I am an old steam engineer 73 years young and have been interested in steam all my life. I came to Graham Co. in 1902, from Nuckles Co. Nebraska with my folks.
I ran my first engine in 1912, a 10 H.P. Minneapolis pulling a 6 hole corn shelter for my brother, Clint.
I was 18 when I began and in 1913, we hired out to a man by the name of Lou Dailey, picking up a few jobs over the country as this was a poor year and not much wheat. This was an Advance 18 H.P. engine and Aultman-Taylor 32 separator.
Then we began to get the bug to own an outfit. In 1914 there was a good crop all over the county and we bought a new rig of our own. This was a 20 H.P. Gaar Scott double cylinder and a 36-60 Rumley Separator.
We were out 3 Falls with this rig 1914 -1915 -1916. In 1917 was a poor year and we left our rig in the shed, and I hired out to a man by name, Art Wray. We made a short run, finished by mid-October. He had a 25 H.P. Case engine. On October 31, I married my neighbor girl, Phila Spelman and we built a house on the farm I had bought in 1915. Our families were neighbors for 10 years-had grown up together-always went to the old time parties, church and Sunday school. We have two daughters, two fine sons-in-law and 6 grand grand children. Will be planning to celebrate our 50 years together this Fall.
In 1918 I left my wife home to learn to milk the 2 cows (which she never learned to do well enough to stay in the business, that was always my job) We took rig to Zurick, in Rooks Co. and made a run there.
In 1919 we went out with our outfit here at home. It was a wet year and we were still at it in December when a big snow came. My brother had bought a garage in Morland, and wanted to quit threshing. So we sold the rig to a Company of Twelve farmers. They still wanted me to run the engine, and finished their threshing up in January 1920. They wanted me to help them that Fall, also in 1921.
I always arranged my farm work so I could get out every Fall and fire some thresherman's engine, and I always got good wages. But - when nite come -Where was the bed? A straw stack, a barn, any building if the weather was bad. Most always had a tent. One night the tent blew down and it began to rain and we spent the rest of that night in a country Church.
By then out in this part of Kansas most all farmers used headers and put the wheat in stacks. Set the separator between two stacks and used long extension feeders, with three men on each stack with pitch forks giving all they could get on the forks, and sweat running freely.
In 1922 a stranger came to me, ask me if I could run a steam engine, I said I'd been around one some. So he took me out to see his 30-90 Case engine and 40 in. Case separator. I said I would help him. And I run his engine 7 years. This was Roy Thomas, and one of the best threshers in this part of Kansas. He is now retired and lives in Topeka, Kansas. I called him last April (1966) when my wife and I were on a trip down that way. I had not seen him for about 25 years. When I went to the door he said 'I'll be damned.' Of course we had a chat, took some pictures and we started for Hill City.
The last threshing I done was in 1936, in Washington Co. at Clifton, Kansas. Was there visiting my brother Ernest, who ran a garage there. One eve he came home, ask me if I wanted to run a steam engine a few days? I took the job. Jack Berger had a Nichols Shepard 20 H.P. engine.
I have run other makes of engines on different jobs, but they have all been coal burners, and I would not lay the shovel down to let any one show me how to fire with coal. I always used a screen over the smoke stack on windy days to prevent any cinders from starting fires. In rainy seasons we would get stuck in low spots but always managed to get out. And we had fun along with the hard work. Always had some guy on every crew everyone picked on. Sometimes ended in a fight.
When we didn't have a cook shack, we would eat with the farmers. THEN we found where the good cooks were, and we never left the table hungry.
I remember one time, came a rain with all 10 men with the cook shack. We sent the cook into town for 5 gallons of ice cream. That time we got our fill of ice cream. and left some to spoil.
I always like to visit with old threshers, but not to many left any more.
I have been to Threshers Reunions at Wichita, Kansas two times, Mount Pleasant, Iowa one year and Bird City, Kansas three different times.
Meet old threshers from many places with their caps and badges. Those with engines let me try the levers a little, sometimes back them around or move them a little.
Mr. Ralph Fuller of Minneapolis, Kansas, was here in 1965 to the Graham Co. Fair with his two little steamers and a host of displays he had made, you name it he had it. All interesting.
I enjoy your magazine and all the threshing stories. Hope you will like mine and can use it.