Route 2 Slaton, Texas 79364
Driving through West Texas, where trees are a luxury, one wouldn't expect to see a saw mill ripping up timber. But if you are ever traveling down US 84 and come to a town called Slaton, keep your eyes peeled and you might catch Jerry Kitten demonstrating his antique saw mill powered by his Kitten steam engine tractor.
Most of this area was not settled until after the turn of the century. The area is flat, semi-arid, with no trees. Only later was mesquite brought up from the south by the cattle drives because the cattle ate the mesquite seeds. So, in order to demonstrate his saw mill, Jerry Kitten imports logs from East Texas, a distance of 350 miles.
Once or twice a year Jerry pulls the saw mill out and fires up his steam tractor and shows his customers and antique buffs how they cut wood before automation made these saw mills and tractors obsolete (Jerry has found only three other mills that are in part time use today.)
Jerry acquired the saw mill several years ago from John Garland of Dale, Indiana, who was using the mill part time. John bought it from the original owner. Last year the engine was over hauled the first time since it was manufactured. This engine was used on the saw mill at Ferdinand for thirty years, so it was time for a little work. The mechanic who did the overhauling worked on steam engines for the Santa Fe Railroad for twenty or thirty years, so the work was easy and correct.
The most recent show at Kitten-Moseley Fertilizer was quite a sight to see. The tractor and saw mill are parked on the pavement in front of the store which is right next to the highway (US 84). Now the Kitten saw mill needs about 100 HP to operate so the governor kicks in right away. The engine dances a little if it's not blocked securely. But after putting a wedge here and there, she sits like a rock. So with 100 psi steam and a five foot blade the Kitten engine really makes some fine music. You might say the engine purrs 'like a kitten'. So a lot of visitors just driving by stop on the access road to watch and listen.
This show was particularly interesting because the 'Crank and Push' region of the American Antique Car Association was present with about 90 antique cars and 250 people. As antique lovers, they enjoyed hearing an old steamer run. You might wonder what happens to the lumber after it's been cut. Some of it has been used to construct a room inside the office building at Kitten-Moseley. The room has a wood burning stove sitting on an oak floor. The walls are paneled with different widths of oak and ash that were laid at different angles so each wall has its own special design. A wooden bar complements one wall and a domino table built of ash also sits in one corner. A couple of rocking chairs were added to finish this rustic-looking sitting room which is used year round for 'chewing the fat' with customers and friends. It is especially pleasant during those cold days in the winter. (For this show, there were a couple of logs of Bodeark Osage Orange a yellow wood. The people attending the show wanted samples of the unusual wood, so it was given away as fast as it was cut.)
So even if you are driving down US 84 around Slaton and don't catch Jerry showing his machines, stop anyway at Kitten-Moseley Fertilizer and he'll be happy to give you and your family a personally guided tour of his antique equipment.