September 10 and 11, 1977, were the dates of the 21st Annual Steam Threshing Days Reunion at Beldenville, Wisconsin.
The site of the show is on the Ed Huppert farm located less than half a mile west of Highway 35, about half way between River Falls and Ellsworth.
The show site is located in a beautiful valley carpeted with green pasture grass and sprinkled with shade trees, it is truly an ideal place for a large community gathering which it has turned out to be.
Both afternoons of the show are well-filled with sightseeing. Threshing and lumber sawing no doubt attract as much attention as any of the exhibits.
Two steam traction engines, steamed up and ready to go, one an 80 HP Case and the other a 20 HP Minneapolis, were used alternately to operate the grain threshers.
Andy Anderson is the engineer in charge of the Case. Melvin Snow and Fred Huppert alternate as engineers on the Minneapolis.
At the other end of the threshing operation, I met Melvin Snow who was busy with a grease gun getting a threshing machine ready to run. He described it as the last Case threshing machine built. It left the assembly line at the Case factory at Racine, Wisconsin, in either 1953 or 1954. It is painted an orange color which he says was done at the factory. This 28' cylinder machine, still in top condition, was purchased from Norman Finch, a dealer at Ellsworth, Wisconsin. Melvin, who lives about 2 miles from the Beldenville show, mentioned his experience in custom threshing that reached over a span of 50 years, much of it in partnership with his father and John Barnes. Melvin told me he attends 8 or 10 shows a year.
The two steam engines, a 25 HP oil engine and Rumely Oil Pulls, all take turns on the threshers. A small thresher, equipped with hand feed and slat stacker, is a leading attraction. Operated by a 6 HP one cylinder hopper water cooled engine, it handles divided oat bundles with a steady motion.
Carl Gutting brought his New Idea corn shredder and he gave a good demonstration of corn shredding. He also demonstrated corn shelling.
Hans Schmidt, Jerry Merta and Kenny Majeski, all farmers in the Beldenville neighborhood, have long been contributors to the show. Beside a small engine exhibit where they demonstrate feed grinding, corn shelling and in fact, most of the chores ever accomplished by single cylinder gas engines, they operate a lumber saw using a McCormick Deering tractor for power. I'm not sure of its rating, but it is either a 15-30 or maybe 22-35 HP. This year they brought a 1927 Model D John Deere. Working with the busy organization of Schmidt, Merta and Majeski is Arnold Tyler, a very capable helper.
C. D. McCann of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, came to the show as he has for many years, always bringing his model double cylinder steam traction engine. He says it rates 5 HP and has passed boiler inspection in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. It is a beautiful example of craftsmanship which required 2 years to build. He has a flat top model water tank which he built. Youngsters enjoy rides with him as he tours the show area.
Another engine that always attracts attention is the model Rumely Oil Pull, built and shown by George Wilson of Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Mr. Wilson tours the grounds giving rides to happy youngsters.
Mr. Wilson and his son, George, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, had several small gas engines on exhibit including one that is, no doubt, one of the smallest gas engines in the world. It is about one half the size of a half-gallon milk carton. It has all of the working parts of a gas engine. It fires with a spark plug and starts and runs perfectly.
Rupert Wheeler of Rice Lake had many small gas engines on display.
John Goldsmith of Amery, Wisconsin, displayed several antique gas engines.
Claude Garton of the Eau Claire Show was on hand with his miniature saw mill; a steam traction engine and a threshing machine. Also several small steam engines, all of them ready to run. His craftsmanship and creative ability has proven to be outstanding.
Vernal Davis and his son, Butch, from the Hastings, Minnesota area have shown gas engines and antiques for many years at the show and this year was no exception. They exhibit crawler type Fordsons. The Davises are rock crushing contractors and own other tractors.
A building, at one time a school house, is now used as a museum loaded with antiques. Admission at the gate pays for admittance to the museum.
The late Archie Stevens of Millville, Minnesota, who has since passed on to a Greater Life, called my attention to a miniature lumber saw he had built. Although every time I met Mr. Stevens, always at shows, he would ask me to visit him and his collection of steam engines and antique machinery at his farm. I intended to go, but I waited too long. May he rest in peace.
Back at the show area, a well drilled in recent years, supplies pure cool water for the visitors and, of course, water is needed for the steam engines, gas engines, and tractors.
A large machine shed built on the show site in recent years, houses a large collection of antique machinery. It includes 50 old kerosene and gas tractors, 7 oil pulls and 105 one-cylinder gas engines, old cars and trucks and Model T and Model A Fords.
Two things contribute to the success of the Beldenville Show; one is the cooperation of friends and neighbors with their help and we must include the exhibitors, most of them from other shows; another fine thing is the way the Huppert family all work together.
Mr. and Mrs. Ed Huppert have two sons, Gerald and Fred. Both are licensed steam engineers. Gerald and his wife, Darlene, have three daughters; Jan, Shelly, and Kathy. Jan and her husband, Jeff Place, are always busy at the show; Jeff at the gate and Jan with the microphone. They have two boys. Shelly is married to Ken Sour wine. They too work hard. Mr. Huppert is proud of the way 'the kids pitch in to help.' Another busy pair is Kathy Huppert and David Gutting who were married in July. Kathy works in the food stand with her mother and Mr. and Mrs. Mike Tomlin who are friends and neighbors. Fred and his wife, Carrol, have two sons; Danny and Darnell and two daughters; Del Ann and Dennett. Show time keeps Carrol busy at the steam popcorn wagon. She is assisted by Del Ann and Dennett as they sell caramel apples, ice cream bars and many other items. Denny and Darnell find plenty to do helping with starting engines and tractors, and many other jobs.
The weather at the show was a little unfavorable. Following a fair clear day on Saturday, Sunday (always the big day), turned out to be dark, windy and threatening rain.
On Saturday, when I was making the rounds of the respective exhibitors, I came to Claude Garton's fine display which I have mentioned. He invited me to have a seat in his trailer and to have a cool drink. I readily accepted, and he said, 'I'll get Ed.' He went out, was gone quite a while, when he came back he said: 'I couldn't find him. I even had him paged.' With that, we left his place and walked down to where threshing was in progress. We found Ed there busy with the little threshing machine, which at the moment as the saying goes, 'was doing more harm than city fellers on a farm.'
The 1977 Beldenville Steam Threshing Show is now history. They are looking forward to a successful reunion in 1978.