| January/February 1973

Minot, North Dakota 58701.

I have been reading your magazine for sometime, and I have enjoyed it a lot. It has brought back many memories of the so-called good old days. It makes me think of the day I asked a man if I could have the job to fire his old Advance next year. This was in October, and he said yes. Was I happy! The first thing I did, I sent to Sears & Roebuck for a book on how to run a steam engine, and it was a good one, except it did not tell you how to adjust the Advance valve gear. But outside of that, it was a very good book and I had almost a whole year to read it and I did.

But everybody told me I should not take the job because the old Advance was no good. I would have only trouble with the old thing, but that was what I wanted. I knew I could learn from an old engine. You can't learn anything with an engine that runs steady all day and no trouble, and I got just what I wanted. Most everything was wrong, and the separator was even worse, it sure was a humdinger!

But the great day seemed a long way off, but it came when we could start, and I was out there and started the fire at 3 o'clock in the morning. What a wonderful thing it was to see the smoke stack, but it took a long time to get steam. After awhile the hand on the clock started to move, and when it got to 75 lbs., I started the old engine and I would let it run for awhile. Then I would stop it and then start it all over again. When I thought I knew everything about a steam engine, I pushed the clutch in, and I would run it ahead about 100 feet, then I would back up. I kept it up for a long time until I could point the flywheel at any point without any trouble. After breakfast, we started to thresh, but the separator man did not come, so the boss had to run the separator, and I was left alone with the engine. I did not feel bad about that.

The first time the boss started the engine, and at long last we were going. I had never fired before with straw, but I watched others do so by the hour, and I knew too much straw would cause the smoke to be too black. I really did not have any trouble. When the steam went down, they would have trouble with separator and they had plenty. The key in the shaker pulley would fall out because the hub was cracked and would take some time to find the key. By the time they did, I would have a full head of steam. Then the return elevator belt would fall off, the elevator had sagged down, and the pulley was out of line. The blower belt was not tight enough and the blower would plug up, so I had no trouble to keep the steam up.

About seven o'clock it started to rain and the boss said we would not do anything the next day. I almost cried, but it turned out to be a good thing for me. I had the time of my life the next day. I was tired that night and I went to bed early. The excitement had been too much for me, and I went to sleep right away.