Bill Steuck

1912 - Bill Steuck on the Engine.


Content Tools

Primghar, Iowa

(In 3 parts - Part 1)

My innate mechanical ambition was apparent, I was told, at a very early age. I remember being spanked for losing hammers, saw, monkey wrench or knife (about all the tools father had) which didn't help. I sat on or played around anything with wheels (never had a coaster wagon or tricycle). Steam power enhanced me very early. I made my first imaginary steam boiler, smoke stack, wheels, etc. from logs. Also a box affair for a separator. My second venture, with some help, was from an abandoned steam feed cooker boiler about 5 feet long by 2 feet in diameter with mower wheel drivers, smoke stack platform, and tool boxes on which I rode while other boys (and girls) pushed it around. This contraption looked quite real from a distance. I threshed many an imaginary grain, grain stack setting (4 stacks) of barn yard chaff or just plain dirt and dust while herding cattle. The steamer exhaust bark was done by mouth. I sent for a Case thresher catalog so young I feared a rebuke from father, because to put it mildly, he never encouraged my ambitions until later. Guns also thrilled me no end. I learned to track rabbits and pull them from their snow or sod burrows. Everybody ate rabbits then.

1908 - Went Threshing.

I matured early. At 16, I begged Dad (who was 58 now) to let me go stack threshing, (I wanted to be near the steamer) which was much harder than hauling bundles. You pitched bundles regardless of dust from side or tail winds from 7A.M. until dark. Dad wanted to exchange with me but I wouldn't give up regardless of how tired I got. We finished in raw, cold October weather, then came corn picking. I wasn't myself until after Christmas. How foolish can a guy get?

Everything was done by hand, not just farming, but everything for the table from planting to table. There was no refrigeration. Meats for summer were brined and smoked in cold weather. My parents were slowing down. I helped with everything.

1910 - Homemade Tractors

Gas engines were not uncommon now. I was interested in everything with wheels and studied steam and gas engineering. Most of the first gas engines were heavy, rather crude and complicated. Westinghouse, Fairbanks Morse, I. H. C, etc. sold by implement dealers were expensive. So William Galloway, Associated Mfg., Sears, etc. came along and sold direct at reasonable prices. Father (or I could say we, because I was taking over responsibility more and more) bought a 6H.P. single cylinder Associated engine (which was of standard design) with friction clutch pulley and special crankshaft to accommodate pulleys on both sides. I planned and did make a tractor with it from two McCormick binder drive wheels, two disc plow front wheels, chain drive car differential, etc. all picked up cheap. Now I took engine to work, instead of work to engine. It did many jobs otherwise requiring horses. It would pump water and run wash machine for hours on one gallon of gas. We bought a feed grinder, pump jack, and our first Maytag (wooden) washing machine with pulley drive, which I placed in cob shed and ran with line shaft (part of which is still in east wall). Please remember the man hours required to do things. My folks were slowing down. Anything mechanical was easy for me. Maybe you now understand how this new setup saved me time. I built tractor with small forge, (I could forge weld quite well) old vise and tools. There is a picture of this tractor with my folks and sister, Alvina, taken late in 1913. I could not do it with the same tools today. I assure you the time required came darned hard and was possible only because I worked hard. I seldom went to dances, town, shows, not even to weddings invited to (big affairs). This worried my folks. They could not understand. Compare this with today's boys, just graduating, and then ask yourself, 'Can I blame Dad for being what he is?'