinhold, progressing through the scythe, reaper, binder, stationary thresher, pull combine and modern self-propelled. Concluding the parade are old cars and trucks.'

'The afternoon program repeats the morning's except for the slow race of the steamers at 4:30 p.m. This race is so different that the MC has to take pains to tell the crowd to cheer for the slowest one and not the fastest! If an engine stalls, it is immediately out of the race. The single cylinder engines are in one race and the double cylinder engines in a separate race. It is very interesting and a nice climax for the day.'

'Running all day, except during noon hour and parade time, is the 2 foot gauge steam train hauling passengers on a one mile trip. The ten ton Koppel German locomotive is operated by Wulf Reinhold and his son.'

'Over under a large tree, Gisela Reinhold is demonstrating the use of the spinning wheel and loom. She also takes a turn at pitching bundles during the threshing. In another part of the spacious grounds, steamers or tractors may be seen belted to a Baker fan.'

'Our Country Store is doing a brisk business selling whole wheat flour, cornmeal, camera film, threshing bee buttons, brochures, souvenir tablets, and giving information.'

'Almost anywhere nearby will be Betty, my wife, directing people, answering questions or running the never-ending errands. She limps a little this yearand no wonder. In 1978 she overcame three major strokes, had a cancerous kidney taken out and 19 Cobalt treatments for cancer in her hip.'

'This year's photographer was Chuck Gilbreth. There were many other faithful helpers and exhibitors, too numerous to mention by name, but really appreciated.

'Evening entertainment starts about 7:30 p.m. and consists of re counting past experiences, showing movies and slides.'

'In order to avoid any disappointments, all machinery is put thru its paces in a shakedown run a month ahead. The 1981 show dates are September 5 and 6. The Humann ranch is located 2 miles south of Gerber or 12 miles south of Red Bluff. Watch for signs on road corners!'