R. 3, St. James, Minnesota
I sure like to read The Iron-Men Album as it takes me back to 1911. The one picture enclosed was taken at my Grandfather's farm. He sits on the ground in center of picture. I am standing by the drive wheel almost under the fly wheel. I was the sacker that year. In 1912 I was separator man, and in 1913 I bought interest in the threshing rig, a 1910 Minneapolis 30 HP engine and a 36 x 64 separator. In 1916 I bought out my partner and did custom threshing until 1943. I had some of the jobs 25 years, but then the combines came and took over on the big farms.
We did a lot of stack threshing the first years and we burnt straw in the engine until 1917, then we changed over to coal. One of my jobs in 1911 was to ride in the tender wagon and push down straw to the fireman. In 1914 or 1915 as we were moving into a setting of four stacks, the one stack caught on fire. After we got the separator out, we got two of the stacks pulled away with the steam engine. We put a steel cable and log chain a-round one stack at a time and got them moved. We had to pay the farmer for the two stacks of grain as he had no insurance.
We had to sleep in the barn at a lot of places those years with the cows hitting the barn walls with their tails and the horses kicking the stalls and the mosquitoes biting, but we did get some sleep before morning. One place they woke the fireman an hour too early so he got up and when he had full steam he blew the whistle so we all got up and had our breakfast. It was still dark so we had to use a lantern to see to get lined up for the drive belt to the separator. The men did not complain much that morning as we all wanted to get done and get away from that farm. They were burning dry cow manure in the cook stove. The old lady used to go out in the pasture and pick up the dry cow (pies) manure and have it in the wood box by the time the old man took lunch out to us in the field. He would bring us coffee, bread, butter, and some cookies. He put the bread loaf under his arm and slice it with a big bread knife. We had to put the butter on ourselves. He did have some dried milk and manure on his jacket sleeve, but none of us got sick.
In 1920 I made a big mistake as I traded the steam outfit for a small 24 inch separator and a 12-24 tractor. I used it only two years then I got a used 25-50 Minneapolis tractor and a used 28 inch Avery separator. My last outfit was a new 17-30 B Minneapolis tractor and a 32 inch, all steel Minneapolis separator. That was the best outfit I ever had, but I do miss the steam engine most of all.