LETTER

By Staff

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 24×42 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 28×46 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.

We cannot escape the past and it is not altogether wise to live
there… Speaking of my own personal experience, both railroad men
and threshermen need Christ in their lives. That goes for all men.
. Eternal values are of paramount importance and I wonder why you
have no spiritual message in your magazine to convey to your
readers Mr. Ritzman. As I understand you are a minister.. Would be
glad to hear from you.

Sincerely yours in Christ

Farm Collector Magazine
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