Farm Collector


Milton R. D. 1, Iowa

Many thanks for the return subscription envelope. Yup, the fire
is getting low! Like the locomotive engineer who instructed his new
fireman, ‘Now Rastus, see this pointer on this steam
gauge?’ ‘Yes-Ah’ asserted the fireman. ‘Well’,
continued the engineer, ‘You keep it pointing to this side of
the cab toward me all the time.’ All went well as the old 4-6-2
puffed along the tracks, but soon the pointer began to creep up and
over to the left. The fireman eyed it rather seriously and finally
got up courage said to the engineer, ‘Boss, Ah reckon you betta
get over on this side of the cab to keep the pointer toward

Well, I reckon likewise, I betta enclose herewith my check to
keep the subscription pointer on the right side of the cab of the
IRON-MEN ALBUM for another year. My code is 5F6-1

You will find on your records, I sent a year’s subscription
of the ALBUM to a Mr. M. O. Swenson, 10416 SE Yukon Str., Portland,
Oregon. If I recollect the time I believe his subscription will
expire soon, with the January issue or thereabouts. Mr. Swenson is
not very well and not able to work but very little at times, he has
advised me in one of his letters. A short time ago he sent me a
dollar and just recently I received another dollar. He wanted to
pay me for sending him the subscription. Now I do not feel like
accepting the two dollars otherwise than to renew his subscription.
Same being included in the enclosed check. His code is 8F4-6
according to your letter of last December. I am sure Mr. Swenson is
sincere in his appreciation of the ALBUM and derives much pleasure
from it.

We think a lot of all of the past issues of our ALBUM since we
received the first one in 1951. But the last issue, the Nov.-Dec.
1955, is really good and has many interesting features therein.
Such articles remind me of the time I threshed with Mr. Miles J.
Enyeart in Northwest Butler and Northeast Polk Counties, Nebraska,
1916 to 1920 inclusive. I will never forget the scenes, sounds and
smells as well, particularly of September and October mornings in
1917, threshing on the Big Blue River South of Shelby. Mr. Enyeart,
engineer and owner, most always drove home, the water boy likewise
went home with him each night, though sometimes we were over thirty
miles from home. I tended separator for him, stayed with the rig
whenever we threshed. Many times I slept on the shakers of the
separator. Mornings it was my job to poke up the fire, except
Monday mornings. I would always find the fire holding good in a
bank and from 50 to 75 lbs steam on the gauge, so it did not take
too long to have things ready to roll by daylight. Sometimes if it
was real late or if the boss was in a hurry to get home, I would
take care of the engine for the night. Sometimes if the crew
arrived in time we would have several loads threshed by sun-up when
the boss arrived as I always filled the separator hard oilers at
night and did any other work necessary thereon. I recollect one
particular morning we were threshing stacks in October, and already
there was a warning that Jack-Frost would soon be in evidence. I
did not have too much to do but pull the tarp off of the separator
and fire up and clean the flues and wait for the dawn to show in
the East. The steam gauge climbed to 200 lbs. and the sound of the
fire and rising steam pressure made music that only threshermen can

On a fence post a quail called its cheery ‘bob white’
and as if in answer on a distant stack a prairie chicken rooster
drummed his morning challenge to be immediately answered by a rival
in another part of the field. At yonder farm house a screen door
banged, a dog barked a greeting to his master, cows mooed here and
there and horses whinnied, the inhabitants of the poultry yards
also proclaimed the arrival of a new day. Besides the pleasantly
arid engine smoke and frying cylinder oil, the scent of the wood
and corn cob fires of the cook stoves filled the air, mingled with
the scent of prairie hay and alfalfa and many varieties of wild
flowers. As the day got brighter in the east a very light dew
sparkled on the stubble and blades of volunteer grain. The
different kinds of trees showed in as many changing colors. Then
across the field on the still morning air came the farm wife’s
call- Breakfast – is – Ready! When did those home mixed pancakes,
corn syrup and bacon taste better? The boss and the water boy
driving an old Buick six up to the farm house just in time for
breakfast as if they had it timed.

As we left the breakfast table, on the way to the machine and
the stacks the sun just peeping over the corn field in the east,
striking still more beautiful colors from the trees and the bright
paint on the wooden 40×60 Red River Special separator with its
feeder wings folded along its sides and big waterproof tarp folded
on deck along side of the wind stacker chute, the black and shining
brass of the 25-85 double cylinder rear mounted engine, a wisp of
smoke arising from the chimney and a warning sizzle of steam from
the pop valve as if impatient to take off for the day. Soon we
heard the rumble of wagons coming up the road. The engine exhaust
seemed to chuckle softly as it backed to the separator to couple on
and be on the way to a nearby setting of stacks. In less time than
it takes to tell it, the hum of the cylinder and the wind stacker
fan with the steady engine exhaust rhymed with the sharp
‘click-clack’ of the weigher and the rattle of steel
sprocket chains as bushel after bushel flowed into the fast-filling
wagons. All this and a million more, impossible to describe even if
space did permit. The scene an artist might paint, but only a
thresherman can re-live and appreciate the rest. It was hard work
for all concerned, but seldom was anybody in anything but the
jolliest of humor all day long, and those days were long. Be it in
threshing shocks in June and July, or stacks in August to New
Year’s with a Nichols & Shepard, J. I. Case, Wood Bros., or
Reeves or whatever your choice might have been,, be it 110 degrees
in the shade and seldom any shade, or 15 degrees below zero, for us
threshermen those were the days none of us will forget.

The present day internal combustion tractors and combines do the
work as well yet quicker, but for us they sadly lack the thrill of
the power impulse of the steam cylinder as it responded to the hand
on the throttle and the maze of belts and pulleys took up their
momentous tasks from many, many times before sun rise till as long
as there was light to see by and there was a bundle of grain or
seed left to thresh.

With kindest personal regards to all brother threshermen who may
take time to read this.

  • Published on Sep 1, 1957
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