The Pride of Battle Creek

John Ross

The Pride of Battle Creek grading country roads in 1917. John Johnson, Engineer, sitting on drive wheel. John Ross is operating grader. This photo was taken possibly 1000 feet from where the Stumptown Steam Threshers Club Show grounds are located west of

Raymond Laizure

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Route 3 Cadiz, Ohio 43907

The year the first World War ended, I worked all summer for a farmer. It was on Armistice Day that I was busy husking corn out of the shock, and the bells were ringing and whistles blowing in all directions. At the same time, there was a 12 hp. Advance engine hung up on a nearby hill. The blower was roaring in an attempt to raise the pressure. I was not sure what was hooked to the engine, but it had the appearance of a Clover Huller.

This farmer had, among the usual collection, about nine milk cows that we had to milk night and morning. This always interfered with our other work. One old short horned cow that went by the name of Eliza Jane had an evil mind and was careless with her hind feet. About the time you were half done milking, she would fly into kicking and clear everything off the platform. After one encounter with her, when she plastered me up against the weather-boarding, I asked the Boss what he wanted to keep an old outlaw like that for anyway. He told me the reason was that she would give a three gallon bucket of milk. But, from my observation, if you wound up with a quart or two, you were lucky!

After the corn was all in the crib, he decided to cut the fodder and made the arrangements with a neighbor who owned an Ohio Cutter and a 16 hp. Advance engine to do the job. With some extra help, we hauled fodder all day with two teams and piled it next to the barn what a pile of fodder that was!

We had everything ready for an early start next morning. The Boss said we must get up early and get the milking done. He was the nervous type and I wasn't, but I was full of pep and willing to join in the excitement. We were in the barn at five o'clock the next morning. The Boss was all set up at Eliza Jane with the three gallon bucket, when I heard an unusual racket., I got up and went to the door to listen. It was pitch dark outside, but I soon came to the conclusion as to where the noise was originating.

I could hear the Pride of Battle Creek barking away at a steep grade in a nearby field. Presently, it reached the summit of the hill and I could see an oil lantern hanging on the smoke box door. The engineer gave a long blast on the chime whistle and somehow, after fifty years, I have never been able to entirely erase that sight and sound in the night.

Anyway, I went back to milking and had just gottne hold of the handles on my cow, when old Eliza Jane let the clutch in on her hind running gears and away went the Boss, milk bucket and stool off the platform into the ditch. All summer, I hadn't even heard any mild profanity around the place; but the sermon that was being dished out to that old cow resembled sparks from a grindstone. He got to his feet with the milk dropping off his nose and picked up the stool and slammed it down over Eliza Jane's head and down she went. She only had one horn. I never knew what had become of the other one. No doubt, somebody had knocked it off, or she may have been in the battle of Bull Run. If there had been a sledge handy at the time she laid me low, I am sure she would have gotten a nice smooth ride to the nearby hamburger factory.

With the reader's permission, I wish to stray from the main subject a little. During the summer, an old turkey gobbler that weighed perhaps 25 lbs., became one of my very good friends. I would always take him on my trips to the corn crib and he was especially fond of bread crusts. If I were sitting down, he would always come and stand beside me and talk in some kind of language. I told a neighbor lady, who raised lots of turkeys, about this old gobbler trying to tell me his troubles. She claimed turkeys had a Soul of their own. She said she could go and sing hymns to the turkeys and they would all sit down and listen. She was a truthful church-going lady and I had no right not to believe her. But shortly after I left for home, the skeptical part of my mind went into orbit. I had never lived in Missouri, but I was going to have to see that with my own eyes. In calling upon her in a few days, she took me over to her flock of perhaps eighty turkeys. She sat down in an old one-armed rocking chair and started in singing 'Life's Railway to Heaven' and again she got to the second chorus and most of them were sitting down with their head turned sideways listening. That laid the bare facts on the table.

Now, back to the fodder cutting. We turned the cows out and hurried to the house for breakfast. We sat down at the table and the Boss started in giving thanks for the food. The language he was using sounded so much different than what I had heard in the cow barn some ten minutes before that. It left me sitting straddle of a rail fence with a split basket full of mixed emotions. We soon had the ensilage cutter and engine set up and put on the belt. After a toot on the whistle, the cutter began to hum and the familiar hiss of the cylinder cocks faded away and the cut fodder was floating around in the haymow. The bundles had been tied with twine and many of them were too large to go into the cutter, so we had to cut bands. Every one was running here and there. It was like a mad house around there trying to keep the machine full. The Pride of Battle Creek was chomping on the bit and I could see the valve stem in the Pickering Governor jumping up and down. A half dozen chickens and the old turkey gobbler were under our feet searching out the grains of corn. We would shoo them away, but they would be right back again. The last glance I had, I saw the gobbler strutting around right in front of the engine, when all of a sudden a hand hole plate on the throat sheet of the boiler blew out. There was steam and hot water everywhere.

I never saw an Old Gobbler leave a place as fast in all my life. Some of the chickens flew into the side of the barn. One old Rooster got his feet tangled up in some binder twine and was laying there squawking. One of the helpers was bent over tying his shoe and saw the old Gobbler coming and fell back in the fodder, just as he went past. Orders from the Boss were forthcoming, that I get one of the teams out and get a tank of water, while they replaced the packing. Old Prince and Bess had never been hitched to a tank wagon before, so they gave it a good looking over and seemed willing to give it a try.

Upon arriving at the water hole, to my dismay, I was confronted by a wheelbarrow load of frogs holding an Evangelistic meeting. The head Frog pulled the rip cord and away went the congregation head first into the water hole. That must have been the first time they had been baptized, from the looks of the pond. I had to wait for the water to clear up. As I drove up with the tank of water, I saw the old Gobbler standing on the hillside above the engine still addressing the crowd, but his throat was so raw you could hardly hear him. The frog episode had given the boiler a chance to cool off, so I pumped it full of water, while old fence rails were being made ready for the firebox. In a little over an hour, things were humming again and the black smoke was shooting up into the blue November sky.

I saw an old man with two crutches come around the engine and sit down on a milk can, close to the boiler, to absorb the heat. The fodder was disappearing fast and it looked like we would get done in good time. Then BOOM the same hand hole blew out again. The air was full of steam. I walked out to the engine and there were two crutches I suppose the owner having to leave on such short notice found he could make more speed without them. The engineer said he had given the boiler a good washing out the day before and this would make three times he had repacked that plate.

Upon looking up, I saw an old black hat coming down the road. The critter under it looked like he hadn't been near any soap lately. He was leading an old hound and carrying a fish kit with some tools in it. He inquired just what kind of trouble we were having. After we told him, he said he could fix that in a jiffy. He walked a little way from the engine and picked up a sandstone and reached in the boiler and gave it a good scouring. At the same time, Old Prince and Bess and I were on the run to the frog pond for more water. The head frog must of gotten word that the Pride of Battle Creek was in distress, as the water was acceptable when I arrived. After getting up steam again, the owner of the hound tightened the plate up some more, picked up the fish kit and waved goodbye. That did it! The 16 hp. Advance was ready for business now. As the evening shadows were closing in, the sparks from the stack were disappearing in the darkness. In no time, the last bundle of fodder settled in the haymow.

The supper bell rang and it sounded good, as everyone I think, had been listening for it. Most all of those who followed threshing rigs were accustomed to the jokes and actual happenings which often caused a lot of mirth. That evening at the supper table was no exception.

The old engineer was telling of threshing about one and a half miles southeast of there one time. The crew and help were called into supper and the last man to go in, forgot to close the screen door. After they were all seated, the lady of the house prevailed on an old bald-headed Quaker that was sitting at the end of the table to ask the Blessing.

Just at that time, the dogs outside started to chasing the poultry and an old chicken came flying in through the door, just missed the top of the old Quaker's head and lit in the middle of a dish of mashed potatoes. Most all snorted out loud and after a good laugh felt a lot better.

I used to read articles by Marcus Leonard in the ALBUM titled Defense of Advance Thresher Company. There is not much I can add to it, but I will say, this Pride of Battle Creek was one good engine. It could have had the front pedestal back on the boiler. It could have had some other type of valve gear and etc., but I have never seen an engine that couldn't have had some improvements on it.