Innisfail, Alberta, Canada
From the Days of the Steam Plowing Age (This is part I). It is my hope that the story here written will bring some pleasure, especially to the older men for whom I hold deep respect, not only for their age, but for the pioneering spirit and the example they set in overcoming the hardship and experimental work that was required for the development of the power age. In it all a comradeship for all men was known. While the work was hard, there was satisfaction in it for good things were accomplished. In both the Western States and Canada, the whole credit for the spirit of free living as in the older days is due only to those men and women who worked in belief and perseverance and held respect for what was good, and we can say now, it was a good job well done.
In those years, even at the turn of the century, the air in the autumn seemed to be filled with something that would hold one. As a boy I can remember when threshing time came how we used to get a box and build a thresher. We would put round sticks through it and then use old empty thread spools for pulleys and some of Dad's leather shoe laces for belts and ran the whole thing off the grindstone. Some boys used their Mother's sewing machine treadle. Was it any wonder then that as we boys got older we loved the excitement of taking some part in the fall work?
So, one year leads into another and I find myself recalling a time after the hard year of 1907 had passed into history. In 1908 the grand weather of a perfect autumn had held so steady along with the fall coloring which now had started to show its wonderful beauty especially in the early mornings. For by now, after the first three weeks of steady running, the early mornings were taking on a tinge of frost which everyone knew would get a little harder as each day came and went.
It was after one of these days that we had a long move after supper. That always seemed more of the real thing for, as we moved along, the old kerosene headlight showed the road clearly and a lantern turned low on the old Case 20 were the only lights visible. We were burning straw and of course, a bundle rack was ahead and every few yards the extra man on it would shove off a large armful of the wheat straw. As we came alongside, another man would pick it up and put it on the back of the engine where I could shove it in the chute. It was surprising how well an engine would steam on fuel of this kind. With the small water tender, we would have to stop about every three-quarters of a mile to take on water. If fires had to be cleaned it was done then. So we kept going until we arrived at the farm that was next in line to thresh. It was about 9 miles from our last job. The night was perfect. The sky was clear and the first quarter of a new moon gave everyone the hope of a still finer day to come. We had raised the spark screen about an inch and it was a pretty sight to see the two spirals of smoke and steam as the engine worked and through it all bright sparks which would fly upwards and then float off and then blink out as they fell. We had the thresher, with three full loads of straw and two empty wagons for hauling grain behind us. That gave us enough load that worked the engine so everyone knew we were coming.
It was close to 10 o'clock when we finally reached the place where we were to start the next day. As was the custom this year, a wagon load of straw and all the extra men and luggage went ahead and when we arrived our sleeping tent was up, all warm and cosy for us to turn in for a really well earned rest.
(Continued next issue)