The Montana Prairies

A power-plowing rig

This is a picture of an Avery bought about 1910-1912. It was completely reconditioned in 1958 and was used only in North Dakota. It was used for about 15 threshing seasons.

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Trenton, Missouri

I was bom in Minnesota in '88. In 1910 our family moved to Southeast Montana. I landed at Miles City with barely enough cash to file on a homestead 45 miles Northwest of the town, and the railroad. The following summer I decided to attempt to purchase a power-plowing rig; and hikes to town to see what credit a flat-broke homesteader had with a machine dealer.

I finally bought an old 32 Cross-Compound Reeves engine, and an old 12 bottom plow. I was to pay $850.00 for the engine and $300.00 for the sod-buster. (No money down and pay when I could.) The dealer was plenty glad to clear his yard of the old worn out equipment.

I was 3 weeks getting the outfit home. Enroute while crossing a narrow dry wash about 12 feet deep the heavy drivers collapsed the bridge. The front end had reached solid ground; the bulky plow behind, not yet on the bridge, probably saved my life. The rear of the engine dropped the length of the plow tow chains and stopped. Four days later I was on my way.

We left town burning wood, ran out, and stopped to dig lignite coal from the outcroppings here and there along our bad-land route.

It was late fall when we reached the homestead. I spent the winter repairing and rebuilding the old engine. The fire box sheets and the crown sheet were buckled between nearly all the stay bolts. I put new stay bolts through the center of the worst buckles; also dovetailed in a new cog in one of the bull gears; plus many other major and minor repairs.

That spring I dickered with two neighboring homesteaders who agreed to assist me breaking the prairie sod. In return we plowed their ground.

After plowing a week, and while making the final round, a counter weight broke loose from the crankshaft and landed on the boiler. The next revolution of the crankshaft hit the counter-weight square, and believe me the old rig stopped. Some

damage had been done. With a hand forge and anvil, an old drill press, two or three drills, some beat-up fingers and a week's hard work the damage was repaired.

With almost constant repairing and a few new gears, we plowed several thousand acres during the next sixteen years, in addition to threshing each year. This included two years of 75 days each on the belt threshing.

For plowing we mined coal from the lignite beds a few miles from home, but during threshing we burned straw.

Our part of Montana was extremely arid. Part of the time we were lucky to have fairly decent engine water, but generally it was so muddy it was hard to pump into the tank, none-the-less the old Reeves took it all in stride. How, I don't know

A man in an adjoining county brought in a new 20-horse Westing house Upright steamer and a large Avery separator. They attempted to do their own threshing, but couldn't keep steam in the little engine. They came to me and offered to trade the little Upright for the old Reeves. You can bet I jumped at the chance.

I threshed with the little engine three seasons. It was really a joy to steam and handle.

During this period the era of the steam traction engine, there as elsewhere, came to an end; the combines moved in and replaced the old timers.

We now live near Trenton, Missouri. I own and play with a '40' Case, a 16-50 N. S. and a little 2-Horse Upright engine and boiler.

A word for the Album. To me it is fond link between the 'good old days' of the past, and these days we have left in the present It's a wonderful little paper and I wouldn't miss it for anything.