PAST OPERATORS

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On page 14 of the November/December, 1952 issue of the ALBUM, I wrote in part, 'I sold Ed J. Streckfus, Salina, an Advance 26 HP compound R. M. engine and an A vance 36-60 separator with feeder, weigher and wind stacker.'

The machinery had been a sample and was well adjusted, but after having been moved to the farm, I drove to it, early the Sunday morning before the machinery was to be tested in the field Monday, and carefully checked it to avoid, if possible, any stops or delays.

You will meet Will and Lew Streckfus, subjects of this sketch, here. The Sunday morning in June, 1911 I drove to that machinery, was the first time I remember seeing Will and Lew Streckfus. Will was about 18 years old and Lew about 16.

Ed J. Streckfus, who had been very much the head of the family since the death of the father, and Mary O'Shea were married the fall of 1911 and moved to their farm, leaving Will and Lew Streckfus take over the home place.

The same Mary O'Shea, in 1923, sold for me the last new steam engine I sold, when she said, 'I do not want Ed to work with old engines. Sell him a new one.' Ed J. Streckfus bought a new Nichols & Shepard 25-85 single engine.

Mary Katherine was born to Ed J. Streckfus and Mary O'Shea in 1923. Mary Katherine Scanlan wrote me recently that she 'named her fourth son' born about two years ago, for me.

Will and Lew Streckfus were worthy, did well, and within a few years were considered among the good farmers of Saline County and have been successful farmers since. They were and are men of enviable reputations.

Ed J. Streckfus bought an Advance 36-60 separator, with feeder, weigher and wind stacker, in 1911, an Avery 42-64, with attachments, in 1915, and a Nichols & Shepard 36-56 steel separator, fully equipped, in 1919, and was successful with them. Ed J. Streckfus was a fast operator and a good one. During the years he operated those separators I saw him frequently. Will and Lew Streckfus were on the farm those years but were with Ed's machinery enough to profit from his experience and knowledge of machinery. I saw much of Will and Lew Streckfus and when they decided to buy a rig they came to see me.

Will and Lew Streckfus came to see me in 1919, to buy a good second-hand engine. Threshing machinery business was good in 1919. The companies were sold out, and even cash orders could not be filled because the machinery could not be furnished. Nichols & Shepard Company had no engine to sell Will and Lew Streckfus. They then inquired whether or not I knew of an engine for sale.

A customer at Wakeeney, about 140 miles west of Salina, had told me, 'A company of farmers bought a Rumely outfit in 1914, had trouble, and the machinery was for sale.' I told them about the engine, that I thought it an undesirable one, but if the fire-box and engine were in good condition and the price reasonable, if they wanted an engine there was nothing to do but buy it. Will and Lew Streckfus dealt for it and shipped the engine to Salina.

That was a 25 HP single engine and built by M. Rumely Company. The boiler was a butt-strap and built under the Canadian specifications. That was the most clumsily built engine imaginable. The cast stack was as large as a barrel. The two foot guide wheel was heavy and acted as a balance wheel. Too much weight was on the low front wheels and when the wheels were cut to couple to the separator or back into the belt, the wheels plowed the ground, to the depth of the plowing. An operator without the strength of a 'Samson' had no business with that engine. Lew Streckfus possessed just that.

Will and Lew Streckfus bought an Avery 36-60 second-hand separator and threshed with it and the Rumely engine, the 1919 season. They did not fancy the Avery 12 bar, high speed cylinder, which made it necessary to use a small cylinder pulley and the cause of so much belt slippage.

On January 29, 1920, Will and Lew Streckfus bought a Nichols & Shepard 36-60 steel separator, Garden City feeder, with 14 ft. carrier, weigher and wind stacker. The separator was the type built prior to 1925, with offset sills. The heavy steel grain pan was carried by four hangers on each side. The cylinder was a 16 bar. The concave holders carried five concaves with ten rows of teeth. The cylinder and wind stacker shafts were equipped with roller bearings. The shaker wheels and beater pulleys were double belted, with powerful tighteners on the beater pulleys. No other make of separator, with like dimensions, was equipped with a wind stacker of greater capacity.

On the Saturday before Easter, in 1920, 17' of wet snow fell on the Salina territory. The snow fell so fast about 4:30 in the afternoon, a Missouri Pacific engineer, pulling his train into Salina from the east, overran the Salina Union Station. That snow was beneficial to the growing fall wheat, and Kansas harvested a good crop in 1920. That was the only time in my life I saw lightning and heard thunder during a snow storm.

Wheat grew more than sufficiently tall that year, in the fertile Smoky Hill valley, south of Salina, where Will and Lew Streckfus lived, to bind and shock well, and it was in the fields of shocked wheat, Will and Lew Streckfus tried out the new Nichols & Shepard Red River Special separator.

Will and Lew Streckfus had threshed with the separator before I drove to see it that morning. A gentle breeze was blowing from the south, and the straw was being blown north. The gauge hand on the old Rumely pointed to 210, and the engine was backed into a 160 ft. 10 inch, 6-ply rubber belt so tightly, the belt was very nearly straight from the cylinder pulley to the band wheel of the engine. The feeder carrier and low extension were long enough to permit three racks on each side to unload at the same time. Twelve men pitched bundles into the carriers. The pitchers did not walk and carry the bundles, pitched down and not up. The work was easy and those men pitched bundles!

Belts were tight on that separator. I stood on the east side of the belt about halfway between the engine and the separator and could see both. The old engine was loaded, used from 10 to 12 tanks of water a day, and the cylinder wavered from one side to the other. Every straw seemed to come from the wind stacker chute that could pass through it. So much grain was fed into the cylinder, as I stood there, I expected every second to see the separator stop, but the cylinder continued to hum and the straw fogged from the wind stacker chute.

Ed J. Streckfus was threshing a few miles from there and I drove to his machine. The first thing he said to me was, 'How are the boys getting along?' I replied injudiciously, ' You should go and learn to thresh.' Those words hurt Ed J. Streckfus and I have been sorry ever since that I uttered them.

Will and Lew held an advantage over Ed or any other operator who hired a separator man or an engineer. Both were interested in the machinery.

The day I was at the Will and Lew Streckfus separator, I did not go to the engine as I usually did before I drove away, but told Will and Lew Streckfus, 'The engine was loaded heavily.'

Will and Lew Streckfus did not thresh fast that morning, to put on a show, and the pitchers did not pitch to choke the separator, to get a rest, as they did sometimes. They threshed fast all the time.

Crops were short about half the years I sold machinery, but I sold about 400 separators, saw many of them and other makes of separators, with good operators, thresh, and I thought in 1920 and think now, the Will and Lew Streckfus Nichols & Shepard 36-60 separator, threshed faster, the morning I saw it, than any of the other separators.

The load was too heavy for the old 25 HP Rumely and before the 1920 season was finished, the crank pin broke at the disc wheel and a cracked cylinder head stopped the piston.