Evansville, Indiana

Brother Elmer, I am sending a clipping from the press of an
Evansville paper so you can see how things are coming along. Dan
Zehr, Jim Roberts and another fellow were here April 21, to see our
Huber Roller No. 11805. I had it good and hot and they seemed to
have a good time. I guess you will be getting some pictures of it
soon. Larrimore was not able to come.

I was just thinking about an old fellow who lived around here
when I was a kid. He took on a job of running a tandem roller for a
fellow who built some rock roads about here. This man looked the
wreck over and patched it up. The piston valves were off and the
way he set them was to take a sliver of steel between his front
teeth and stick his fingers in his ears, that way he could tell
when they opened and closed. He got along all-right for a time on
level road until he had to cross a small arch bridge and that it
would not do. He said, ‘ It was time to plant corn’ and
away he went and never came back. Another fellow came along to run
it. He cleaned the exhaust nozzles and got over the bridge. I was
just a kid then but I never forgot to look at the nozzles of an
engine first thing and have found some that you could hardly stick
your finger in. Most people have them cramped too much anyhow.
During the last years that I run an engine for threshing and
saw-milling, I bored them out, of course I wanted the valves set
right with plenty of lead.

I also knew another fellow who died 20 years ago in his 80th
year, so you can see when this took place. His folks came back here
when I was 9 years old and his dad worked in a machine shop in
Sacramento, California, building traction engines for hauling ore
out of the mountains. He was running one up and down the street,
which was dirt at the time, in front of our shop, and after a few
trips he had worn a track so he did not have to steer it. He slowed
it down, got off and walked around to the steps under the crank
which had a hand rail in front of it. He had just stepped up and
was watching something when someone did something, what happened no
one seemed to know, but he made a grab and his hand went in between
the connecting rod and the disc, or maybe it was a crank, but as it
came over she shoved everything up to his shoulder. There he was
holding on with the good hand just in front of the drive wheel. He
was about to faint and knew if he turned loose he would fall under
the drive wheel. No one knew how to shut the thing off so one
fellow threw a crowbar through between the spokes on the flywheel
and that stopped everything. The doctor wanted to take the arm off
but the women folks would not allow it. They got a lot of hot bread
and milk and worked the muscles back in place as best they could
and it got good enough for him to hold a pair of calipers. The
person who told me this tale was one that I would take his word
just as soon as his bond so that engine must have had a long

A friend of mine said, ‘He thought he heard something in the
news on the radio about the Rev. Ritzman, but he wasn’t sure as
his sister (the one with the big mouth), opened it right then and
he couldn’t hear what was said.’ I hope nothing has
happened to him. What would all of us cousins do without him and
the IRON MEN? Well, make the smoke stacks ring like a bell.

Cousin with wheels in his head,

APRIL, 1956

On Highway 57, a few miles out of Evansville the other day I
passed a roadside sawmill. Judging by the mountain and foothills of
sawdust, it’s been there some time. Guess I just failed to
notice it. This time, however, my attention was drawn to the
operation by a huge billow of steam ballooning out from a wonderful
old puffing-billy engine.

Don’t get excited now. I’m not about to propose a steam
powered sawmill for Sunset Park to go with the steam locomotive and
the paddlewheel steam boat we don’t have either.

But I would like to direct your attention to the fact that you
seldom see a country-style steam engine anymore. Understand
there’s one out McCutchanville way that the owner fires up
occasionally for the benefit 01 a wide-eyed younger generation.
There are doubtlessly others in the area too. But it’s a rare
day when you catch one in action. (Dan Zehr did).

I think it would be fine if we could hold a sort of reunion for
these old-timers on some fair summer day. Along about harvest time
would be good. The sight of an old steam thresher one of those huge
steel-wheeled tractors that used to power threshing machines would
bring back memories to ‘most everybody who today is not as
young as he used to be.

They have them you know, these thresher reunions. I’m not
just making this up, either. They are getting quite popular in many
rural areas. One I read of the other day is the Central States
Threshermen’s Reunion in Pontiac, Ill. It is to be from August
30 through Sept. 3. Last year more than 40,000 people paid a
50-cent gate fee to take in the event.

Stars of the old fashioned extravaganza were 29 large steamers
and 20 small ones. Twice a day the wheezy monsters of yesteryear
got up pressure and moved out in parade. Operators took turns
trying their machines on a thing called a Prony Brake, a gadget
that tests pulling power.

One of the biggest steam engine conventions is held each year at
Montpelier, Ohio. Here assemble a battery of old-style steam
engines for display, competitive events and a general letting off
of steam. Most popular events are the demonstration of an old steam
fire wagon and concerts by a steam calliope. (Note: Say! How about
one of each for Sunset Park?)

Other steam reunions are held annually at Kalamazoo, Mich.; Fort
Wayne; Davenport; Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and Luxemburg, Wis. If
you’re around any of these places when one is going on, take it
in. We’d like a report on one.

Farmers who used to operate the old monsters always get a big
kick out of seeing a steam-powered thresher in action. And so do a
lot of us who only remember hauling water for grandpa and Uncle
Hubert at threshing time.

Farm Collector Magazine
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