Experiences of a Rumely service man

Fall 1912, Piedmont, Mo.

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It was in the early fall of 1912 while working as a service man for Advance Rumley Co., known at that time as the Rumley Products Co., I had spent the afternoon moving a line of machinery behind a GasPull tractor from the St. Louis County Fair Grounds to the warehouse in St. Louis. This was a distance of about 12 miles and most of the way over brick pavement and through fairly heavy traffic. Any one who has driven an old steel wheel tractor over brick pavement knows what that is like. Standing on my toes most of the way to keep my teeth from shaking loose, I arrived at the warehouse at 6:30 P. M. The branch manager, Jim Leonard, was waiting for me with instructions to take the night train over the Iron Mountain to Piedmont, Missouri, where I would find another salesman, Mr. A. O. White, waiting for me. We were to unload a 15-30 Model F OilPull and a five gang Oliver plow and deliver to a local farmer, Mr. John Carter.

I arrived at Piedmont during the night and early next morning we were busy unloading the tractor and plows from a freight car. Never having been to Piedmont, I was surprised to see the rough country we were in. Around the depot in the little town were railroad ties stacked high and on all sides. I learned many of the local people made their living cutting and hauling ties from the surrounding country. So we had no trouble getting ties to build an incline to use in unloading the tractor.

Before we had the tractor on the ground, Mr. Carter and his sons Mack and Jim (a fellow about my age) arrived with a team of mules and wagon. We loaded the plow on the wagon and soon were headed out of town. The road, or perhaps it should have been called a trail, had been made for a team and wagon and not for a tractor nearly eight feet wide and over ten feet high. We were hardly out of town before we came to a stream of water known as McKenzie Creek. It was about 15 or 20 feet across and perhaps 2 feet deep, with solid gravel bottom. While we had no worry about the engine mireing, yet the banks of the stream were piled high with rocks and much too narrow a path to take the tractor. We also found this trail was to follow this stream and we would have to cross it 12 times before we reached the Black River. At some of the crossings we could run one wheel of the tractor over the rocks and at others the rocks were piled too high so we had to use the tractor and plow chains to move some of them. At other times we found trees so close to the driveway we had to find a way around them and on several occasions cut limbs off so the cab would clear.

We arrived at the Black River about noon. This is a clear, swift-flowing stream about 15 rods wide. We also had to ford this stream. Mr. Carter produced a well-filled lunch basket and announced we would eat our lunch before crossing. It was a bright warm day so we sat on the river bank and took our time in emptying the basket. Having my Kodak with me I asked Mr. White to take the tractor across while I rode the wagon and got a picture of the crossing. He crossed without any trouble, the water being deep enough in a few places so the flywheel threw a little water. We had not gone far before we found we had to climb a ledge which had been dynamited out the side of a cliff. This also was made for a team and wagon and at times we found a part of our 24-inch face driving wheel extending out over the edge of the rock road on the left side.

We moved along slowly for perhaps a quarter of a mile when we came to a tree growing out of the rock on the left side and not wide enough to let the tractor through. Mr. Carter suggested we get a saw and cut the tree, but instead we carried rocks and piled them against the base of the tree until we had a pile two feet or more high. The tree leaned out at quite an angle so we decided we could make it. I said, "All right Mr. White, take it over." He climbed out on the platform, took one look and climbed down saying, "I am a married man and you aren't so you better take it." From there on we had very little trouble, except a broken steering chain and arrived at our destination shortly after dark. This was a distance of about 12 miles from Piedmont.

We found the Carters had a large acreage of land, mostly hills, also some bottom land where a tractor and plow could be used. They had a new and modern home for that country, built on a bluff overlooking the barns and barnyard. At the foot of the bluff a spring of clear, cold water flowed which furnished ample water for the house and livestock. To save carrying water from the spring to the house they had a steel cable installed from the porch to the spring and could hang a pail on a pulley, letting it down to the spring by gravity then they pulled a pail of water back to the porch with a small rope.

During the next couple of days we were busy setting up the plows and teaching the boys to operate the tractor. The Carters proved to be good customers for the Rumley Co., and the next year bought a corn shredder which they unloaded and moved to their farm with the mules. it was not long before they had trouble with it and I made the second trip to Piedmont. This time I found they had installed a single wire telephone line to their farm, so I called them to meet me at the Black River as I would have a livery man take me that far. I soon found the livery man was drunk and sound asleep beside me, so I drove the team to the river where Mr. Carter was waiting for me. I awoke the driver, turned the team toward Piedmont and started them on their way.

No doubt he reached home safely. I found no serious trouble with the shredder, but one of the boys said the magneto on the tractor was not working. I checked it and found it out of time so asked, if they had ever had it off the tractor. He said yes, and that the cam shaft has been removed and perhaps that may also be out of time. We found the shaft nearly right and soon had the tractor running smoothly on the starting battery. I decided to stay a day or two longer to be sure everything was running smoothly.

During the night a hard rain came and the Black River was too high to ford, so I found myself a prisoner, on the wrong side of the river with the rest of them. They told me at times the river would remain too high to ford for as long as a month or six weeks. We continued to shred corn and I tried to make myself useful by feeding the shredder, etc. If I remember correctly I arrived on Tuesday and on Friday night one of the men told me if we got no more rain he thought we could ford the river by Saturday A. M. He was going to Piedmont and I could go with him. I went home with him that night and next morning we hitched a team of mules to a high wheeled buggy, one typical for that kind of country, the body sitting high on side springs and equipped with brakes on account of the steep hills. We soon reached the river and the driver said, "The river is still high but I believe we can make it. We will put the top back, put your grips and the cushion in the top and we try it." He was wearing rubber hip boots so he stood on the buggy step on the right side with the lines firmly in his right hand. I was to stand on the seat also on the right side to keep the current from tipping the buggy over. He also said, "At times after high water there were holes washed in the ford and if the buggy tipped over I should just hang on to the top and the mules would take us out." That didn't sound good to me as it was a cold frosty morning and what if the top I was holding on to should be dragging along on the bottom of the river? I decided it was no time to show the white feather so I took my place standing on the buggy seat. After making sure there were no floating trees to get tangled with we started across. We had not gone far when the driver said 'The mules are swimming' and sure enough with their heads and a little of their necks out of the water they were swimming for all they, were worth. We could feel the current taking the buggy downstream, but the mules were surely taking us across. I held my breath most of the time and when nearly across we saw the mules were beginning to touch bottom. What a grand feeling and soon we were out of the water.

We drove to Piedmont without further trouble. There I put in a long distance call for the Rumley Co., in St. Louis for further instructions. Mr. Leonard answered and the first thing he said was, "Where have you been, we have not heard from you for nearly a week!"