Last March 22 goes down in my book as an outstanding day, for any steam fan. Having prodded 'William' to do my chores we took off early for the SUHR Homestead near COCH-RANE, some 150 miles to the south. With us was RONNIE GJERNING, whose love for steam was this time to center around MYRON GLEITER'S 18 hp Baker No. 651. By 10 A.M. we were at our destination. There was 'Abner' parked by the big barn, smoke rolling from the stack. We buzzed up some scrap lumber with his 'W-C and loaded the wood in a pickup together with several 10 gallon cans of water. After checking the Manzel pump and the oil line things were about ready for the count-down. We were anxious to start the move to Myron's farm, which he purchased recently, a winding 3 miles distance down the valley, but before leaving we partook of a scrumptious dinner, so typical of the Suhrs where we have stopped on many previous occasions. Heading out the driveway we crossed the blacktop (posted 4 ton limit) and headed over the fields toward the gravel road on the opposite side. This rich black bottomland gets plenty tacky on a mild day in March and crossing the corn stubble was to be a non-stop lap. Myron manned the levers and Ronnie at the wheel and me toting three cameras. First stop on a hay-field and posing Myron for a snap he remarked 'HOMER HOLP and his Baker'. We two recalled a similar picture in a late issue of 'The American Thresherman'. On the engine is Ronnie, 'on top of the world'. This engine was owned by a sand and cement block factory at LaCrosse. It was used to dredge sand from the Mississippi River by a belt driven drag-line and, also used for heat and steaming gravel. Prior to that it was used by a rock processing concern. The compactness and performance of the Baker intrigues me but being a 'Case' man I find it a bit trying, to get used to a rear mounted water-glass. Traveling those hills in Buffalo country one has to know his water level and trust your better judgement against an empty water glass. Minneapolis engines have the same characteristic and Myron tells me they too plyed those hills and bluffs in bygone years and without any tragic incidents.
Myron tells the story, back when a Model T met a Minneapolis engine decending a winding narrow hillside road. The perplexed car owner suggested the steamer would have to back up the hill, but the engineer climbed back onto his platform saying, 'he didn't think so' and the Model T owner reluctantly reversed his thinkings; a case of mass over matter.
Back to the trip Myron eased 'Abner' down the hill and approached what apparently looked like a safe bridge over Waumandee creek and it was. Would that all bridges were such prior to the twenties. Turning left by his mail box we were heading up his driveway by this time a wagon was being pulled and loaded with passengers including his two boys Frederic and Curtis. Getting closer to his buildings Myron's dog joined the fun as can be seen in the photo, as the Baker heads up the lane to a shed built for steamer and complete with doors. Not only is it out of the weather but it also eliminates 'sparrow tracks'. Thanks to our hosts for that happy day.
Somewhere in Minnesota 'Ben met Anna, made a hit; neglected beard, Ben Anna split'.
On April 12 it was our privilege and pleasure to attend a surprise birthday party on our good friend HAROLD CHURCHILL at his church, the Rock Elm Methodist, 5 miles south-west of Elmwood. It was very evident Harold has a multitude of friends including many steam fans. Talked with DAN BOOTH from Ellsworth, says he bought a 20 hp Minneapolis to keep his 11X11 Case company. I don't think it was his wife's idea but it makes sense to me. The Rock Elm church stands out not only as a progressive rural congregation but a busy community center through out the summer months. We have attended their home made ice-cream festival, which has grown to capacity crowds. Normally they start the 2nd Thursday evening in June and hold one every two weeks through September. Harold says he can't recall just when these Socials started but that two 6 quart freezers were used prior to 1900, then two 15 quart hand turned freezers and additional re-packing cans were added until in the 20's when a 10 gallon power driven freezer and ice crusher were purchased. By this time Harold had a steam boiler for pasteurizing and they were turning out about 40 gallons of ice cream. In the early 50's an ice cream house was built adjacent to the church and with improved kitchen facilities all work was done at the church. By this time another 10 gallon freezer was added as well as two freezer cabinets. The crowds got bigger. New tables and chairs were bought, and it became a two day job. The custard was made and cooled in a special cooler the first day. Grade A pasteurized cream is bought and the maple syrup, berries, and milk is donated by the members. Several flavors of ice cream are made and you can buy it by the dish with coffee and cake, or by the cone, quart, or gallon. Just how far a small congregation can expand this activity remains to be seen but they have made up to 140 gallons for one evening and still run short. Harold says if they did not have the best bunch of working women these socials would not be possible. One thing for sure here is a rural church with a tradition that is paying off.
Alfred, about to terminate his date with a country lass, 'Guess I better go home, the roosters are starting to crow'. Came the reply 'Huh, thas nuthin, they crow all nite around here.'
Got another steel wheeled G-P John Deere (No. 228080) not that I needed it but, a nice addition. Somehow them old John Deeres were exclusive. The old 'D' was to farming what the Model A Ford was to motoring. I recall back near Power Montana in '35, I was driving a 22-36 McCormick Deering pulling a nine disc plow. Across the road Russell Cunningham was driving a neighbors Model 'D' with identical load. Somehow I felt all the time I was being crowded, he seemed to travel faster with greater ease and very likely doing it cheaper. Most of the time Russell was standing up while driving, says it was less tireing. The 4 cylinder I was herding even had a bucket-seat and at best one could awkwardly stand on one leg or sideways, and still no hand clutch. Used my old 'D' this spring, when you hook that 15-27 on a field cultivator 'sompins gotto give'.
Cleaned the chimney the other day, using my 'B' J-D. Ya, you see, my fixed ladder is a bit short on the lower end so by setting it on a rear tire I had easy access to that roof job. Alice wouldn't be too surprised if some day I'd drag a steam hose thru the house and blow out the chimney with my 50 hp 'jenny'.
As a farm reporter on Feed Grain Program I'd like to relate a few amusing sidelites. Measuring on one field I found several telephone insulators 'Ya' the farmer says, 'help yourself, I've picked up a dozen of them, they put a new line thru here and let the insulators fall where they will'. Riding to the far end of a field on a Case tractor with another farmer while plowing he tells me, 'This field has to be in corn because its next to the golf course, and with oats or hay the golfers tramp down the crop hunting golf balls, look here, I found two just plowing this forenoon, I'll give you one, recon I'll find more.' One farmer works on erecting pole type buildings says he used to milk cows and run 4 milker units alone. Well all I can say is he should be milking cows; but not mine! I came across a Lindsay Alamo gas engine and the farmer sensing my interest soon transferred the ownership to me.
I don't know if cast iron implement seats are collectors items but they should be, at least I keep an eye for such and have gained several and some rather odd. On some occasions it was to measure along the edge of some field and cautiously wade through poison ivy. (Sorta prompted me to think 'here's one for the spot checker'). Got a new slant on bird lore too. Birds too live in changing times. The invasion of the starling has greatly decreased our domestic birds, namely bluebirds, purple martins, wrens by invading nests and eating the eggs. At least Levi Larsens down Luck way have ventured a solution. It was my boyhood thinking to attract birds to our yard but I realize now that it was a good move for cats. The Larsens have set up a dozen or more one room houses with 1' openings to eliminate the starling. These houses were set out in open pasture along the fence lines away from any buildings. Numerous blue birds and tree swallows were viewing for apartments as of April 30.
Geo. Christian happened at our place on April 22 which was his birthday. I wanted to take him for a ride so we jumped in my old truck and headed up the road a couple miles to pick up some polewood. It gave us a chance to talk old times; that we do, inasmuch as I am a good listener and I respect my elders. 'Yeah' he says 'All these modern conveniences, when I was a lad back in Illinois we went in the house to eat and down the path to 'rest' and now its getting to be just the reverse.' His family planned a birthday party for him the following Sunday. Hinting a bit, 'why don't you invite me over so I can taste your birthday cake?' 'Come on over, you are welcome, you can have my share of the birthday cake.' 'Don't you like cake?' 'Well yes, but I'm so sweet now the flies chase me to death'.