‘EXHAUST ECHOES’

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)

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