Iron Man of the Month

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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana Three generations of throttle-jerkers gather around Elmer Egbert's cast-iron Case Eagle. This huge, heavy bird is always a conversation piece at the Buckeye Threshers. Elmer says he purchased it from some sh
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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana Second generation. Jack Egbert, gives expert demonstration at hill-climbing at National Threshers Association, Montpelier, Ohio, on the Egbert 12 HP Frick Engine. Jack is also expert at balancing the engine
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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana The patriarch Egbert, ''Uncle Elmer'' oils up 12 HP Frick Engine at N.T.A. Reunion, Wauseon, Ohio, ''Uncle Elmer'' Egbert is a veritable fixture at most midwestern reunions and can be counted on with his spe

UNION CITY, INDIANA

Most of the time he’s so quiet and unobtrusive you’d
hardly know he was around. Yet there’s hardly a Midwestern
threshing reunion that he’s not in there pitching, helping line
up the big belt or at least standing by in the crowd to see if the
job’s done right. For be it threshing, sawmilling, plowing,
hill-climbing or teeter-tottering he’s completely absorbed by
the sights thereof, like a farm lad getting his first glimpse of a
mighty steam engine in operation.

And when the threshing reunion program wears a little thin,
there booms out across the grounds the announcer’s voice,
‘Now folks we’re going to show you how they make
shingles.’

Then it is that Elmer Egbert’s stride quickens for suddenly
he has become the center of the big show, waving orders back and
forth betwixt his special shingle -making machine at one end of the
belt, and son Jack, or grandson Melvin on the vibrating engine deck
at the opposite end. As the crowds converge in the center of the
grounds, jaws drop and cuds shift from cheek to cheek while out pop
the fresh new shingles from ‘Uncle Elmer’s’ special
machine. And every hand that can grab one is soon carting them off
– souveniers long to be remembered of when steam was king and the
building of farm houses from out the virgin timber was still a
rural affair.

He’s always been a sort of ‘innovator’ at the steam
reunions, has ‘Uncle Elmer’ Egbert – fetching at various
times either his ancient clover-huller, or web-stacker whenever he
decides the onlookers need something different to keep the reunion
pot boiling. And over the years, frequent sorties to the Egbert
Farm near Anna in western Ohio, where Elmer lives on one side of
Amsterdam Road and son Jack on the other, have afforded the
onlookers the gamut of old time Americana from steam threshing and
sawmilling to the making of sorghum and the fabrication of
brooms.

I’ll never forget my first ‘ invasion of the Egbert
farm, armed with press cameras, flash bulbs and film, to write up
one of Elmer’s famous old-time threshing reunions, It was a
different kind of reunion, more rural in flavor as the big Case
Engine or Altmann-Taylor Gas Tractor barked and snapped at the belt
in the old frame sawmill across the road while the sounds of
threshing rigs vibrated and hummed in another field and the smell
of slow-cooked country bean soup wafted temptingly from the big
church tent at the far end of the grounds. What more delectable
aroma exists for the human nostril than that of strong farm coffee
blended with the delicacy of hot cylinder oil and wood smoke?

‘When your story came out in the Dayton News, you called us
the ‘Miami Valley Threshers’,’ recalled Elmer Egbert to
me recently. ‘So, from then on we called ourselves the
‘Miami Valley Threshers’. You were the one who gave us the
name.’

(It was all a surprise to me, heretofore believing the only name
I had changed was that of my wife’s.)

After several years, The Miami Valley Steam Threshers, growing
by leaps and bounds into ever bigger shows, the organization became
so large that from it was born ‘triplets’ – the Miami
Valley segment converging in the Mechanics-burg – Urbana, Ohio,
area, the Darke County Steam Threshers organizing at Greenville,
Ohio, while ‘Uncle Elmer’ Egbert kept right on holding his
own special show, called The Buckeye Threshers, at his farm home
near Anna.

Finally ‘Uncle Elmer’ got a little tired of the huge
crowds which converged on his farms, later in the fall, but still
wanting to hold a show, he now sends out special invitations to a
few close cronies who come from far and wide to ‘tend.

And to the lucky guy who gets a ‘special invite’, there
remain all the old-time treats of a typical threshermen’s
reunion without the hubbub of moneymakers and carnival hawkers to
distract from the more important operations of sawmilling and
threshing and the folk-talk that always makes it such a venture,
long to be remembered.

Too, it’s always held on or near ‘Uncle Elmer’s’
birthday – as a sort of double honor and celebration. And the
honored guests, arriving unannounced from such far away places as
Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky always fetch along some goodie to
tickle the Egbert palate as food is piled high on the big, long
threshermen’s table in Jack Egbert’s front yard. Here it is
that the rare old-time aromas of country-cooked provender blend
with the pungency of fresh sawn lumber, wood smoke and vats full of
simmering sorghum, apple butter and fresh fall cider, with a sip
for everyone. Later, the departing guests head homeward laden with
jars of sorghum and trunks full of slab-wood for their kitchen
ranges.

It’s not a nerve-wracking type of reunion, friend visiting
with friend and talking about the good old days, a jag of threshing
with the hand-powered separator, a few timbers sawed in the shed
across the way, or a stretch of plowing, with now and then a boy
crawling up on the engine to yank the whistle cord -everyone doing
just as he pleases till the dinner bell is rung and all jobs
stop.

And at the big dinner table, there’s the usual clowning,
with ‘Mickey’ the pet Egbert pooch begging for morsels and
getting them, or Percy Sherman hawking some of Elmer’s
fresh-made kitchen brooms to guests up and down the festive board
while such visiting dignitaries as Jim Whitby or Harold Gay badger
the men folk into buying membership cards with buckeyes attached –
commemorating another unusual ‘Buckeye Threshers’
get-together.

After appetites have been appeased, the honored guests work off
their ‘bloating’ by admiring ‘Uncle Elmer’s’
latest venture into model-making– a half-sized working separator,
watch him run off a few brooms, or swap stories around the huge
cast-iron Case eagle while sipping cider to stimulate
digestion.

‘We try to keep alive those wonderful days on the American,
farm when we threshed and sawed by steam,’ says ‘Uncle
Elmer’ whose efforts have paid off in three generations, with
son, Jack, and grandsons Melvin and Larry all taking up in the
throttle-jerking footsteps of the Egbert patriarch.

Look for Elmer Egbert at the next midwestern threshermen’s
reunion. You won’t hear him, but you’ll see him, sparse of
main should he tip his engineer’s cap, clean-shaven of chin,
except for the time he sported goat-whiskers for a special
occasion.

To you, Elmer Egbert, you’ve done much to earn your eternal
niche in ye Iron Man of the Month Hall of Fame. For you’ve kept
the vigil, you’ve fanned the flames of early Americana for
younger generations to see, and you’ve saved many a fine old
steam engine, gas tractor and separator from the heartless
blowtorch. May you Egberts of the three generations march on to new
triumphs in your tireless efforts in behalf of posterity – that of
saving and preserving our glorious Agricultural Americana.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment