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Threshing Machine Offers New Perspective

Restoration of a 1922 threshing machine gives Iowa youth a clear view of old iron.

| March 2016

  • Attaching plexiglass to the 1922 Wood Bros. Humming Bird thresher. Original paint still shows on a section of the thresher’s windstacker tube at top.
    Photo courtesy Scott Olson
  • Corren Olson uses a cutoff saw to remove bolts and panels during disassembly of the Wood Bros. Humming Bird thresher.
    Photo courtesy Scott Olson
  • A finishing touch: cleaning the Humming Bird.
    Photo courtesy Scott Olson
  • The intact side of the Humming Bird thresher.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • In presentations at the Threshermen’s show, Corren shared details on field conditions and harvest practices he learned through conversations with old-timers. He also described the era when machines like the Humming Bird were in use.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • One of the panels that was removed to make way for plexiglass retains the company name.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Humming Bird’s straw walkers are fashioned from wood. Thanks to years of dry storage, all were intact and undamaged.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Original belts had been stored inside the thresher for years; many were still usable.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A counterweight on the Humming Bird's grain auger counts the number of bushels harvested.
    Photo by Bill Vossler

Corren Olson stays busy during his local Albert City, Iowa, Threshermen and Collectors Show, keeping concession stands stocked with food and beverages, driving trolleys and explaining displays to show-goers. He also has a unique display there: a 1922 Wood Bros. Humming Bird thresher with one side removed, allowing a full view of its interior mechanisms. He even rigged up a small motor to run the walkers so people could see how they worked. Fortunately, he has energy to burn: Corren is just 18 years old.

Corren’s dad, Scott, introduced him to the old iron hobby. “He’s always been part of the Albert City show, so I trailed along,” Corren says. “When I was 10, I began working with the food service operation, making sure the stands got everything they needed. Because I was there a week early, I also helped get equipment out and ready to go. That was fascinating to me, because there were things I’d never seen, and because I’m interested in history, this was an outlet for me to see this part of history. Now that I’m working with the trolley rides and explaining what’s going on, it’s another chance to share the history that’s so important to remember.”

Corren’s family has a long history with the Albert City show. “Four generations of my family grew up a quarter of a mile from here, south of the threshing site,” he says, “and they worked in the fields that we’re threshing in now.”

Inspiration for FFA project

When it came time to develop an agricultural-based project as part of his involvement in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter at Sioux Central High School, Sioux Rapids, Iowa, Corren found a way to incorporate old iron. Then 16, he decided to create a cutaway that would demonstrate the mechanisms of a decades-old threshing machine.

“The project’s purpose is to develop skills in different areas, including hands-on work with materials,” he says. “We realized that a lot of people don’t understand how threshing machines work. My dad got the idea to add plexiglass after seeing similar displays at other threshing shows. We’ve never seen another thresher with it, so I took the idea and ran with it.”

The first part of the project was finding a thresher that would work. “We started talking with the (Albert City) Threshermen board,” Corren says. “They knew of a guy who had an old threshing machine that had been stored in his shed for years. He decided to donate it to the show. The board told us to just go ahead and use it.”


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