529 Elaine Road Columbus, Ohio 43213
When I was thirteen years old my father started me at the job of
firing our old Russell engine. My older brother would handle the
outfit when on the road but I was responsible for keeping it hot,
oiled and watered while stationary. I remember at one
neighbor’s place we were baling and at dinner time the place
where I sat did not have a fork. I was too bashful to ask for one
but somehow managed to get enough to eat. When we were leaving the
house it seems that some of the women discovered what had happened
and I got a ‘going over’ for not asking for a fork. It did
not take me too long to overcome my backwardness at the dinner
table and many were the meals that I enjoyed while baling,
threshing and silo filling.
When I was about sixteen, we boys talked our father into getting
an engine plow. We now had a 16 H.P. compound Russell engine. This
was a four bottom P. & O. 14′ plow with individual bottoms.
It worked O.K. in stubble but in sod a couple of the bottoms would
break up the sod and leave it rough. The P. & O people finally
sent a man to line it up. If I had known then what I later learned
it would not have been necessary for the company to have sent a
man. I am sending a couple of pictures of the outfit. It was one of
the first, if not the first engine plow in central Ohio. (see
After father died mother made a sale and when the engine was up
for bid, junk men were about the only ones bidding. My brother and
I ran up the price to about what it was worth and I ended up with
an engine. The other machinery seemed to get better offers, so were
sold to neighbors.
The next spring I got a 31′ Garr-Scott separator and that
summer started out on my own. After the first season ‘kid
like’ I decided that I wanted a tractor. (I had to borrow a
team and hire a man to haul water). Well, I managed to get a 30-60
Russell and threshed two seasons.
One of the neighbors boys, who had been in the Marines, and I
got the wild idea of going to Canada and plowing prairie sod. We
made a scouting trip to Manitoba and in Winnipeg met a man from
Newark, Ohio who was in the real estate business. He sold us on the
idea of shipping the 30-60 to Marquette, Manitoba and getting an 8
bottom prairie plow. We didn’t need much selling. They were
paying seven to eight dollars per acre and in our imagination we
were going to get rich quick. Well, anyone who has had experience
with prairie sod probably knows without me saying so, that it was
no snap. Getting stuck in the soft sub-soil, getting the buffalo
willow raked up like hay under the plow, using 100 gallons of fuel
some days and freezing in a tent at night was not just the way we
had figured to begin with. Well, we got a lot of experience which
is a high priced teacher but a thorough one. It, no doubt, helped
me later on as a Service Man, a short time with the Frick Co.,
seven years with the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. and about
twenty-six years with Massey-Harris (Massey Ferguson).
In spite of my experience with gas and diesel tractors, I have
never been able to get Steam out of my blood. I am enclosing a
rhyme that I wrote a while back and thought maybe others might
enjoy reading it.
Perhaps I should tell some of the amusing incidents that I know
of, and that happened to me.
One summer after running a tractor through threshing season a
neighbor, who had a steam rig, asked me to fire his 18 H.P. Russell
to finish a small job that he still had left- I was glad to help
but what did I do but sit on the water tank and let the fire get so
low (being used to a tractor) that I had to get some kindling to
get it going again. Was my face red!
While on the road for Massey-Harris I was trying to find a
Farmer’s place in northern Ohio. I stopped to inquire the
directions from a man who was near the road and he told me to go to
the next cross road, turn left, go to the next road, turn right,
cross the bridge and turn right again. Thinking this would be
coming back to the road I was already on, I asked, ‘Can’t I
go through on this road?’ ‘Hell, yes!’ he replied
‘if you want to drive through the river’.
One of the boys who worked with me at Massey’s was
delivering a combine south of town and was following a street car
track and for some reason a car was stopped waiting. E. F. being in
a hurry started to pass the car and the unloading spout of the
combine stuck out just enough to hit the car and sounded like a boy
with a stick on a picket fence as he passed the windows. He stopped
when he heard the clatter but was past the car. The motorman was
rather excited and commenced to give E. F. a bit of lip. E.
F-looked to see there was not much damage done and said to the
motorman, ‘Why don’t you get your ! old street car out of
the road’, got back in the cab and took off.
Well that is about all for now, except to say that I enjoy the
‘Iron Man’ very much and would like to suggest that there
ought to be a T. V. show featuring Steam, Threshing, Sawing, Etc.
That would seem more romantic to me than some of the shows we now
– Now the poem –
Upon my cottage porch I sit
And dream of happy days,
When old steam threshers rolled along
The lanes and dusty ways.
The smoke I see a rolling high
And hear that engine still,
A puffing, hissing, sputtering,
When climbing up the hill.
I liked to watch those clouds of steam,
And loved the whistles tone.
I liked to hear the drive wheels ring
When they would crush a stone.
And when it turned into our lane
With dignity and pomp,
It gave me such a happy thrill
That I would shout and romp
I’d meet it half way up the lane
And walk along beside,
And I’d envy my big brother
As he ran the thing with pride.
The engine seemed to have pride too,
As though it were alive.
It seemed to try to please him,
And would purr when he would drive.
I thought I could not wait until
The time I’d grow to be,
A first class traction engineer,
I hoped as good as he.
But after while the time did pass,
And I have had my day,
But when the little tractor came
The steamer passed away.
The little modern combine has
Replaced the threshing crew,
But modern harvests do not have
The romance that we knew.
So when our task on earth is done
And we are called above,
I hope to meet that threshing crew
That I had learned to love.
And surely, when St. Peter finds
That we are standing by,
He’ll send us out to thresh some wheat
Some barley, oats and rye.
And when we get out to the field
I know that we shall find,
An engine with full head of steam
And a thresher hitched behind.
Author: Chester Phalor