THE STORY OF GEORGE KOPF

20 hp Russell

Here's Engineer Ben threshing on the farm of Vic Schoen wetter in 1931 in North-central Iowa with a 20 hp Russell back in the 'good old days' of steam.

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Salina, Kansas

One afternoon, early in the 1914 threshing season, I went to Avery Company's Kansas City Branch, where I happened to meet Geo. and Joe Kopf of Beverly, Kansas. Beverly is 35 miles northwest of Salina and was on my Block but I had never met either Geo. or Joe Kopf.

The House Salesman had worked on the Kopf sale, had failed to close it and they were leaving the office, when I arrived there. Upon being informed Geo. and Joe Kopf were on my block, seeing no time could be lost and save the sale, I hastily approached them and within about 20 minutes, sold them a fully equipped 36-60 Avery Separator.

The years passed and in 1923, Geo. and Joe Kopf were in the market for a separator. Their Avery had served them well and they went to Avery Company's Salina Sub-Branch to buy a separator but after dickering much of the day and half the night, did not buy an Avery. Geo. and Joe came to my room at 1 o'clock in the morning of June 4th, 1923 and I sold them a 36-60 Nichols & Shepard steel separator, with Hart belt and bucket weigher, wind stacker and Ruth crankshaft feeder. That Ruth was popular in the headed wheat belt.

The wheat crop was not good on my Block in 1923 and Nichols & Shepard Co. inquired , if I would like to go north for a short time, to which I replied, it would please me and I was instructed to report to the Minneapolis Branch. I arrived there ahead of schedule, Business was poor at that branch too, but I was there six weeks before returning to Salina. Things were quiet on my Block. It had long been my practice to visit my customers and I had not seen Kopf's separator in operation before going north. I decided to drive to Kopf's separator. It was an unfortunate decision, one for which, I ever since have been sorry and will be to the end of my life.

I drove to within about 40 rods of Kopf's machine on an east and west road. A light wind blew from the north and the straw was being blown south. The old 30-60 Oil Pull was drumming away about 200 yards south of the road. I left the 'Model T' in the road, climbed through a wire fence and walked by the tractor to the separator. Joe Kopf was operating the tractor and Geo. the separator. They were having trouble. The grain was banking up ahead of the feeder knives and the cylinder was not taking it.

Wheat did not ripen properly in 1923. The straw had no life and a cylinder did not take it well, when dry. Kopf's evidently thought it was the feeder, as they had changed it. Pour of the eight knives had been taken from the outer ends of the feeder arms and put on the inner ends of the arms, an inch wider belt had been put on the feeder and tar poured on the belt to prevent slippage.

Kopfs used their old headed grain feeder extension with the new feeder. As soon as I went to the machine I saw the extension raddle travel much faster than the feeder carrier web and delivered the grain to the feeder faster than the feeder carrier web carried it away, causing the banking ahead of the knives. I told the Kopfs, the raddles should travel at about the same speed, and as much as I disliked to stop a man's machine, would have stopped Kopf's machine and slowed the extension, had they had the sprockets. I have censured myself ever since for not having stopped that machine as soon as I saw they were having trouble.

Just before I started to my car, I was standing on the ground, near the left front wheel of the separator, Geo. was standing with his right foot on the deck of the feeder and his left on the door over the Ruth feeder cylinder and pulling huge bunches of wheat under the feeder knives with a fork. The strain was heavy on the feeder. A few minutes after I walked to my car, the hanger on the left feeder arm knife came loose, the back knife on the arm knocked the door over the Ruth cylinder off, Geo. Kopf's foot went into the cylinder and his body stopped the feeder by throwing the wide tarred belt.

I had walked by the tractor and nearly to the fence when I heard a low deep noise and a commotion behind me. I turned, looked back, saw a cloud of dust above the separator and walked back to it. They had taken Geo. Kopf from the feeder and he was lying in the shade of a nearby silo. I had not been permitted to see the horrible accident by but a few minutes. I went to him, my friend of nine years, and knew his life was ebbing away fast. I left Geo, hastily walked to my car, drove to a nearby elevator and quickly called an ambulance, a Doctor and a Priest. Geo. Kopf was a devout Catholic and it was my wish, because it was his, he receive the Last Sacarament of the Church. Geo. Kopf died before the ambulance arrived at the hospital.

I have been sorry ever since the accident that Avery Co. failed to sell them a separator. An accident of some kind might have happened to an Avery seperator with the same result, but had it happened, I would have no reason to feel I had in any way done or not done anything, that had contributed to the death of Geo. Kopf and now 32 years later, when the world is sleeping, would not have the vision of that horrible accident come to me.