boyhood experiences


| March/April 1977



Rig

Rig owned by Gotleib Kelm, 1923.

46 E. Main Street,New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania 17068.

After reading articles of interest in the Iron Men Album for years, I thought I should recall my boyhood experiences as they relate to pioneer farming and settling on Mandan Indian Territory in North Dakota around 1916. My parents followed the flow of pioneers who took out a Homestead claim and settled on newly acquired Indian land six miles from Parshall, North Dakota. At the time I was about old enough to start school so I walked alone two and one half miles across the open prairie to a one-room temporary school which at times also doubled as the teacher's living quarters. I shall never forget the day I was stopped by several Indians driving a horse and buggy. The one Indian wondered if I had whiskey in my dinner bucket. I explained that I carried my lunch that way, but he insisted I must have whiskey until his partner reminded him that the kid was scared and they better move on, which they did to my great relief. Apparently he was having fun at my expense. You may be sure I lost no time the rest of the way home that night.

After setting up living quarters which consisted of a 'modest' three-room shack and a barn large enough for six horses and a couple cows, the next item was to have the native soil 'broken' which was done by a huge Aultman-Taylor tractor pulling twelve 'breaker bottoms'. After the breaking was done my father farmed mainly with horses during his ten year stay on the Reservation.

Of course the high point of the year was Fall when that huge steam threshing rig would pull into the field and set up. Those were thrilling sights for a boy. The engineer became so skilled that he could back the engine into the belt and throw the pulley in gear and start the separator in motion all at the same time lined up too. The accompanying pictures are a sample of the old days on the prairie at harvest time.

The first photo is of a rig operated by Gotleib Kelm around 1923. My father, Ross Leyder, is the nearest spike pitcher on the first bundle wagon. Mr. Finney is on the grain wagon and the separator man, Olaf  Edwardson is adjusting the blower.

Some years, due to dry weather, the grain was too short to get with a binder; in those years a header was used and the loose grain was elevated into box racks as shown in the third picture. This outfit with exception of the tractor was owned by my father. He and Mr. Brey, a neighbor combined equipment for the season. Mr. Brey pulled the machine with a Heider tractor. When changing wagons, the driver of the team would hang on the elevator then hop down into the empty wagon. When turning at the corners, my father on the header would move off the guide paddle that he straddled and hold onto it with one hand while he was swung around at high speed until the turn was made when he resumed his position astride the paddle that controlled the crazy-wheel. This particular harvest took place around 1916.