Engineers — Well Almost!

| May/June 1964

As a boy on the farm, I remember clearly the excitement aroused by the haunting music of the whistle and and rhythmic exhaust of the big Case engine as it approached our farm every year, followed by the teams and wagons of the farmers with whom we “traded” work.

My first job was handling the blower on the separator. I don’t know if I buried the men on the stack any oftener than anyone else or not, but I remember trying not to. Quite frequently, I used to be a bit tardy in raising the blower high enough, soon enough, resulting in a completely plugged separator, thereby incurring the wrath of the threshermen.

After a few years, I, having developed several more muscles, was graduated to the bagger, where, along with several other men, we toted the grain to the grainery. There it was dumped in the bins via a sort of bag brigade. Sometimes it got a bit hectic if the distance from the separator to the granary was lengthy and we were shorthanded, but it all added to the excitement. Every chance I got, I’d be somewhere near the engine, watching, listening and just smelling!

Another recollection I have that is somewhat clearer, and more painful than others, is of an incident that took place one year when the rig arrived at our place too late for the crew to do any more than just set up for threshing to start in the morning. After the separator had been set and spragged, and the engine placed so that all that was necessary was to belt up and back the slack out, the engineer banked the fires and the crew left for the night.

My brother and I, with the supreme confidence — and ignorance of youth — decided that we had suddenly become engineers. The folks had gone away for the evening, so, with no fear of parental intervention, we climbed aboard the engine, just to kind a look things over. I think that kids do the same thing today — only there are things like ignition keys and such to contend with now. The only thing we were confronted with was: Which one of these gadgets was the throttle?

Luckily, the engine hadn’t been sitting long enough to have collected very much water in the cylinder, because we had no idea of where the bleeder cocks were, or how they worked. We just fiddled around until we found the throttle and opened it! Not all the way, of course. And there we were — ENGINEERS!! It hadn’t been stopped on center, so it started readily enough and chuffed away just as sweetly as it did for any other engineer. For a few moments we were content to just let it do that, and I think, had it not been for our juvenile inability to let well enough alone, no one would have ever been the wiser.

We somehow got hold of the lever that engaged the flywheel with the drive train, and we were underway. After a moment of panicky realization that we had overdone things, and were also going backward, we both came to the conclusion that we had to do something.