Box 21, Wichita, Kansas 67201
Oh, that bright and cloudless morning 1890 B.C. (before
combines) two black oxen by the name of Tom and Gerry seemed to be
pulling a puffen’ steam engine in the direction of our four
round wheat stacks but neither Tom nor Gerry was pullen a pound and
they knowed et. When they came to a steep place in the road the old
engine was puffen louder, but didn’t disturb the oxen one bit.
The day of Great Mystery had arrived. There was an ingin (we called
it) could pull itself. All the two big black oxen had to do was to
guide it by holding up the tongue. Behind this was old Buck and
Barney and George and Coley, that made two yoke pulling the
separator and on the water tank pulled by Rond and Pete. The water
tank consisted of a wagon with high wheels and a huge wooden box
holding five barrels of water. Two empty barrels for the engine
while the tank man was after another load that was dipped from the
creek with two half bushel buckets that took an extra man.
The engine was a powerful six horsepower single cylinder made in
Mount Vernon, Ohio. The crew consisted of Engineer, separator man,
two to feed alternately and a boss, who was also an Advance man,
usually chewing a yellow straw in his mouth.
Across on another hill from us was another machine with six
horses horse power machine. Shucks, no fun threshing powered by
horse flesh. Our machine had a whistle and the puffen, puffen of
the big engine caused a thrill with every puff. This was the year
1890. I was 4 years old, and that was old enough to tell my big
brother, Dave (now 95) ‘I’d rather run that big engine than
be president,’but alas, right there in the same neighborhood we
could hear bout sundown the chime of a still louder whistle and
this engine could not only pull itself but could pull the separator
up the steepest hill and guided by a steering wheel. I told my big
brother Dave, (not my drinkin’ Brother) I’d rather run that
engine than be King of the Universe.
This engine was a Springfield 8 Hp. made in Springfield, Ohio.
Used tallow to lubricate the cylinder, no friction clutch. The
engineer rode in a seat on the platform with two coal boxes. There
were two tanks for water on the side, right and left, bout midway
of the boiler there was a cross head pump and what they called an
inspirator made by Hancock but not always worked. We have heard of
cussen loud as an ox driver. I can say never have I ever heard such
cursing as that old engineer did at that engine when the double
darned old inspirator wouldn’t work worth a darn. We could
never imagine Hell being even tho times could be hot enough torment
for such cursing and all was the matter was dirt on the screen at
the end of the hose.
As time advanced, we had better engines and much better
engineers who never said Damn in a season.
When Benjamin Harrison was president, the prettiest love song
was ‘I Can’t Tell Why I Love You Like I Do.’ -korse I
was too young to kno much, but admiration. 1 had it for that super
mysterious super something that could pull the separator.
And if it don’t make any difference to you, I’d rather
you wouldn’t make fun of us happy healthy Hillbillys. We had
iron oar, appels, peaches, wild plumbs and we could lift up our
eyes to the hills and our tall skinny barber shop boys sing?? and
the girls?? No doubt about it and they dressed at their best when
they came out to see threshing machines.
We carried the new threshed wheat in two bushel cotton sacks to
the grainery. Many boys were big and strong enough to shoulder a
two bushel of wheat and was fit to go with the girls and they did.
It was in the Gay 90s when we had the best songs, best
compositions, best poetry and strange to say the best steam engines
mostly single cylinder as they cost less to build, less
complicated, slow speed, big flywheel and more impressive and right
here I want to say and mean it that strange as it seems that the
worst steam engine was the last one a double cylinder tandem
compound made to the sorrow of three leading manufacturers and I
want to add that the most outstanding engineering disgrace in all
history of steam was that abominable compound either cross or
tandem. I declared it an engineering disgrace.
Compound was a big word that meant nothing promised more and
gave less. Cost more and a definite proof that the maker was
insane. Of all the crazy things that plagued engine history, I
would say that the compound was the worst.
We look ahead for a new book to be out soon covering merits and
demerits in steam engineering and oh could we make a steam
threshing and plowing engine today. Although, I don’t believe
old timers would like a higher speed, higher pressure all enclosed
double cylinder, quieter running engine with very little smoke and
rubber tires. Back before the century, we didn’t kno the word
‘Ssychology’ or what it had to do in the life of a thresher
man. In those distant thresher days the sound and smell, the feel
as well as the pulse (that was slower) of the engineer and the
engine 200 revolutions was fast and that was too fast to count the
spokes in the flywheel. Soon the rpm went up 230 and as high as 260
rpm as the double cylinder came in. The sound not so good, a good
loud exhaust slower and better. One old timer boasted you could
hear his Advance puffen two miles away.
I would like to write again telling what I think of the
different makes of engines and boilers but what would please me
better would be to read what others in different parts of the
country have to say.