KANSAS Reminiscence


| July/August 1988



Rt. 9, Box 4002, Storey Road Billings, Montana 59102

1913 was a dry year in Kansas and a very good year for alfalfa seed hulling. My dad bought a new matchless Aultman & Taylor huller and had it shipped to Safferdville, Kansas on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. The flat car was accompanied with two long timbers and a few ties so he could unload it off the end of the car. His first job was on the Inmashe Ranch just west of Safferdville, Kansas. By the time he finished on the ranch he had made enough to pay for the huller. He moved his 16 HP Huber return flue to the ranch to pull the huller. Mr. Bill Inmashe was not only the owner of the large ranch but also the banker and owner of the Safferdville State Bank where Aultman and Taylor had sent the papers for the purchase to be signed by Dad. Since Mr. Inmashe owed enough to pay the down payment and note balance Dad never had to sign anything. Dad went on that fall and made enough to buy and pay for a 1913 new Ford T car (I now have one just like it).

The next year my Dad's threshing run located in the Cottonwood River Valley flooded out and he had no other run to go to near by, so he headed northwest to Navare, Kansas where they had a very good wheat crop. He shipped the A-T 32-54 and the A-T 18 HP steamer to Navare, he having sold the Huber 16 HP and 32-54 Minneapolis he owned to Jud Cooke, his nephew and my cousin. They shipped the outfit to midwest Kansas and Dad went along to help Jud unload and get it going.

I had run the Huber 16 HP for Dad when I was 9 years old threshing on the Fred G. Harvey ranch in Pike Township, Lyon County, Kansas. Mr. Harvey was the man who had run the commisary car on the AT&SF Railroad when building across Kansas. He later built the many Harvey Houses along the railroad, of which only a few are left.

Navare was on the AT&SF Superior Nebraska branch. We climbed on top of a grain car on one of the trains headed to Superior and to my excitement there were estimated over 600 men on top of the cars of that train, all laid off account of the white collar labor panic of 1914. There were few if any that had any kind of a bag, and very few with a blanket. As we started getting into the good wheat country the train would stop by the small stock yards and there would be a representative for the farmers there to say how many men they could use and so many would climb down. This continued all the way as far as our crew rode to Navare. When we came to Navare they needed about 10 men beside our own crew of 6. There at the little stock yards were two 5 gallon lard cans and a pile of broken short pieces of ties. So the jungle up started. Each man chipped in 25 cents if he had it. A buyer was appointed to go to the little grocery store and buy wieners, bread and coffee. One lard can was used to make the coffee in, the other to boil the wieners in. Of course, if anyone had no money, someone would divide up with him with the understanding that he would pay back the loan when he got his first pay in the wheat fields. Being the only kid on that train sure was an experience for me and to see how everything was handled every stop. There were an average of three or four wheat grain cars on the siding before we left each stop and in each car was their bedding--a bundle of old newspapers!

Although it rained a bit during the threshing season, we managed to finish our run. I had one blanket and usually slept in the barn on the farm where we were threshing. I'll never forget one of the spike pitchers who before daylight about every morning would bellow out, 'Oster 4 o'clock and you got no steam.' I never particularly liked the the man but I respected his ability. During a rainy shutdown our crew went to the blacksmith shop to test him out as he claimed he was a good blacksmith in the old country. The forge was lit and the regular blacksmith handed him two 1' rods to forge weld. The H.G. went right to work and shaped two ends to weld, got the right heat on them held one down with the other and welded them together with the hammer and rounded out the rod real smooth. He then snapped the rod over the anvil and it broke square off, one being cold rolled, the other rod carbon steel. He did know what he was doing. He knew all the time he had been handed a curtain steel and cold rolled rods. I might add another story to his bragging about his life in the old country. The crew did push on him sometimes as the time he told how they rode mules in the old country. He said you just laid down on them and held on to the halter. So they held a mule, got him on laying down and a hold of the halter and they turned the mule loose. Away he went in a dead run across the small pasture. When he saw the fence he came to a sliding dead stop. Poor H.G. went right straight over his head and headfirst into the woven white fence. It sure slowed him down for a day or two and lucky for him the rain lasted two days so he was pretty much ready to go when it dried up.