Dairyland Driftings

By Gil
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Steaming Tobacco Beds at Durward Steinmetz's, May 1961. Durward leveling off the next bed and George Christian, time keeper, seated on the ground. (See Dairyland Driftings.)
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An 1892 picture showing three engines, left to right: Old Style Jumbo, C. Aultman Star, Birdsall.

On our agenda for some time was the trip we made to the DURWARD
STEINMETZ’S at LaFarge, Wis., to witness the steaming of
tobacco beds. Funny thing, but indirectly due to the process of
steaming ‘bacco beds, I first found out about THE IRON-MEN
ALBUM at about the time the publication got started. Back in the
‘forties’, I was paging thru an American Thresherman (about
a 1927 vintage) and came across a picture of Homer Holp and his
father from Brookville, Ohio, with two steam engines on their way
home from steaming tobacco beds. My curiosity a-roused me to chance
a letter to these steam men-at least we had a common interest in
steam. To my delight and surprise here comes a reply from HOMER
HOLP and he informed me of THE FARM ALBUM (as it was called in its
humble beginning in 1946 and up to Vol. 5th 1 Sept. 1950 whence it
adopted the title IRON-MEN ALBUM). Believe you me, I could never
thank Homer enough for the friendly gesture, but to this date I
haven’t met him in person.

Getting back to the Steinmetz trip, something like 250 miles to
our Southeast. GEORGE CHRISTIAN from Swanville, Minnesota,
accompanied us for he too has a yen for steam. Before we got to
Steinmetz’s we chanced to see the EVER TRUGGSTAD outfit
steaming beds at Westby. He was using a 45 Case No. 20841. The
Steinmetz’s were busy too, using their 20 hp Advance, No.
13492. George landed a ‘job’ as official time-keeper since
he always carries a watch and this type of ‘work’ suits him
fine.

I noted in the last ALBUM, E. P. NELSON of Bird City, Kansas,
asked as to the purpose of the steaming process. Checking with
DURWARD I found: the soil is plowed 6′ to 8′ deep, leveled
off with a garden rake, then the steam pan lowered on steam hose
exit, dirt banked around edges and steam turned on for about a half
hour, killing all weeds, weed seeds, plant disease and releases
soil fertility, and heat hastens growth of young plants. An ounce
of tobacco could plant 8 acres – so plants are seeded in these beds
an when about 6 inches high, transplanted to the fields. Since
tobacco raising involves much hard labor the acreage is usually
limited.

Alice has no rating as a poet but while watching the steaming
process composed the following – (I gotta watch this or I’ll
end up with a ladies column).

We took a trip and went to see –
The Durward Steinmetz family.
We steamed tobacco beds and had lots of fun –
For us from the north we had not seen this done.
We put potatoes and eggs under the steam pan –
Turned on the steam for half an hour and then
Picked up the ‘tatoes and eggs and made a bee line –
Up to the house, and did we dine!
There aren’t very many who cook dinner this way –
But they sure are missing something is all I can say.
Durward and Koletta are part of a team –
And when there’s an engine around there’s sure to be
steam.
Peggy and Jill are their two gals,
And they are two of our best pals.
When it comes to firing up an engine they know how –
But I don’t think they could milk ‘Ginger’, their
cow.
Time is going and soon we must head for home.
We sure hate to leave, but we must roam.
Back to Frederic and our holstein cows –
And dream of our trip and our stay at the Steinmetz house.

Of course we took time to visit other steam fans too – drove
down to see HARRY SCHELL at Blue River who has converted his 6-18
Case No. 19660 into a traction job, fact is he had plowed his
garden with it the day before. Thence over to Richland Center where
we met CHAS STODDARD who has built a honey Advance Rumely engine,
cylinder 3-1/8×4. Stopped at HARVEY HOSKIN’S who had bought
Steinmetz’s 24 hp ‘Minnie’. Very fine people
indeed.

Before we left, Durward drove us up on the Ridge where the major
part of his cropland is laid out in continuous strips. Winding up
the hill we noticed Bloodroot flowers galore and for the first time
I was shown ‘Thank You Moms’. ORRIE BOWEN had often spoke
of ‘Thank You Moms ‘ a step-like terrace on the roadways
that helped conquer the hilly country of Southwest Wisconsin.

Enroute home we stopped at ROBERT BREDLOW at Ontario where we
saw his 65 Case, the 20 Reeves and the 20-40 OilPull.

Arriving home and finding the fields a bit wet George suggested
we buzz some wood, so we belted the Indiana tractor to the wood saw
and started on the slab pile.

My wife’s a bit reluctant at trying new recipes, but since
the Steinmetz’s gave us some home-made sorghum we have really
been enjoying ‘Mother Plasterer’s Gingerbread’ as found
on page 24 of the TNT Cookbook.

ARCHIE STEVENS from Millville, Minnesota, stopped over, had his
model threshing rig on his truck booking fairs. Fact is, he was way
down in Texas with the outfit last winter. They were kidding him
‘If you get out of Texas with your old truck, you can walk the
rest of the way.’

I had a chore-man booked so’s I could go with JIM JOHNSON to
load up some stationary steam power but Jim’s vacation was
curtailed by his summer job, so Alice and I took off in pursuit of
same. Our first stop was at Almena to watch JOHN M. NELSON saw logs
with his 24 hp Minneapolis No. 8467. John has sawed using diesel
power but prefers steam.

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