Threshing Wheat 50 Years Ago

Red River Special steam threshing outfit

Red River Special steam threshing outfit owned by George M. Kestler. Mr. Kestler is standing on top of the separator. The engine is a 25 HP double cylinder rear mounted Nichols & Shepard. The separator is a N & S 44''. This picture was taken about 1919 ne

Melvin Kestler

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1339 Evergreen Drive, Twin Falls, Idaho 83301.

Mr. Dewey Green, Sr., of Haxtun, Colorado sent me the following article which appeared in the August 18, 1971 issue of the Haxtun Harvest Newspaper.

'August 11, 1921 - 50 Years Ago'

'The threshing season is well underway in the Haxtun, Colorado district and a number of large outfits are going to capacity, but George M. Kestler, with his (steam) Red River Special (Nichols & Shepard) outfit has set a record which he believes will stand well toward the top in number of bushels threshed in one day. Working in the fields of J. W. Markham south of town last Tuesday, Mr. Kestler moved his outfit four times and threshed a total of 2,670 bushels (over 44 sixty bushel wagon loads of wheat).'

I made Mr. Green's acquaintance at the Antique Engine & Thresher Assn. show which is held on the farm of Mrs. Roy E. Kite of Bird City, Kansas where my Case 65 steam outfit was kept and shown for many years. Mr. Green was well acquainted with my father, George M. Kestler, who died in 1941. Mr. Green attended the Bird City show several times. It was always a pleasure to visit with him and learn more about the days when steam was king on the farms in eastern Colorado. At the time of my father's steam engine activities, I was not old enough to accompany him or be a part of same.

At one time, my father was an engineer on the Burlington Railroad which runs through Haxtun, Colorado. My parents moved to Haxtun in 1914 when I was 4 years old. His first steam outfit was headed by a Case 25-75 H. P. engine with 36' drivers as shown in the plowing picture which was taken about 1915. I saw an engine just like this with wide drivers at the Saskatoon show several years ago. This plowing picture shows a man steering the engine. Later, the engines were steered with a guide with a long steel pole fastened to the front axle with a crazy wheel which was held rigid and followed the furrow through the field and the wheel was released with a trip rope from its fixed position at the end of the field so that the outfit could be turned around.

About 1919, my father purchased a new Nichols & Shepard Red River Special outfit which is what the old newspaper article is about. The N & S outfit consisted of a 25 H. P. double cylinder rear-mounted plow engine and a 44' x 64' wooden separator which was shipped to Haxtun from the manufacturer's branch house in Lincoln, Nebraska. Recently, I visited with an elderly gentleman in Haxtun who told me the story of helping unload my father's new outfit from the railroad flat car. Wouldn't it be more than a thrill to unload such a brand new steam outfit today? The nearest experience I have had to this was two years ago when I shipped my Case 65, Case 40' separator and water wagon by rail from Bird City, Kansas to Twin Falls, Idaho. The story of this moving experience ''Shipping a Case' appeared in the May-June 1971 issue of The Iron Men Album-Magazine.

My father paid $4,500 for the N & S engine and he said he made enough money on the first plowing job (breaking sod) it was used on to pay for the engine. He received $3.50 per acre for breaking sod. It is not known what he got for threshing wheat. His outfit included a cook shack and he furnished most of the threshing crew.

My Case 65 was purchased in February, 1952. Several years prior to this, the late Mr. Roy E. Kite of Bird City rekindled my steam pressure and I started to look for a steam engine of my own. Considerable time was spent in the Haxtun, Colorado area looking for my father's old Nichols & Shepard engine until it was eventually learned that the engine had been scrapped after the war in 1946. In 1952, 'Mike' Ivan Middleton of Rulton, Kansas found his 1912 Advance 16 H. P. engine in the Haxtun area. One day my wife and I were standing in this eastern Colorado farm yard looking at this complete Advance outfit; engine, separator, plow and water wagon and in drove Mr. and Mrs. Roy Kite looking for steam engines unbeknowing to us. Mike ended up with the Advance which he restored into a beautiful engine.