3775 Herman Ave., San Diego 4, Calif.
Dear friend Elmer:
I have written many letters to the Album during the five years I have been a reader, all of which have appeared at various times, I thank you for donating space to them. I am writing this more as a personal letter or chat as one old time thresher to another. I think it was in the Jan.-Feb. Issue a picture of a modern thresher with a wing feeder attachment and you mentioned having pitched into it the first time ever having seen one in operation. Now, you are not so terribly much older than I am and I don't remember any thresher that did not have a self feeder attached. I do remember the old straight slat straw stacker before the advent of the wind stacker or blower but never saw a hand fed machine.
0n page l9 Mar.-April is a picture of a New Champion thresher and you state that that is the type of machine you knew in your threshing days. To what degree did the machines in the east advance to the modern ones of the mid-west? I don't remember seeing any pictures of machines from the east having wing feeders but had other modern features such as weigher, blower, etc. Long before I was old enough to take part in the threshing game the blower was added to all machines and about the time I began to fire we had the wing feeder also. I also notice the engines were of much smaller H. P. than the ones we used. Also the threshers were of smaller type mostly being from 28 to 32 in cylinder. In the mid-west our machines were from 36 to 40 inch until the coming of the gas tractor for power. For such machines we had to have much larger engines such as 20 or 25 H. P.
I do not correspond with many threshers from that part of the country so do not know the true story of the machines as of today, but as I say have not seen pictures of the big ones from there.
I began in 1906 by firing a 12 H.P. Return flue Huber that Father bought to fill silos with. I was 12 years old and soon learned to drive, fire and to start under a full load without throwing the belt and by the end of two such short seasons I was able to do most of the duties of engineer, leaving Father free to do other duties around the rig. However that old engine was left hand belted and I was unable to manuever it into belt position so had to have help for that but once in the belt I was soon doing all of the duties of engineer.
We got our first big rig in 1912, a 20 70 double cylinder engine and the 36 x 56 Red River thresher and went into the customer threshing business I still doing most of the engine work. We burnt coal so the firing was part of the engineers work. I was able to manuever the big engine into belt position as well as back into it so there was very little that I had to depend on Father for. I got my license in 1915 and was going job hunting for an engine to run so Father bought a used Buffalo-Pitts rig for his own use and I took over the entire management of the N.S. Being owner, engineer and manager and we each went our separate ways doing customer work.
Besides threshing we each used our engines for silo filling, clover hulling corn shelling and shredding, lumber sawing and any other job an engine could be called on to do. We kept our engines working as much of the time as possible as they were our income. When only one engine was in use at a time I was the engineer so had a go at both the N. S. and Pitts which was later traded for a 65 Case. I also ran a Rumley some, a fine engine to run.
Thus things went for a number of years but as time went on the small thresher and gas tractor took over and we found it impossible to operate at a profit so after only 12 days work in 1925 we both sold out and sought other work. Father went to Fla. to spend the rest of his days and I took up truck driving until I also left the land of ice and snow and come here in 1940 and am now driving a truck for the state. I enjoy my work but now and then I get a longing for the smell of coal smoke and hot cylinder oil but it has been over 35 years since I have stood on a deck and pulled a throttle and felt the steam surge through those iron lungs as the old steamer obeys the hand of her master.
I have never attended any of the reunions as none are near enough for my short vacation time to permit. I surely enjoy the stories the other boys have to tell of what goes on at them. I am collecting an album of old threshing scenes and have over 400 that my many good friends have sent me. I write to nearly every one who has a letter or article in the Album and have a string of pen pals from nearly every state and many from Canada and I find that threshing was the same in every land hot, dirty and hard work but we all loved every day we spent at it.
Here I have been rattling along all this time and haven't even mentioned where I am from. I was born in Minn. where I done all my engine work and running an engine in 20 degrees below zero is no joke. I see now the steam is going down and am all out of fuel so must fold up the drive belt for tonight but will gladly fire up at some other time and continue the story of threshing and the thrill of crossing some of the old wooden bridges in existence at that time. I never had one go down with me but often wondered why.
If you have any pictures or stories of the old days you care to swap with another old steam hog I have many I swap with any who is interested. I would be very glad to have a personal letter from you sometime.