Lifetime in Steam

Thorvald M. Throndson knows a thing or two about steam threshing

80 HP Case

T.M. Throndson with Ed Kroulik in 1959 on an 80 HP Case.

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Thorvald M. Throndson, of Eaton, Colorado, may be Iron-Men Album’s oldest subscriber, at age 99. We know it’s risky to make a flat statement, but if anyone of the IMA family is older, we’re sure he’ll be just as interested to know it as we are.

His son, Don E. Throndson, a dental surgeon who wrote to us, is very proud of his dad. “I can’t believe,” Dr. Throndson says, “that there is another man who knows more about threshing than he does. I’d think that he has forgotten more than most people would know about the subject.”

T.M. graduated from Highland Park College in 1910 at Des Moines, Iowa, in steam engineering. In his class of 80 men he was the only one to get 100 percent on his steam engine model. He recalls that only about 30 of the models would run.

Most of his life he ran at least two steam threshers and at times owned three. His father, before him, ran threshers, on back to the days of horses. He has had experience with many engines and separators – Case, Avery, Minneapolis, Red River, Rumely and more. He keeps up with what is going on through IMA, as well other publications.

Airplanes fascinate him too. He took flying lessons in Long Beach, California. For his 98th birthday Dr. Throndson and his sister got him an hour’s time in the air, just T.M. and the pilot in a 170 Cessna. He flew the plane part of the time at the insistence of the pilot.

T.M.’s father and mother, Ole and Austrid, came from Norway. Ole came over first in a sailing ship that took 30 days, two years after the Civil War. Ole was a boy of 17, part of a family group. A few years later he went back on a steamship for Austrid and they returned on a steamer.

Because of the quality of T.M.’s threshing, he was much in favor with Coors Beer Company in the 1940s and ’50s, his son notes. He was the best at threshing malt-barley. He fed well on the “cook cars,” so he had very good threshers and pitchers.

When T.M. went into the field, he seldom had a breakdown. He rebuilt every separator he ever owned, even brand new ones. Dr. Throndson recalls:

“Pulleys were lagged, screens were reinforced, all was painted up, roller bearings were added, and belting and pulleys were changed to speed up and slow down moving parts to fit to ‘Colorado Threshing.’ Ice cream was served in the cook cars whenever a good run (2,000 bu.) was achieved.

“Those were great days and I often dream about them! I helped, but I didn’t know much since World War II and the Korean War took up most of my time along with being a ‘molar mechanic.’”

The farm that Ole Throndson and later T.M. owned was southwest of Longmont, Colorado, and they threshed throughout that area. The family no longer owns it, but it has a barn 150 by 64 feet built around 1900. Dr. Throndson says it’s the biggest barn he’s ever seen. Is there a bigger one?

We appreciate this family saga. It contains a lot of nostalgic color that is definitely part of the American story. IMA