GOSSIP FROM THE BACK SHOP


| March/April 1963



FRANK J. BURRIS

Route 1, Box 1015, Yucaipa, California

Every now and then a comical incident stirs up around the old threshing rig. Such a group of fellows well into the season become like a crew on a ship at sea or a force around a large machine shop or foundry. Someone always manages to emerge as the clown or entertainer of the family, or to be made the butt of jokes and tricks by various of the others who seek a bit of relief and excitement now and then. Sometimes a practical joke backfires, while at others an amusing, if provoking, incident occurs which finally puts much laughter in everyone.

I shall always remember this little happening at Len Whittaker's farm one warm August afternoon a long time ago. About two o'clock in the afternoon, when operations were in full swing and six bundle wagons were lined up waiting on the two alongside the feeder, Lon Arnold's Star blew a flue and it looked like the end of activity for the day.

But Sam Wortman , the separator ''conductor' of the crew, happened to be swivel-seated atop his favorite lofty position on the old Yellow Fellow and spied Johnny Munson's 30-60 Oil pull doing a bit of early fall plowing over in the next section. Of course he knew that half the crew would quit if they faced tractor threshing for the remainder of the season, but since it mean only a half day to get a spare flue into the old steamer he prevailed upon the gang to put up with hiring the kerosene burner for the fill-in.

So, a half hour later, the steamer was shunted into a clearance for repair and the straw began forming a nice plume again from the wind stacker. Two more racks had just unloaded and Lars Larson was just commencing to pitch his bundles on to the conveyor when suddenly he began waving his three-tiner frantically into the air and yelling for a quick shut-down right now. The 30-60 was immediately brought to a quiet idling under its clutch disengagement and all was silent within seconds as Sam, who had been oiling around from the ground, ducked under the drive belt and asked Lars if he had lost a fork in the feeder or pitched in a bunch of rattlers that were infesting one corner of the field next to a prairie dog town.

'No, No,' exclaimed Lars excitedly in his heavy Swedish brogue, 'but soombody forgoot to cross the drive belt!' Sam gasped a few moments as though wondering whether he had been made a goat. Then his temper began mounting and he started to climb the corner of Lars' rack. 'Why you -' he began in language which cannot stand printing. But fortunately he was restrained by a couple teamsters at hand who finally succeeded in convincing him after much pleading that Lars actually was unawares that the big Oil Pull enjoyed the questionable distinction of being one of a very few tractors the engine of which was designed to 'run under' because of an extra countershaft in its transmission system.