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Second Annual Meeting of the "Fiends"

Western Steam Fiends Association's annual meeting included steam threshing, officer elections and boiler advice

| January/February 1954

  • 1893 Buffalo Pitts 12 hp return flue
    Buffalo Pitts 12 hp return flue as it appeared brand new at Calton, Wash., in 1893, according to Chris Busch's records.
    courtesy F. Hal Higgins
  • Orrin G. Seaver
    Orrin G. Seaver, Ypsilanti, Mich., won the prize for the Western Steam Fiends Association member who came the longest distance to the annual meeting in 1953.
    F. Hal Higgins
  • ST_V59_I4_Jul_2004_08-3.jpg
    Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (in cowboy hat, holding microphone) paid a visit to the show, interviewing participants and even pitching bundles.

  • 1893 Buffalo Pitts 12 hp return flue
  • Orrin G. Seaver
  • ST_V59_I4_Jul_2004_08-3.jpg

About half the 165 members of the Western Steam Fiends Association answered President Chris Busch’s call to the second annual meeting at Colton, Wash., on the evening of Sept. 19, 1953.

Mr. Busch has been attracting crowds of neighbors, and a growing and widening audience of old and new steam threshing fans for several years as he annually harvests part of his small grain crop by binder and thresher powered by one of his steam threshing engines from his large collection.

Attendance of Fiends was noted from six different states. And one South African student from the University of Minnesota appeared at the ranch for the threshing show. At the annual meeting prizes were awarded to Milo Gibson for oldest member present. He admitted a youthful 80. Orrin G. Seaver, Ypsilanti, Mich., won a prize for distance traveled by a Fiend.

The program presented a color movie on steam railroading, and a masterly talk by C.R. Miller on what to do and what not to do with steam boilers. As Miller was a pioneer Agricultural college instructor in the field of steam engines in his post-graduate days at Washington State College, the steam Fiends got the benefit of science and experience in the steam threshing field. Miller operated steam threshing machines in the pre-combine days.

Election of officers kept the head office filled by Mr. Busch with Miller also being re-elected to the vice-presidency. The recent resignation of Ted Middleton as secretary-treasurer, however, called for the election of a new name on the Fiends’ official group.

Edgar Bergen, of Charley McCarthy fame in the radio field, was present as a member of the Fiends and entertained the audience with a brief talk on ventriloquism. While Charley was absent in person, Bergen did bring his voice into the act as a little touch of sentiment for the absent star.

Three-ring circus at Busch ranch

Out at President Busch’s ranch, three miles from Colton, the next day, visiting Fiends and between 3,500 and 4,500 neighbors and steam equipment sightseers gathered. There were three main attractions:

  • The Chris Busch collection of some 29 old steam threshing and plowing engines, water tank wagon, cook wagon, threshers, etc.
  • Working models brought in and demonstrated by their builders.
  • The actual threshing of two stacks of grain by a Case separator powered by the under-mounted Avery engine.

As a special extra feature, there was Edgar Bergen and his cameraman making a program for his coming TV show. Watch for it, for Bergen did a real job in interviewing the model builders and catching their pets in action. Also, he interviewed several of the old steam thresher engineers present to catch their colorful recollections of the old days. Bergen also climbed aboard the big Avery, tooted the whistle and then pitched bundles from the stack to the Case separator as the threshing got underway.

It was interesting to visiting editors to study the wide appeal to every layer of humanity present from toddlers who wanted to play with the steam models to grizzled old-timers in their 80s, agricultural college engineers and students, farm equipment dealers, teachers from local schools, and the pioneer farmers who had worked around such machines.


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