Harper's Handsome Helper Courtesy of L. C. Hutton, III, Box 191, Rt. 3, Broadway, Virginia 22815
Box 191, Route 3, Broadway, Virginia 22815
The powerful but slow steam tractors have long been replaced on American farms by gasoline and diesel types. Though some of these giant symbols of the past now stand idle in museums, many of them are still operated today by hobbyists like Mr. Wilson Harper of Timberville, Roc-kingham County, Virginia. This year, Mr. Harper decided to harvest his wheat crop the old way with his antique steam tractor and threshing machine. The scene was one which has become quite rare on American farms. Working with Mr. Harper were two of his sons, Frank and John; neighbor Harold Bear and his son, Danny; and many other local residents wielding cameras and eager to relive the past by doing a share of the work.
Mr. Harper is the proud owner of a handsome 'Peerless', made by the Emerson-Brantingham Company of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. The tractor has one cylinder, produces fifty horsepower, and tips the scales about twelve tons. An interesting feature is the tractor's set of three whistles, one of which is from a railroad locomotive.
Mr. Harper acquired his thresher, a 28-inch Case, about two years ago. Though the machine is decidedly antique, it took an excellent fifty bushels from the one-acre field.
Mr. Harper is quite enthusiastic about his hobby. He has owned several smaller steamers before purchasing the 'Peerless' locally about 15 years ago. He has been a member of several organizations for steam enthusiasts, including the Rough 'n Tumble Engineers Historical Association of Kinzers, Pennsylvania, which is the largest organization of its kind in the eastern United States.
Now that we have better ways of harvesting our crops, it is a nostalgic pleasure to see and to participate in the old operation of threshing. Local television station WSVA of Harrison-burg finds it so interesting that plans have been made to video-tape the Harper's buckwheat threshing this fall for television showing.