Young at Heart: Avery Yellow Kid Thresher

1914 Avery Yellow Kid thresher still going strong at Platte County Steam & Gas Engine Show

| December 2012

When Ron Roebuck first saw the 1914 Avery Yellow Kid thresher in 1975, it had sat unused in a barn south of Platte City, Mo., for more than 20 years. “A local farmer named Frank Southers owned the thresher, which had been in his family since the late 1920s or early ’30s,” says Ron, a retired engineer and steam engine collector living in Shawnee, Kan. “Frank was asking $150 for it, but he wanted to find someone who would husband it and not just burn it down for the iron.”

The hook was set. “I knew Avery made quality equipment, and even though it had been years since the thresher had been run, it was still in good shape,” Ron says. “Frank said they’d tried to run it with a Farmall F-20 but the F-20 couldn’t handle it until they took a lot of the cylinder teeth out.” The thresher came with a full complement of belts still in usable condition, and sieves for wheat, clover seed, beans and other crops. “Although coons had built nests in it,” Ron says, “it was just too good a machine not to save.”

There was just one small problem. The Avery thresher had been stored in an old barn facing a hillside. “Over the years, the hillside had eroded and filled the barn doors at least a quarter of the way up with silt,” Ron recalls. “My dad and I would go out there in the evenings after I got home from work. Using hand tools, we dug the doors out. The thresher’s wheels were pretty well buried, too, so we ended up digging two ruts for the wheels so the thresher weigher would clear the door. Then I hooked it to the hitch of a little 1954 3/4-ton Chevy truck, and we pulled it to the Platte County Fairgrounds, where we stored it under an open-sided shed.”

Strength in numbers

The fairgrounds are also the home of the Platte County Steam & Gas Engine Show. In 1976, the Avery was pulled out for a threshing demonstration. Then the old thresher sat unused until 2012. “At one point, the Fair Association wanted to use that building, so they drug the thresher out and never put it back,” Ron says. “One of the club members called me and said the thresher was sitting out in the rain. When I got there, kids had gotten into it and pulled off some of the grease cups, and the housing for the windstacker fan had rusted out. It was kind of a mess.”

Things began looking up for the thresher when the Platte County group got involved. “Ron gave the Avery to one of our club members, Jim Turnbull, who in turn donated it to our club,” says Rich Canning, Platte City. “Last spring we decided to make it a club project, so we loaded it on a flatbed and hauled it to Steve Foster’s place. We used his shop to start disassembling it. We probably spent 100 hours getting it back in working order, with as many as six to 10 members working at a time.”

“Basically, we took the thresher apart and replaced those parts that were beyond repair,” explains Allen McFall, a club member from Dearborn, Mo. “Jim Turnbull did the metal work, including fabricating and welding a new bottom for the fan housing. We also replaced the cross-arms across the bottom, made a new bottom grid on one side of the return elevator, and replaced all the bolts on the front feeder. The front bolster was pretty well dry-rotted out, so Charlie Porter, our woodworker, made a brand new one.”