Farm Collector

EXPERIENCES FROM THE MONTANA PRAIRIES

Trenton, Missouri

I was born in Minnesota in ’88. In 1910 our family moved to
South-east Montana. I landed at Miles City with barely enough cash
to file on a homestead 45 miles Northwest of the town, and the
railroad. The following summer I decided to attempt to purchase a
power-plowing rig; and hikes to town to see what credit a
flat-broke homesteader had with a machine dealer.

I finally bought an old 32 Cross-Compound Reeves engine, and an
old 12 bottom plow. I was to pay $850.00 for the engine and $300.00
for the sod-buster. (No money down and pay when I could). The
dealer was plenty glad to clear his yard of the old worn out
equipment.

I was 3 weeks getting the outfit home. Enroute while crossing a
narrow dry wash about 12 feet deep the heavy drivers collapsed the
bridge. The front end reached solid ground; the bulky plow behind,
not yet on the bridge, probably saved my life. The rear of the
engine dropped the length of the plow tow chains and stopped. Four
days later I was on my way.

We left town burning wood, ran out, and stopped to dig lignite
coal from the outcroppings here and there along our bad-land
route.

It was late fall when we reached the homestead. I spent the
winter repairing and rebuilding the old engine. The fire box sheets
and the crown sheet were buckled between nearly all the stay bolts.
I put new stay bolts through the center of the worst buckles; also
dovetailed in a new cog in one of the bull gears; plus many other
major and minor repairs.

That spring I dickered with two neighboring homesteaders who
agreed to assist me breaking the prairie sod. In return we plowed
their ground.

After plowing a week, and while making the final round, a
counterweight broke loose from the crankshaft and landed on the
boiler. The next revolution of the crankshaft hit the
counter-weight square, and believe me the old rig stopped. Some
damage had been done. With a hand forge and anvil, an old drill
press, two or three drills, some beat-up fingers and a week’s
hard work the damage was repaired.

With almost constant repairing and a few new gears, we plowed
several thousand acres during the next sixteen years, in addition
to threshing each year. This included two years of 75 days each on
the belt threshing.

For plowing we mined coal from the lignite beds a few miles from
home, but during threshing we burned straw.

Our part of Montana was extremely arid. Part of the time we were
lucky to have fairly decent engine water, but generally it was so
muddy it was hard to pump into the tank, nonetheless the old Reeves
took it all in stride. How, I don’t know.

A man in an adjoining county brought in a new 20-horse
Westing-house Upright steamer and a large Avery separator. They
attempted to do their own threshing, but couldn’t keep steam in
the little engine. They came to me and offered to trade the little
Upright for the old Reeves. You can bet I jumped at the chance.

I threshed with the little engine 3 seasons. It was really a joy
to steam and handle.

During this period the era of the steam traction engine there,
as elsewhere, came to an end; the combines moved in and replaced
the old timers.

We now live near Trenton, Missouri. I own and play with a
’40’ Case, a 16-50 N & S and a little 2-horse Upright
engine and boiler.

A word for the ALBUM. To me it is a fond link between the
‘good old days’ of the past, and these days we have left in
the present. It’s a wonderful little paper and I wouldn’t
miss it for anything.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1955
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