‘John Turnipseed’

By Staff
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I had always wanted to drive a self-propelled Combine. It looked so 'Kingly' to see a man sit in that high seat and be Monarch of all he surveyed.

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

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

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

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.

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