LETTER


| September/October 1955



THAT CERTAIN FEVER

By HARRY E. POWERS

Tecumseh, Michigan

Received from your Secretary a card notifying me of the expiration of my subscription to your magazine; which has an interesting appeal to those of the threshing and engine fraternity who love steam whether it moves on rails or the highway and fields. The writer knows all about the fever that seems to take hold of certain individuals even from boyhood days. I was attracted to the locomotive and also the threshing engine in my teens. As I approached my maturity, was interested in railroading and the threshing business, with events of the steam traction engine. However, being an only son my father opposed my railroad aspirations and the threshing business as well. To state the facts it was not a sure financial venture in Crawford, County, Iowa, in the mid-nineties and up to the turn of the century.

The price of an up-to-date steam rig was more than three times the price of a horse power rig of comparative size and threshing rates were comparatively lower considering the investment involved. The steam operator gambled on the fact he could thresh more per day as it eliminated the setting time of the horse power rig. But the farmers had to furnish the coal to make steam and it was not easy to push up to the threshing rate, also grain prices were not good in those days. My father was not in financial shape to help me out as he had considerable debt on the farm which he afterwards sold in the spring of 1902. That summer father bought a farm near Fremont, Michigan, and we moved from Iowa in February, 1903. Threshing conditions in Michigan were altogether different from those in the west. Farms were smaller and so were threshing jobs, mostly all barn work with an occasional stack or mow outside. Lots of moving and setting and all separators were hand fed and on most sets from one side. Band cutters had to work and now and then a bundle landed on his head from a high grain mow. Separators were equipped with wind stackers and weighers with engines rated from 10 to 16 hp. The rig crew consisted of one engineer, water boy, and two men to feed and in some cases a blower boy, four to five men and plenty of dust.

Threshing rates were 2? to 3? cents for oats and 3 to 4 cents for wheat. There seemed to be plenty of rigs and it did not look good from a financial angle. In the fall of 1904 we went into the milk business, buying out a local milkman with his milk route, equipment and cows. We lived one-half mile from town. In 1905 we put up a silo and purchased a Blizzard silo filler (11 inch) and in the fall hired a man that had a portable sawing rig mounted on a wagon including a 5 hp. upright steam engine to run the silo filler. We used this two falls, then we bought a 10 hp portable Russell and used that 2? seasons. We then discarded that engine and bought a 10 hp. Advance traction which I had to rebuild and which gave satisfaction for several fall runs. It was my vacation time from the milk route each fall. Then in 1916 I sold old 'Jerry', the Advance, and bought a gas tractor for the silo filling work, but I still loved old 'Jerry' and often wished I had kept her. In 1917 I sold the milk route as I was a draftee for the first World War, but it happened to end November 11, 1918 and I was not called for service. In 1923 we bought our first grain thresher, a 24x42 Huber Jr., completely equipped with all attachments. It was several seasons old and needed some overhauling which I did. As for belt power we had a 12-25 Huber Light Four tractor purchased in 1922. The rig crew was a good helper and myself. The threshing rate was then 5 cents for oats and 6 cents for wheat, and the thresherman furnished the fuel. Twenty to 25 gallons of gas would be sufficient for a 10 hour run. The tractor was a good puller both on the draw bar and belt and would move better than three miles per hour on dirt road. The separator weighed around fifty two hundred and was both easy and quick to handle for barn work. Four seasons we used it and then traded for a new Huber steel separator 28x46 and a used 15-30 Huber Super Four tractor. This had just as much capacity and just as easily handled. Was in the threshing business until 1943.

I sold the farm at Fremont. I had a Wood Bros. 28-50 thresher and Advance Rumley huller which I sold to Murry Stocking, my good and faithful assistant and in the threshing business for 14 years. My machine career has covered 36 years in which I made some money and lost some. Have had my share of fun and satisfaction along with frustration and disappointment. I now look back and see where I could have done better and rectified some of my mistakes.