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Primghar, Iowa

(In 3 parts - Part 3)

A Day in My Days

In closing my Life's Chapter of Steam Engineering, I will quote my article to Iron men Magazine, Nov. '52, 'A Day In My Days', of which I would like to tell you. I had switched from steam to oil-pull power in 1919, which from a business angle I never regret. But, that is another story. I had run steam too long to lose the sensation and thrill which steam men cherish even to the smell of smoke and aroma of frying cylinder oil. So it was, when some years later, a thresherman friend was quitting his 22 HP return flue Minneapolis engine for a gas rig, I asked him for permission to once again steam her up. He assured me it was a pleasure and he would leave the water in for me. Great was the anticipation of again starting that fire, readying for a trip, to hear the simmering of water which turns to singing in my ears, to see the gauge needle moving away from the pin and above all, to open cylinder cocks and gently open the throttle. So it was, during the latter days of that year's threshing run, my faithful 30-60 Oil-Pull sort of lost its appeal to me, but I did as usual after a season run, cleaned her of grease and grime and shedded her. Then, finally, it came to pass on a nice, mild September morn, I loaded wood and coal and started for the old shed where I had steamed up before. That was a thriller for me. After I got her out of the shed, I could not resist to pull the whistle, the old familiar way. Then I started out for home, parked her in the shade of a tree and just relaxed. Later, I steamed off my mounted cylinder corn sheller and Farm-All tractor. Mid-afternoon, I made the return trip to the shed. I backed her into the close quarters by throttle as of old (as some may recall, this engine had a quick throttle). A forlorn feeling came over me as I drained the pipes and boiler and finally closed the shed doors. I presume this all makes sense and is understood only by those who have gone my way. A few weeks later that same engine came by for the last time. Dan Cooper had bought it and used her only a few years before moving to California, where he died in 1950. I wish I had that engine now. It was one like I had run as a young man.

1919 - My First Threshing Outfit

I was 26 when my long cherished ambition to own my threshing outfit materialized in 1919. Plagued with debts, I reasoned it would be folly to buy a new rig, a new separator cost $1,500.00 and a new big tractor from $3,000 to $3,500. On June 30, 1919, I bought an 8 year old Avery separator 36' by 60' - No. 7944 from Pedelty Thresher Co. of Spencer, Iowa (Charley Gray, mgr.) for $350.00. At the same time I bought an 8 year old Rumely Oil Pull tractor 25-45H.P. Model B, No. 2576 from Wm. Krueger of Harris, Iowa, for $800, which was originally bought by John Einen, also of Harris. That was $1150 for the rig, $3850 less than a new outfit. In June, 1920, I bought a new 12 ft. Heinke feeder with crank shaft type band cutters for $253.45 from Sachse 8s Bunn Co. of Cherokee, Iowa, and S. K. F. ball bearings for cylinder and blower fan shafts. This was the only major expense I had in its 31 years of service for me. Besides giving it diligent care, I made many labor-saving and life-prolonging improvements.

I personally operated this 8 year old outfit (1911) in the same neighborhood for 31 seasons (1919-1949) located between Primghar and Hartley in C'Brien County, Iowa, where outfits were plentiful, runs-jobs and crews were generally small, especially after 1938, the only 2nd run hereabouts was just West of me. I threshed this 2nd run (685 acre avg.) for 5 years (1919-1923) until they became a 1st run, which my second outfit took over in 1928. In 1929, and 1930 I again had a good 931 acre 2nd run at Lake Park. In 1931 I once more threshed the West run as a 2nd run (my second outfit moved to a larger run at Hartley ), this terminated 2nd runs forever.

I started threshing a little late and was the last large outfit hereabouts to shut down after 1949. This cut my acreage and bushel per hour average.

My records show this outfit threshed 968,394bu. oats and barley for me from 24,949 acres in 3,128 hours averaging 31,238bu. per year, from 805 acres at 310bu. and 8 acres per hour. Note - this was all wagon box measure - Flax, Timothy and Clovers are not included, assuming it averaged 30,000bu. annually for its 1st 8 years, would bring its total to 1,208,394bu.

My home run for which I threshed the 31 years was always first run (exception, a few early jobs, one was a section (160 acres ) of oats in 1928). This was a wonderfully cooperative and hard working crew which made remarkable records and the 2nd runs possible for me, and my threshing career successful. I will cite a few commendable records (there were many close seconds). In 1925 they shoved 27,977bu. from 734 acres through in 75 hours, averaging 373bu. per hour-John Rochel's habit for extra large bundles resulted in many day and job records, the best was on August 20, 1940. Namely - 3880bu. in 7.50 hrs. averaging 495bu. per hour. Another good days run was on August 2, 1922. Namely - 3520bu. in 9.10 hrs., averaging 392bu. per hour. Still another good job run was on Aug. 14, 1926, on the last season's job at Muhs Bros., after 6 days wet weather they started late in afternoon but wanted to finish. They had 12 racks, 2 spike pitchers and 5 grain haulers. They threshed 2,082bu. oats from 62 acres and 122bu. barley from 6 acres in 5 hours flat, averaging 441bu. per hour. Of course, barley lowered the average. Bushel-wise their big day was August 12,1924 at Wm. Eppings- 4,480bu. from 80 acres in 12.40 hours, averaging 356bu. per hour. The next day they threshed 3,444bu. from 69 acres at John Rochel's in 8.40 hours, averaging 391bu. per hour.

I was told to be around real early on August 1, 1922, which we were, however, some racks were already half loaded. The outfit was setting in center of a large oat field. In the hurry to set, I straddled an oats shock. The low differential gear on my Oil Pull 'B' picked it up and into gears. Well, I never did that again. We threshed 95 acres that day for Wm. Watters and Chas. Rimers, but got only 2924bu. The next day at John Rochels they threshed 3530bu. from 90 acres in 9.10 hours, averaging 392bu. per hour. That crew was young, cocky, loyal and proud of their fast work when I came to them in 1919. They loved to kid neighboring crews, they worked hard to finish in record time, then go on vacations, while I started my 2nd runs, none of which had their ambition. Thus the records stand, never dreaming that some day I would write an article about it.

The Oil Pull also did some road grading, plowing, tree pulling and house moving. It was the longest lived, lowest upkeep, easiest starting big tractor I know of. In fact I shut it down for the 15 minute lunch periods. I never ruined an exhaust valve due to sticking on any of my Rumely's, as for power, I never had occasion for more. Example - in September 1931, Bill Coder wanted me to pull a large stalled school house. Two tractors had pulled it mile down grade, but failed on a rise, one was an I. H. C. 15-30, the other a Case K 18-32. The Oil Pull picked up the load easily. Result - 3 more school houses to move. While pulling a good sized barn, I had to make a turn on plowed ground. The Oil Pull did it.

A remarkable feature was its pleasant exhaust, due to its extra large radiator. I had other tractors, however, this old pumper sort of became a part of me.

I owned and operated other Avery separators. However, my 1911 No. 7944 was exceptionally solid and quiet, partly due to its rear wheels which were farther ahead than on other Avery's. This was a distinct advantage in turning and backing up. After 39 seasons (1911-1949) this outfit is in top running order, as of today, Feb. 22, 1961. I admire it as much as ever.