Twenty-seven years ago, the late Evan Jones of Riverside, Washington, and his late brother Ike Jones, decided to try threshing wheat the 'old time way' with the old machinery that had been used many years previously on the ranch. They also decided to invite the public to 'see how it was done in the good old day' and to have a 'pot luck lunch' right in the field near the threshing rig.
People were looking for something 'different' to do on weekends and an old time threshing bee seemed to be just what the doctor ordered!
Jones chose the last Sunday in September every year for his 'bee' and it has been a success and a regular attraction since the first many years ago.
I believe there was only one Bee that Jones had missed, and that was while he was fighting a losing battle with cancer in the hospital. But faithful steam friends, his good wife, Ruth, his sons and other relatives and lovers of 'old iron, valve oil, rust and steam' put on the show just as if he were there to supervise it. The show was also responsible for many engine men (young and old) and their wives joining the organization called WESTERN STEAM FRIENDS ASSOCIATION with headquarters in Woodburn, Oregon. Later on the INLAND EMPIRE STEAM AND GAS BUFFS of Spokane, Washington was organized and both organizations work together to make one of the best old engine shows in the Northwest.
Jones started out with two Case steamers; a 1917 Case separator; an old McCormick reaper; and overshot stacker; a model T flat bed truck; a small Flex-tread tractor, plus various parts of old machinery. Later he purchased an International Mogul tractor. A couple years ago he traded that to a fellow in North Dakota for a 20-40 under mounted Avery.
There is also a Mogul steam locomotive with 2-6-0 wheel arrangement. This, however, had nothing to do with threshing and was a light duty freight engine.
Evan Jones received a lot of help from other old engine men such as Mel Anderson, Fred Schmidt, the late Jack Gibson, the late C.C. Colson, Gilbert Merry, the late Clarence 'Mitch' Mitcham, the late Ralph Bolyeat, John Uhlenkott, Everett Kelso, Claude Northway, Ron Anderson and many more. Yours truly never missed more than three of these shows and I've shot hundreds of black and white and color photos of these Bees. Sometimes, I'd have three different cameras to operate.
Another faithful follower is Ed Paulson who had his own engine show every year. He is a retired sawmill man and knows a lot about old engines.
The late C.C. Carlson owned a Russel steamer which is now in the care of Mel Anderson. Mel also had a 'Big Minni'; a Universal Moline; a Rider-Ericcson steam pump; a 12 HP Stover; a Rumely Oil Pull; several small one lugers; a 10 or 20 Cat; a David Bradley vertical boiler and several other relics including a wood frame rock crusher or hay baler and an old Case separator. The Rider-Ericcson pump is usually taken to Jones' Bee where it attracts considerable attention as it was invented by John Ericcsonthe same man who designed the battleship 'Monitor' in the Civil War.
Another faithful supporter of the Bee is Lance Sturkey. He's not only a member but also has his own saw mill and puts on a show of his own every year at Rathdrum, Idaho.
The Jones' Bee wouldn't be complete without the free 'pot luck lunch' in the field. The Okanogan Country farm wives and visiting wives can dish up some scrumptious food that will stick to your ribs better than peanut butter. The 50-75-foot table is supported by bales of hay or straw and the people can go along both sides and fill their plates. I can diet all year long but when I get to that table the diet is forgotten and I come away stuffed like a Christmas goose. Just a 'light snack' (three helpings) usually does the trick.
Many retired Railway engineers from the 'steam power days' attend Jones' shows. The boiler on a steam tractor isn't much different than on a steam locomotive, except it is smaller.
Last year at the Bee, they belted the old Universal tractor to a feed mill and ground some wheat meal or flour, which sold well to those in attendance.
Art Eickmeyer of Wenatchee, usually brings a 'mystery tool' or small motor that keeps many people guessing. But when a few veteran iron men show up, the mystery is soon solved. Last year's mystery tool was an old hoist for an elevator.
The show is always full of wonder and excitement for everyone! Come join us!