My Days As A Thresherman

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977 Gulf Road Elyria, Ohio 44035

I was born on a farm in March, 1900. My father generally had about 30 cattle and ten or fifteen horses. He was a sort of horse trader and one winter had 22 head of horses and colts to winter-over. I just hated farming.

After graduating from high school, our local thresher, Perry Heinemann (everyone called him 'Pep'), called and asked if I would like to run his engine. He offered three dollars a day and I accepted right over the phone.

He had a 16 horse Baker and a Baker separator. We started out as soon as the grain shocks were dry, after the forth of July, and ran until silo filling time. There was a man on the water tan, with a team of horses, that would bring three or four tanks of water a day. This man knew all of the closest creeks and ponds where he could get water. Pep used to set up on the back end of the separator tending blower and keeping watch of everything going on. His was the only thresher in the township so we were busy the rest of the summer. In fall when silo filling

time came around, Pep had a Papec silo filler and we would fill all of the silos in the town. That was before farmers had their own silo fillers. When that was done, most of the straw stacks were dry and and we got out the bailer. That would take us pretty much into the winter and then we would belt up the Baker to his saw mill. I would get slabs from the slab pile and buzz them up the right length to fit into the firebox. I tried to find as much oak, hickory or ash as I could that would steam quite well. Seemed that most of the farmers were bringing in elm which would just lay in the firebox and ooze out water and not burn. The Baker had a kind of short firebox and it was hard to keep enough wood in it to make a good hot fire. The Hubers had a different style of boiler with a longer firebox. They probably would steam a little better.

Threshing was the most fun! All of the ladies would out-do themselves getting dinner for us at mealtime. We knew the best cooks in town. The farmers furnished the coal as we burned about a ton a day. Most of them bought the cheapest coal that they could find for the threshing engine. One farmer took the cake! A railroad track ran through the back of his farm. The firemen on the trains would throw out the chunks of shale to the side of the road. This farmer would go along and pick them all up and when we got to his place he would have a nice wagon box full of the stuff for me to burn.

One spring after I had worked for Pep three or four years, a paving contractor got a job building a macadam road out through our town. He had a Russell roller with a Hay Burner firebox. His roller man got drunk and burned out the soft plug and the contractor fired him. Someone told the contractor that there was a kid down the road that could change it. He came and got me and I slithered into the firebox, got my arms up over the hump and changed the plug. He hired me to run the roller for fifty cents an hour and that was a big raise as I had just gotten married.

This contractor had a Huber roller that was kind of tricky to run. It had power steering which consisted of two clutches geared to the main shaft. When you were going forward and pushed the steering lever ahead, one clutch would steer you to the left. Pull back on the lever and the other clutch would steer right. In rolling you are backing up as much as going ahead, so the steering is just the opposite.

I stayed with this contractor about eight years. All of the cranes, shovels and mixers were operated by steam.

Later I became a photographer and I never took a picture of any of them old engines.