The following article is taken from the Prairie Farmer of August 5, 1961, without permission. I know you will like it and Prairie Farmer and 'John Turnip seed', the author, will be pleased to share it with you. It was sent to us by Chas. Humiston, of Grafton, Ill. Thanks to all.
I RECKON I WILL TRY to git Lafe Apple-john with me to run over to Highland, Ill., along about Aug. 25 to look in on the big threshermen's shindig. This time of year I am kinda lonesome fer the sound an' smell of a steam engine. I hear there will be all kinds there, an' enuf threshermen to run them like in the old days.
The other day Hank Schmidt brought in his big self-propelled combine to knock out my little dab of wheat. I looked at this monster marching down the field an' I says to myself this ain't like the good old days of the steam thresher an' 10 bundle teams. The young folks don't know what they are missing.
The snort of a steamer at dusk when the straw was kind a tough an' we was try in' to git a few extry loads thru before dark was something I will allus remember. The exhaust of a tractor is nothing alongside that of a steam engine belchin' smoke from the stack an' steam from the cylinder at the same time.
There was coal burners an' straw burners, an' afore that wood burners. I remember mostly the straw burner we had out our way. You couldn't keep up steam all night so the fireman got up at 3 o'clock in the mornin' an' stuffed straw into the firebox fer many hours afore the rig was ready to start thresh in'. The straw burners was mighty untidy too. You could allus tell where a rig had moved by the straw that was spilled along the road from the rack they slung between the engine an' the separator.
In them days bridges wasn't near strong enuf to hold up the engine so the rig had to go through pastures an' across ditches to git from farm to farm.
Mr. M. L.Swartz of Richfield, Pa., phoned me one day in July and said he would be combining that afternoon and to come. Here I am- a dream fulfilled. I drove it one round and filled the tank of 50 bu. capacity. I am now a qualified Combine operator (if nothing goes wrong).
The fireman was nearly allus the character on the crew an' the butt of most of the rough jokes. It beats me what he would put up with fer three dollars a day. Mebbe this is why the fireman was mostly a floater that turned up in the thresh in' season an' disappeared right afterward. It was the job of the engineman to keep him sober, an' more'n once he had to fire his own engine on account of the fireman had gone on a toot the night before.
We all looked forward to the even in' hour when the crew had closed down the rig an' had their supper. The neighbors with their bundle teams had et an' gone home to milk their bawlin' cows.
That was the time when the mothers worried about little boys with big ears that would try to Join the group an lissen to the stories of thresh in' out in North Dakota, Montana, or mebbe even Canada. The stories wasn't allus the kind that was good fer little boys' ears, or leastwise their mothers didn't think so.