FROM EMBRYO ENGINEER TO COUNTRY DOCTOR

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A scene at the Wichita Reunion last year. 16 Port Huron, 25 Russell, 20 Minneapolis, 65 Case, 13 Nichols and Shepard built in 1890 and A. J. Goodban with his perfect model Case in the fore ground. Sent by Harry Trego, Halstead, Kan.
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This is a good picture of Arthur L. Hei land's Model Huber engine and separator. It had 120 lbs. of steam when the picture was taken. Many of you have seen this Model and you know it is a work of craft man ship. Art is an outstanding mechanic.

AGRICULTURAL CHANGES

Along with my interest in medical advances, I found the changes
in farming just as progressive. Tractors were replacing the horse
as well as the steam engine. Combining took over the threshing
operations, and the methods of the past half-century were fast
becoming history. It was a rare sight, indeed, to see a steam
engine, either on the farm or on the railroad.

Mr. Joe Weishaupt’s 18 hp Keck-Gonnerman at the Pontiac
Reunion last Sept ember. Mr. Weishaupt lives at Mackinawlll. It was
the engine with Walt Disney’s characters painted on it. It was
attractive and very noticeable. We have been greatly impressed with
the performance of the K-G. Courtesy of Clark Hollywood Studios,
105 Harvey Street, Washington, Illinois.

THRESHERMEN’S REUNION

An opportunity of recalling these early days was given to this
community by Dan Zehr, an implement dealer of Pontiac, Illinois. He
had been a threshermen for 35 years, and had kept alive his memory
of the old traction steam engines. Thinking that the public, too,
would be interested in these old engines and their era of
accompanying machinery, Dan organized a threshermen’s picnic in
Livingston County, in 1949. His enthusiasm aroused a some what
latent nostalgia in the old time threshermen, and to his great
satisfaction, brought a crowd of 3000 people to that first picnic
held in 1949 in Pontiac, Illinois.

The few exhibits, such as three old traction steam engines, a
separator, an old cradle, a reaper, a saw mill, an oxen yoke, etc.,
provided means for recalling the almost forgotten early
experiences, and started a lot of good visiting among the old
timers.

Their enthusiasm grew and by 1950, these local picnickers were
personally contributing from their own store of outmoded
implements, furnishings, and last, but not least, machinery. Steam
traction engines of the old days seemed to emerge from forgotten
and neglected discards. With paint and grease, and lots of repairs,
these old engines were put into running order. The picnic news
spread and former residents of the community returned to join in
the reunion of friends and times.

This added interest attracted civic as well as historic minded
people, and a need for an incorporated organization was evident.
With the cooperation of the Pontiac City of Commerce, the
association became incorporated in 1951, with the title, Zehr’s
Central States Steam Engine and Thresher Historical Reunion,
Inc.,’ with Dan Zehr as the co-sponsor for the annual show.

In its third year (1951) the picnic had grown to exposition
proportions of a ‘Century of Progress,” and the
attendance to 60,000 visitors from both local and national
representations, gave evidence of the keen enjoyment in this
four-day reunion.

Educational leaders recognized the value of the exhibit as a
means of portraying American life and enterprise. Consequently,
many groups of school youngsters were having a good time seeing,
riding, and learning. Exhibits’ of various steam engines of the
vintage of the mid-1800’s through to the last models made, were
the main features of these reunions. The majority of these old
engines were fired and steam pressure was brought to within the
margin of safety for each particular one. Approximately 35 steam
traction engines with an equal number of respective ‘live’
miniature replicas made a show well worth seeing. A number of
elderly threshermen had come from out of state, and expressed their
pleasure as, ‘Having the time of my life.’

‘Riding the engine’ was popular with old and young. One
engineer of the 90’s rode 35 times at the ticket price of 50
cents a ride. He said, ‘It’s my money, and that’s a
great way to enjoy spending it. Maybe it’s the last chance
I’ll ever have to pull the throttle.’

These rides were on the nine big lumbering steam traction
engines run by competent old timers. It seemed great fun to smell
the smoke and grease, and even pull the whistle, as the old steam
engine chugged over the stubble-field. ‘Smoke Gets in Your
Eyes’ was really enjoyed here.

Many other exhibits of changes and progress in our daily living
were represented, too. The housewife had a special display of
clothing and household goods of the paslt century. Among these were
the old bustles, the hoop skirts, the heavily plumed hats, the high
button shoes. In the house furnishings section were such exhibits
as a spinning wheel, a loom, a coffee grinder, a dasher-churn, etc,
furnished by local homes.

To Dan Zehr goes much credit for establishing an educational and
historical exposition which has become the forerunner of several
similar ones over the nation. In these reunions the steam traction
engine holds its own as the main feature of the exhibit.

FAMILY

More than three score years of my lifetime have passed. It was
my good fortune to have been reared in a good American home. My
parents, my one brother, my throe sisters, and I enjoyed the
privileges, and accepted the responsibilities found in rural
mid-western communities. Of our family, only my two sisters and I
remain. They and their families have retired from active farm life
and now live in Pontiac, Illinois.

My brother and oldest sister and our parents have passed on.
Mother and Dad both spent their last days of their lingering
illness in my home.

Along with the changes over the years, I have had a number of
permanent relationships. That pretty stenographer whom I first met
over forty years ago is still my secretary. Though her hair is more
silver than brunette, and she added a few pounds, she can still sit
on my lap and take dictation. My wife never reprimands me for this
breach of etiquette. She still has her first husband that country
doctor.

Since our home is located in a small town within easy driving
distance to several large cities, we can enjoy the comforts and
advantages of both country and city life.

Likewise we have always had the companionship of our respective
families, located so that we can observe holidays in the
traditional American family fellowship.

Our mutual affection for animals has given us’ the constant
interest and pleasure afforded by ‘Man’s best friend,’
a faithful dog.

Recalling the days of the steam traction engine and the progress
and changes made through the years, helps one to appreciate the
many advantages of our Democracy. While ’embryo engineer to
country doctor’ was my particular path, others can find just as
satisfying goals. If progress brings changes in our way of life,
then (paraphrasing General McArthur) ‘the place of the steam
engine and of the country doctor just fades away.’

‘So Mote It Be.’ February 25, 1952 H. I,. Shafer, M.D.
Cornell, Illinois

P. S. September 10, 1952 will be the date of the first day of
the Fourth Annual Threshermen’s Reunion, Pontiac, Illinois.
I’ll meet you at the First-Aid Tent, God willing.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment