My Grandpa, Noah Mill, who moved from Ohio to the sooner state (Oklahoma) and homesteaded in the early days always had a thresher and steam engine ever since I can remember. I grew up on the farm and we lived mile from where Grandpa lived in Oklahoma and
Box 21, Wichita, Kansas 67201.
I am one of the many old, old, old, old threshermen who griped because we do not see the experiences of old-timers the real McCoys who threshed by the pull of the throttle for a many and many a year and from dawn till setting sun and could we say 'Backward turn backward, oh time in your flight Let me dream again of threshing (with steam) again just for tonight.'
No foolen', no time of the year so dear to a youngster than when in the distance we would hear the pretty chime whistle sounding the entry of a season of threshing. In our neighborhood in the southern Ohio Hills is where I was born and the year was 1886, April 20. That was just two years after Frick came out with their world famous Daniel Boone that won the gold medal in every state fair and to note that this engine design was the one that proved most favorable of all engine designs from that time until the gas tractor. It was rear mounted with main shaft and flywheel on back end of boiler just where it was right for all purposes of threshing and plowing.
So, why not let me start by telling my little story of charm and thrills that only a steam engineer has ever known, hoping to 'rile' the blood of other old duffers who loved the smell of steam when steam was supreme! I don't claim the honor of deserving men, like Leroy Blaker who seemed to live to love the music, the look, the smell of the old engine as the sheaves entered the cylinder. Was all hand fed and sometimes a sheaf by accident fell in without the band of the sheaf cut and then did the engine groan! The black smoke rolled causing an overload but steam engine never misfired. Every stroke was a power stroke and soon the speed was back to normal again and that would be cause for another shovel of coal and look forward and see that cylinder roll.
But hold on old fellow threshermen! We are at a scene in the real pioneer days of threshing. The tallow pot lubricated the cylinder besides adding to that most pleasing smell that we say and hope went up to Heaven for in that day and time that is to come we shall breathe again. A smell that was so familiar and so dear to the heart of threshermen in the early pioneer days when songs, compositions, and singing such songs as 'On the Bank of the Wabash' and 'Girl of My Dreams' was tops. And by the way 'Old Duffers' who can thresh and write even better than me, don't fail to tell of the songs you sang of evenings when the the boys and girls gathered round to melodize the glorious end of the day.
For me, I'm glad I grew up in the Hills and to know the joy of a life of a hillbilly. I loved the hill so steep that made the old engine puff slower but stronger on and on up to the top when like a conquering hero the sound of that pretty chime whistle that sounded the 'Glory of Conquering Steam.'
Let me say here that we had a 6 hp. engine and an 8 hp. A 12 horsepower engine was really big bigger than that was a bridge buster and we heard big stories of way out West in Texas. The long-horn cattle were driven off. The prairies were plowed by steam. In year of A.D. 1908, I landed in Plainview, Texas, and there in plain sight was a giant on wheels, a big Reeves 32 hp. could pull fourteen 14-inch plows. Put in a fire, look back and see 14 furrows at 3 miles an hour, yet by first of July we had that old 32 hp. Reeves just a lazying along on a long belt to a 36 inch separator. I later became owner of a 32 hp. cross compound Reeves. I used it exclusively for threshing in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. I was lucky for if it is the right Reeves, it can be the best threshing engine in the field and it can and was often the poorest for in that time the maker of engines did not know how to balance a crankshaft that would not only brake. It was hard on bearings. The counter weights would come loose due to vibration. All makes of double engines had serious crankshaft trouble. Today we learned to conquer vibration.
In Western states we had our own cook shack no ice yet, but our cooks had wonderful meals ready at 5 a.m. and supper by lamp light. We slept on the prairie or in barns and really rested we dreamed dreams that no mortal ever dared to dream before. Sunday we found a swimmin' hole!
Hold on! I could go on and on with this stuff - time to shut off steam and oh how I will look for other old, old threshermen whose story is to me lots better. That will make us want to lengthen our subscription another five years. The joy, sorrow, busted boilers and bridges, broken crankshafts, bad water and believe it or not, romance followed the life of a thresherman. Tell about that too and most all were happy ever after. So, let us hear you tell the story over once again. Tell it now, while the world is dying for a little bit of love and well all join in the chorus.
Watch out if you just hint that what I have written this time is interesting and steamed up, I just might try to do better next time.
Bless be the tie that binds the hearts of all we old threshermen.