1121 Hilltop Lane Modesto, California
Enclosed find my renewal for one year, with two 1 dollar bills and I am looking forward to receiving the magazine for one more year. Perhaps you know Mr. P. A. Miller of Modesto who has a fine, large collection of old wagons, automobiles and an old 45- horse power Aultman Taylor traction steam engine, an old Holt 75 caterpillar tractor, an old Titan tractor, I assume it to be the 10-20 model, and an old Fordson tractor. All of these last mentioned are in running order with the exception of the old Titan, which could be made so with a little work on it. I enjoy the magazine very much and look forward to receiving each issue.
My late father-in-law, Mr. Henry L. Ducot of La Grange, California, and his brother, the late Earnest A. Ducot, operated a threshing outfit from 1908 until about 1921, doing custom threshing and barley rolling each year. Their outfit consisted of a 32x54 or whatever the size of a Case machine went with the 32 inch size, and at first they pulled the machine with a 26 horsepower gasoline engine, single cylinder, mounted on a 4 wheel wagon. This proved to be too small however, and in 1910 they purchased a 60 horsepower Case portable engine the same as the traction engine, with the gears and clutch left off. They lived in the edge of the California foothills, and the bridges and slopes on which they threshed would not permit an engine with the traction attachment to operate. They pulled the separator with 8 mules, the engine with 6 mules, and of course they had the water wagon which was also a Case still have the tank and wagon on which it was mounted. I do not know whether you are familiar with the way threshing was done in California years ago or not. In that event, will attempt to describe my father-in-law's outfit as he described it to me and the pictures I have seen of it.
The grain was headed and stacked in June with headers, header wagons and with a derrick, using a Jackson 5-tine fork. You are probably familiar with the type fork mentioned here. The engine burned straw and the machine had a 20-bar cylinder which gave it the same capacity as a 36 inch machine. This machine had the feeder re-built and the chute came in feeder housing from the side, making a right angle to the machine, instead of the conventional straight feeder. This chute went down to a derrick wagon, on which was mounted a derrick with a double set of spools, equipped with a friction clutch for each spool or winch. This derrick operated two 6 foot Jackson forks, with an operator who sat on the wagon on a seat next to the friction clutches and operated first one fork and then the other. The forks were fastened to the derrick with cables and 2 forkers kept pulling these forks back by hand to the end of the stack, the forks set, then the clutch operator tightened the clutch and the fork load was pulled to the table on which the feeder rested, and dumped. Two men worked here, called hoe-downs, who fed the machine. The feeder had a slat and chain carrier in the bottom of the chute.
The grain was all sacked, and this was done by a sack filler and sack sewer, who also piled the sacked grain. The set of spools was operated by an inch-cotton rope, run from the engine and there was a sheave clamped onto the flywheel for this purpose. The drive belt was put on first, then the rope to run the spools. The machine could thresh 1,200 sacks of barley or wheat in a day this in headed grain. The outfit consisted of 21 men, including two forkers, 2 hoe-downs, roustabouts, 1 fireman, 1 water monkey, 1 sack-sewer, 1 sack filler, and straw-buck who hauled the straw from the machine to engine for fuel, the separator tender, engineer and others whose duties I've forgotten, but all had a part on the outfit. My father-in-law made all of his own repairs, each summer before the run started, the whole outfit was thoroughly gone over and all spare parts liable to break were carried along to keep down time to a minimum. He also made a mould to pour his own cylinder main bearings on the separator, and carried 2 extra seats of cylinder bearings along. He made many a trip home at night to the blacksmith shop to make some repairs, and back to the machine by daybreak, horseback or with a team and rig. They usually threshed 40 days each year, getting about 15 miles away from the home ranch. He rebuilt the machine to suit his own ideas the feeder was partially his own and some others he had seen on other outfits. He was the carpenter and mechanic, his brother the blacksmith, so there was nothing they couldn't do on the outfit. They also had a grain cleaner with the machine. They had a barley roller which they rebuilt, using only the original rollers and some other parts, including the steam cylinder and auger. The barley was steamed with a % inch iron pipe from the engine boiler to the roller. This outfit operated about 20 days each year and was last used about 1930-31, and went out after the threshing season was over.
I have endeavored to explain how their outfit operated, and would like to hear from you in regard to any other California outfits of the old days that run. My father remembers of threshing with the old horse-power machine and I have seen steam run as late as 1940. I enjoy the magazine, and if you want to publish part of the above, go ahead.
P. S. I am a locomotive engineer on the Southern Pacific Railroad, and we are still running a few steam locomotive here. I have fired steam engines for about 8 years, and like them better than the diesel locomotive, if they are kept in proper condition, which ours are not.