Past and Present: Our mailbag contains readers’ letters, photos – even poetry
Andrew Golt, Plattsburgh, N.Y. (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), found this road roller while traveling. He shares his find with us, writing:
I saw this road roller near a semi-abandoned warehouse between Saratoga Springs and Albany, N.Y. It’s on a main road, Route 9, between the horse town and the state capital. When I stumbled by, the caretaker was cutting the grass. All he would tell me was that the two owners, in their 20s, had a blueberry business in Maine. He shook his head in disbelief when I asked to take some photos. Just up the road I spoke to a retired dairy farmer and he confirmed the story. There is an operating roller-skating rink adjacent (same owner) on this very busy road, so someone is collecting the rent! Additional weathered equipment was a few yards away in the weeds.
Ken Hough, (219) 462-0281; (e-mail: email@example.com), snapped a few photos of the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club Annual Sycamore Steam Show this past Aug. 10-13, 2006. Ken explains:
Photo #1: This engine belongs to Justin Click of Lake Station, Ind. It’s an 1893 Case center-crank 13 HP. It’s one of the first engines to be at the Sycamore show 50 years ago, owned then by Rupert Jordon, a founder and president of the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club.
Photo #2 shows a Case center-crank on the Prony brake, where it pulled 56 HP.
Photo #3 is a 65 HP Case that belongs to John Haley. It is from the Rynda auction. I like this shot – it’s very pastoral.
Photo #4 is a giant Nichols & Shepard 30-98 HP. This was its first show in many years.
Photo #5 – “And you thought the Illinois toll booths were slow and crowded.” This shot was from the deck of the Case center-crank. I had 50 pounds on the gauge and had to wait to get steam-up. The mass exodus was after this panoramic photo was taken. It was interesting to see the rush start. I worried how some of these owners drive on the road!
Mary Bixler, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (firstname.lastname@example.org), shares with us an idea for viewing steam engines. Mary writes:
Enclosed is a photo I wanted to share with the readers and a thought. Being around steam for over 20 years, I know that there are a lot of mothers, wives, girlfriends and children of steam traction engineers who do not share the crazy love affair of their male members of steam traction engines. I have found a new subject for my photo taking – taking photos of my son’s steam traction engine in interesting settings. It has become one way I can share in his interest. I also think of years down the road when his children are old enough to appreciate the portfolio of photos of their dad.
I do a lot of scrapbooking of the steam engines I come across – especially those at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, Mt. Pleasant, and also of my son’s engines. I have had to get creative with ideas for die cuts, borders, papers, etc., for scrapbook embellishments. I get great satisfaction knowing I am preserving some of our steam traction engine history.
I have noticed at a lot of county fairs that photography is a huge exhibit area. What a great way it would be for young people to get involved with our steam traction engine history if the opportunity is present. What a thought, if just one young person laid down his camera just long enough to put his hand on the throttle or clutch lever of one of these old engines – think of the possibilities!
Jeannie (Girard) Byers, 5546 N. Willow Ave., Columbia City, IN 46725, shares the workings of a family at the Portland, Ind., show from years past. Jeannie writes:
Faithfully, two dozen or more members of the Girard Family Classic Harvesting team converged at the Tri-State Gas & Steam Engine Show, Aug. 23-27, in Portland, Ind., to demonstrate the way threshing, corn processing and baling used to be done. The tradition was established in 1976 by father, John R. Girard, and son, John J. Girard, of Decatur, Ind. John R. restored an old threshing machine and brought then teenage son John J. along to pitch bundles at the Tri-State show. John R. became the threshing director, serving on the Tri-State board for many years. John J.’s enthusiasm for the event drew cousins and friends to commit to planning their lives and vacations around this unique harvesting display. The crew grows and bundles oat shocks for use in the show as well as shocking corn in the fall to provide material to run thru the corn husker/sheller/hammer mill and ensilage cutter. Gleaned oat straw is pressed into bales during the show using an old wire baler.
Girard family threshing T-shirts identify the crew, who spend a week camping at the Portland Fairgrounds in order to put on a daily show for the thousands of spectators who attend this event, billed as the “World’s Largest Antique Engine and Tractor Exhibition.” It’s quite a sight to see the oldest of the crew, 86-year-old Paul Harden and 87-year-old Bud Sheet, gathered in the camp kitchen enjoying a hearty thresher’s meal alongside a third-generation Girard family thresher, 5-year-old John Garrett Girard.
Larry Mix, 2075 Coburn Road, Hastings, MI 49058, returns with more of his great photos this issue. Larry writes:
Here are some more photos for Steam Traction. I took this photo (Photo #1) at the steam show at Milton, Ontario, Canada, in 1971. From left: Lynn Mix, Harry Woodmansee, a man I can’t remember and John Southard.
Photo #2: This is also from the show at Milton in 1971. It is a Port Huron “high wheeler,” I’m unsure what size engine it is.
Photo #3: This is blurry, but that’s Ralph Woodmansee and Melvin Lugten’s 18 HP Keck-Gonnerman on the teeter totter at Charlton Park, Hastings, Mich., in 1964. The man on the ground with his hands in the air is John Southard. The other men are Ken Lewis, George Lewis and Stub Copland. We used to make quite a contest out of the teeter totter. Whoever balanced an engine the fastest won a chicken dinner. Ward Woodmansee was our announcer, and he made the contest interesting and played to the crowd. He was like an announcer at a circus side show. Ward was the best announcer we ever had, he sure put some excitement into the show.
Photo #4: This is Melvin Lugten with his 18 HP Keck-Gonnerman going up the wooden high ramp at Charlton Park in 1964. I remember we had to look around and make sure Harry Woodmansee wasn’t near, as he thought the high ramp was his show and he would have gotten mad if he’d seen someone else on his high ramp. This photo was taken before the show started.
Photo #5: He made it! The man on the ground is Ralph Woodmansee. Ralph is telling Melvin how to come down the ramp.
Photo #6: Melvin is on his way down the ramp. The man with the cigar is Ralph. In my opinion, Melvin Lugten and Ralph were two of the best steam engine men who ever walked the face of the earth.
Clifford Russell, 300 E. 3rd St., Lamar, MO 64759, discovers an engine restored by him and a friend now rests in the Disneyland Paris entrance to Big Thunder Mountain. Clifford writes:
My friend Gerald Shaver bought a 1913 Minneapolis 20-65 HP from the Ben Markley family in Joplin, Mo., in the 1970s. In 1974 Gerald asked me if I wanted to help restore the engine. Gerald is a self taught welder, machinist, blacksmith, gunsmith and has done all this in his own repair shop. Thus, Gerald taught me how to wake the sleeping giant.
In 1974, after restoration, it looked like new or better. Gerald took it to the tractor pull along with a hay baler, a rock crusher and a thresher. He showed them all working from the flywheel. He also put the rubber belting around the wheels and drove it in the parade at the Lamar (Mo.) Free Fair.
Gerald called me in 1987 and said he had a buyer for the engine. So I went to his shop to say good-bye and take photos. Recently, I decided to look for the engine. I sent out letters, searched the Internet and made phone calls. On Sept. 5, 2006, I received a letter confirming the location of the engine. The letter was from Disneyland Paris, France. So the next time you visit Paris, stop at Disneyland and see “Mickey’s Missouri Minneapolis.”
Winners have been named for the prize drawings held by Steam Traction and sister publications Farm Collector and Gas Engine Magazine at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, Aug. 30-Sept. 4, 2006, at Mt Pleasant, Iowa:
• Overalls from Klein Brothers Hardware: Lisa Revels, Jefferson, Wis.
• John Deere Ertl toy tractor from Nixon Auctioneers: Allen Sheaner, Sycamore, Ill.
• Farmall Ertl toy tractor from Nixon Auctioneers: Bob Harvey, Sedalia, Mo.
• John Deere toy tractor from SpecCast: Kenneth Simbro, Pleasantville, Iowa.
• Farmall toy tractor from SpecCast: John Devore, Centerville, Iowa.
• Oliver toy tractor from SpecCast: Kevin Dvorak, Chelsea, Iowa.
• Ice cream freezer and mixes from Country Freezer Units: Hila Jieman, Liberty, Ill.
• BT-2 System from Shooting Star: Adam R. Stockwell, Festus, Mo.
• Tap sockets 3-piece set from Dick Rulon: Bob Stuecker, West Point, Iowa.
• Tap sockets 8-piece set from Dick Rulon: LeRoy McClure, Colchester, Ill.
• John Deere chassis paint from PM Industries: Rita Anderson, Postville, Iowa.
Thanks to all who stopped by our tent to enter the drawings, and to these advertisers for their generous donations!
Marvin Hass, Buena Vista, Colo.(e-mail: email@example.com), sends us a poem about threshing. Marvin writes:
Harvest time on the prairie
I worked on the threshing crew.
Made me feel like a grown-up man
field pitched in fifty two.
Bundle teams, spike pitchers
a separator man.
Mr. Nelson owned the rig and all
lost his fingers on one hand.
Run-a-ways, cloudless days,
straw stacks that touched the sky.
The machine with the look of a dinosaur
with wings it might just fly.
Three-tine forks for pitching,
number tens for scooping grain.
Saw horses go a-flying
when the belt took off one’s mane.
Threshers’ meals with food piled high
each family served a feast.
Courtesy and manners showed
you weren’t broke yet, at least.
If a neighbor had an accident
couldn’t help out like he ought.
They’d thresh his when it came his turn
without a second thought.
It was the days of teamwork
yes, worked to all survive.
The threshing crew was community
playing out before our eyes.
The Good Lord gave the harvest
farmer’s reaped from east to west.
The threshing crew brought in the crop
and we all were truly blessed.