1 / 2
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
2 / 2
The Evenson and Harvey threshing machine at Winger, Minnesota in 1915. The engine is a 25 hp. Case tandem compound straw burner. The separator is a 36 by 60 Rumely separator. Tom Evenson is the engineer and Tilmar Stai, fireman. Courtesy of John Er

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

Bless be the tie that binds the hearts of all we old

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment