Lance and Virginia Barnes and their three children make up a family that is at the heart of the Gallatin Valley Threshing Bee, held annually in August near Belgrade, Montana.
They work hard together at restoring and running equipment, and they enlist the aid of relatives and friends to make their three-day event possible. It is not the biggest in the U.S.A., but the Barnes are intent on making it one of the best.
We visited them on a clear, hot late August day in 1978. They were just setting up, but every so often they took a minute to answer questions.
The Barnes' children are Lanceine, 18, who is one of about 50 persons in Montana holding a traction engine operator's license; Ward, 17, and Laurie, 15.
'If it was not for them, we couldn't be in it,' said Mrs. Barnes.
Her husband, who is a trucker driving an International delivering log houses, said their event started five years ago on a tract that now covers 120 acres. They thresh 35 to 40 acres during the show. Delbert Barnes, a relative, owns the land.
While we were there, we ran into many interesting persons who were on hand either to see what was going on, or to take part. Ralph Powers, of San Diego, California, said he had flown in in his own plane, because he has a 60 HP Case and needed advice on how to make it run. He had read about the show in IMA. 'I went to two steam shows in California and didn't get the information I needed, so I came here,' he explained.
P. R. McIntyre, of Salt Lake City, was visiting in a camper with his wife, who had a broken leg. McIntyre collects old radios and he showed us some of the table models he had along.
John Gallatin, of McCook, Nebraska, was present because he was visiting the valley which had been named by Lewis and Clark in honor of Albert Gallatin, who was his great-great-grandfather. 'Albert Gallatin was secretary of the treasury in Jefferson's administration,' Gallatin told us. 'My father helped by grandfather clear part of Ohio.'
Austin Monk of Kalispell was at the controls of a big 1910 25-75 Case for the threshing demonstration. He has a 40 HP Peerless which was featured in IMA. He is a real old time thresherman from the Flathead Valley, and ran a sawmill for 20 years with a Russell.
'Threshing lasted around here into the early 1940s,' Monk recalled. 'We had lots of wood and lots of water. That's why it lasted so long.' Clayton Tennoyer, of Kalispell, was assisting him.
Harold Mohn, Montana state boiler inspector, turned out to have a tie with Lancaster, Pennsylvania, our home town. His father, Paul, was born in Lancaster.
Al Rennewanz, of New Rockford, North Dakota, was on hand to show his engine and separator, built to about 3' scale, and requiring 468 hours of his work. The water wagon with it was made from wood, he had the engine belted up and operating.
Al Rennewanz, of New Rockford, North Dakota, shows his 3' scale engine and separator to Jim Larsen, 13, of Bozeman, Montana, at Gallatin Bee.
His brother, Slim Rennewanz, of Ennis, Montana, was also there selling copies of his book.
In the food tent, Mac McGinnis sat down at the piano and played old favorites, while Al Rennewanz played the violin. The personnel of the refreshment department made it a family affair; Joyce Roseborough, McGinnis' daughter, and Corlette Lucas, his granddaughter, and Jodi and Kellie Lucas, his great granddaughters, along with neighbors, Sylvia Wagner and Kathy Larsen, cooks. The food was good, and reasonably priced.
Among the Barnes' equipment is a Minneapolis 20-60, about 1912, completely rebuilt from three engines. 'The kids did most of the work,' Barnes said. The boiler and engine came from Stanley, Idaho; the gearing and wheels from Pony, Montana (a boiler on that engine was shot), and other parts came from Martindale, Montana.
They also have an Aultman-Taylor 20-60, of about 1912, which came from Livington, Montana.
On the closing day, Sunday, attendance was estimated by Mrs. Barnes at 1,100.
We checked back in October, and were told the family had just obtained a Rumely Oil Pull from Wyoming, which they will have all set for next year's event.