Louis H. Fork writes.......
I have always been interested in steam engines and threshing. I started threshing in the summer of 1906 and have been at it ever since so you see I have in 50 seasons. Of course, the last 5 seasons I didn't do too much threshing for most of the farmers started to combine their grain. But I still thresh my wheat at home and am enclosing a picture taken in 1956 where we are threshing with a 2175 Baker Uniflow. My son, Raymond, bought this engine in 1955 and restored it to its original paint job. This engine is an exact duplicate of the 2175 Uniflow that I bought new in 1920. The number on my engine was 1570 and the number on his engine is 1564.
My first threshing experience was running a double cylinder Frick reverse Buffalo Pitts, 18 HP and Port Huron thresher. I was working for the man I made my home with.
In 1910 he bought a complete Baker 18 HP plain slide valve engine and a 33 x 56 wood separator which I ran for him until 1913. He bought another Baker 18 HP and a 30 x 50 Baker wood separator which he ran until 1913 when I bought the newest rig with Birdsell Huller. He sold the other rig out of the neighborhood so I had a nice big territory to work in.
In 1918 I bought a No. 9 Birdsell Huller which has done a lot of hulling. I used it to hull my seed last season.
In 1920 I bought a complete new 2175 Baker Uniflow engine and a 33 x 56 Baker separator which I ran until 1930. Then I traded my steam engine for a 28 x 50 Hart Paar tractor which I still have and use and I traded the separator for a new 33 x 56 all steel Baker separator which I still have and use. I used to get the American Threshermans Magazine and I'm sorry I didn't save the issues. It surely was a good magazine for the thresher.
On the picture, my son is standing by the wheel and I am on the separator facing the engine.
We expect to thresh with steam this year. I attended 4 threshers reunions last year and I surely get a kick out of it. I am 76 years old now and if I had my life to live over again would like to run threshing rigs.
Louis H. Fork, Gibsonburg, Ohio
Jesse H. Shoemaker writes.....
It is time to send in a couple coals or miss the Album and get clinkers in my grates and soot in the flues, to here goes the pop valve and let off some steam.
I was a thresher man down on the Wabash at Mt. Carmel, Illinois. Me and the late Elbern Wood, who has passed to the great Beyond, owned six steamers, six separators, 3 saw mills, 3 bean and pea hullers; all Kecks - Gonnermans; and think they were one of the best. Every time I look at that 1788 Keck in the Album I think of my last Keck, No. 1744. I have run a wide number of different makes of engines but a Keck-Baker and Minnie were my picks.
We did most of our threshing from Mt. Carmel, south to New Horminey, Indiana. Mr. Wood was a very good partner. Nothing ever seemed to excite him. We were moving an engine from Indiana to Illinois one time and one of us had snapped the clutch over center and then backed it off a few notches so the collar and yoke would not rub and have to be oiled. Well, this worked fine until we got to the ferry boat across the Wabash River. The banks were corrugated with concrete and when Mr. Wood started down the bank the clutch came out. The farther and faster he pulled the reverse over center, and what a racket all that iron going down towards that boat, hit the boat, under went the end of it on to the center and toward the other end which was some 80 or so feet from the bank. Just as the front wheels were some 2 or 3 feet from the boat end he slammed the clutch in and the engine stopped and began to back up on the boat. Well, we fished the boat crew out of the Wabash for they had gotten scared and jumped in rather than be on a sinking boat. All had a good 'ha, ha.' Someone asked Mr. Wood what he was thinking when the engine was running off. He said he didn't have time to think, he was trying to stop the thing. Very cool.
One time we pulled into a barn driveway and Mr. Wood was on top of the separator. He hopped over on to the loft, went right through into a manger full of boxes, barrels and what have you. I ran in to find out if he was hurt, expecting to find him badly hurt. He proceeded to look himself over and finally said no but was skinned from A to Z. Haven't looked yet but feel like Z might be skinned too.
We had lots of fun as well as lots of hard work. I still would like to hear a Keck Single bark at damp straw a while.
Jesse H. Shoemaker, Rt. 1, Kankakee, Inninois
George Massey Gum writes......
As there was, and is being, so much interest shown in the ad of Mr. Lee Graves in a recent issue, page 28, I am forced to tell you that I am the one who got the engine, and I feel quite gratified to Mr. Graves for letting me have it. After I had bought it I was so excited that I could not sleep that night, though my wife did not quite share my enthusiasm. I think she will come around.
When I received the Album I saw the ad the first thing. I immediately dismissed it with the thought that I will not be able to get that machine. Then an acquaintance saw the ad and got in touch with me and urged me to see about it. This I dismissed, then about hour later decided a telephone call could do no harm, which I made. As a result of the call, I put on my cap and drove right over there and by 2 P.M. had bought the machine.
Now my big problem is to get it on rubber, cleats I guess. If anyone can give me any ideas I surely would appreciate it as we just do not have any dirt roads here to drive it on.
George Massey Gum, Box 127, Frankford, Delaware
Alec McDowald writes........
I was much interested in the article by Mr. Stueck in a recent issue of the Album. Some of his records are good And as the late 'Albin Barkley' used to say, 'that reminds me,' in 1922 I was running a Case Outfit, 35 HP, Canadian Boiler and 40 x 60 Separator. We were threshing at Ed Eastman's on a Saturday evening, had just finished in the barnyard and then pulled across the road into a field of very good oats. It was past 5 o'clock when we got set up. We had 10 bundle racks, 2 spike pitchers in the field and also at the machine. The crew came up to the engine and informed me that we were quitting at 7 o'clock because it was Saturday night and some of them would like to go into town.
The farm was rented so Eastman and the renter were supposed to divide the grain. We had an old air cooled International truck and three grain teams. When I shut down at 7 o'clock the tally showed 2160 bushels of oats and they were dumped all over the yard. Needless to say, if I could put in a couple of hours like that again I would be glad to hang up my shovel. In 'Soot in flues', 'Anna Mae' mentions the rigorous Pennsylvania winters. During World War 11 a Company of negro soldiers were training in north Pennsylvania. One of the soldiers was griping about the winter. An old timer said, 'Oh, it isn't so bad.' When summer came the negro said, 'Man does people really live here when there isn't a war on?'
Fifty-five years ago we had a number of Walter Wood Engines and separators but have never seen a picture of a Woods in any thresher man magazine.
Alec McDowald, Wilmont, South Dakota
Pat King writes.........
Here is a picture of one of the last steam threshing rigs that I ran. This picture was taken in 1916 and is a 20 HP Northwest Engine and a 36-56 Nichols & Shepard Separator with Garden City feeder and carpenter wings. The man on the separator is Charley 0'Conor, a man who has been synonymous with threshing in this area for over half a century. If the steam threshing rig contributed to the American way of life, then Charley O'Conor was very instrumental in that contribution. He passed away a few years ago at the age of 94.
I am wondering what happened to the two wheeled automatic engine tender that used to be so prevalent during the era of steam threshing. In fact an engine wasn't considered complete unless a two wheeled tender was attached.
I would like to make a suggestion for a lining up contest at the thresher reunions. After the coupling pin is removed to see who could belt the engine to the separator in the shortest time. I would suggest that each contestant pay a nominal entry fee and the proceeds or part of them go to furnish the prize money for the winner. I would conduct the contest on a point basis. So many points for speed in getting the machine rolling and so many points for alignment with separator and also so many points for smoothness of handling. It is difficult to handle an engine smoothly if the throttle valve leaks, so the controls of the engines used in the contests such as the friction clutch throttle valve and reverse gear should be in good order. One may think they are quite adept at feats of this kind, but usually someone comes along who is just a little better. However, I would enjoy a contest of this kind very much because after all, when one has operated steam engines for a considerable length of time and is thoroughly familiar with them, when he sees them steamed up and ready to go, he naturally becomes Throttle Happy and it isn't too interesting just standing around watching someone else put the engines through their paces without being afforded an opportunity to take a turn at it also.
Mr. Pat King, Kenneth, Minnesota
George Quesseth writes.......
We are a member of the Western Steam Fiends Association which we joined nine years ago, and as an old engineer we have gotten a lot of pleasure out of our membership. A magazine like the Album is quite important to us old 'Fiends'.
I operated steam engines from the time I was 19 years old until in the '20's. During those years I operated many different makes and sizes. In the year 1912 my brother and I acquired a Reeves machine which we used for both custom threshing and plowing. We ran this machine for three years and then sold it. Of all the engines I operated I like the Reeves and the 32110 Case the best. I am enclosing a snapshot of my Reeves machine.
George Quesseth, 1040 N. Cottage, Salem, Oregon