A Boy's Memories:

The Liar's Stump


| May/June 1998



c/o BJ/s Services Co., PO Box 3211 5th Floor, Al-Mana Bldg. Doha, Qatar, East Arabia

It is a Saturday evening, at the end of August, sometime in the 1960s. All day, the Central States Thresher-men's Reunion has been going full bore. Under clear skies and a hot sun, the spinning gears and wheels of huge steam traction engines, steam models, antique tractors and gas engines have paraded and powered threshing machines, balers, sawmills, fans, and the Prony brake. The cider press and buckwheat mill have done brisk business since morning. Walking from the south gate, you can see the separators lined up on the right hand side of the roadway, with their big drive belts rolled, covered, and off the ground. Bearing left at the loading ramp, the gas engines and models are on the right. Parked in a row of oak trees is the main line of large steam engines, then the big sawmill, and finally, the portable mill, built by Henry Lucksinger. Another ten large steam engines are sprinkled around the rest of the shaded grounds. The smell of good cooking emanates from several of the church group food concessions. In the hobby building, the ladies are closing their many handicraft displays. Mr. Mann's anvil has quit ringing in the blacksmith shop. The antique crowd has thinned, except for exhibitors, and a new audience is arriving for this evening's Society Horse Show. Straw stacks from the day's threshing are being taken over by yet another group of excited children. Whistle cords are tied back on most of the steam engines, so as not to tempt the younger generation after dark. From the large sawmill comes the quiet, repetitive chink and rasp of the sawyer's tools, as he swages and files his blade, for tomorrow's run of oak and walnut logs. Behind the main engine line, activity has also slowed. The McCaskey brothers have put their return-flue Minneapolis to bed and headed home. Tom Burke, who looks after Art Erikson's Woods Brothers engine, is having a talk with Art, who has just been entertaining a crowd around his old Twin City tractor, idling the engine until you could hear the mag click, then opening her up until blue flame was licking a foot outside the open manifold. Paul Alsip has gone for supper, leaving Bob Smith with the hard working Case 40 (and a young boy, who for cleaning the flues, hauling wood, ashes, and doing early morning firing, now gets his reward, using the last of the steam, quietly playing with the engine).

George Richey and the Hampsmires have banked the fires in the Hampsmire's Aultman-Taylor and the mighty 23-90 Baker. The Lindenmier Reeves cools slowly, with a three-quarters full glass, done for the day. As soon as he had bedded down Wilbur Collin's Kitten, Ray Dye's wife has come and collected him for suppertime. Bill Oltman is filling the grease cups on his Case 40, for tomorrow's run.

Farther down the line, Joe Weishaupt is clucking to himself as he wipes something (that only he can see) off his already spotless 19 HP Keck. Herb Beckemeyer's shining 21-75 Baker sits quietly, as Herb finishes preparations for tomorrow. Glen Thomas is giving the big 25-90 Nichols & Shepard her last drink of water for the day. Fred Haszler, Hubert Koopman, and Mr. Killing have had a last chat before exchanging the Port Huron, Nichols & Shepard, and Steam Runabout for supper plates and bed.

On the other side of a little dip in the ground, backed-up to the main line and facing the opposite direction, are Wilbur Jolley's Nichols & Shepard, Verne Harms' Russell, and Don Werth's Jumbo. Wib, Verne and Don have been messing with an injector on the Russell and finishing some belt lacing, before gathering around a cooler in the back of a pickup.

You can hear the grandstand public address system warming up, plus the odd bit of organ music, as the Horse Show organizers get ready for their big night. Then, as now, 'No Whistles Allowed At All,' with horses in the ring. The evening deepens and darkens. The air cools enough that you don't sweat. . . if you stand still. A lazy puff of good soft coal smoke and the smell of fresh cut oak scents the air.