FROM MODESTO, CALIFORNIA

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 32×54 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.

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