4307 N. E. Tillawook Street, Portland, Oregon
Right here I must tell you of the kick I got out of reading W. E. Walston's (Williamette, Oregon) article, especially where he tells of having a chance to have been quite a tall man if he had not worn so much off of his feet running after steam engines. I can say ditto. I have had some of the same experiences as a bare foot brat.
Back in 1888 or 89 the first steam engine I can remember about was a portable, owned by Mr. Chester Tripp of Eden, Wise. Seems strange when I think back to that time that I was not afraid of it. It had no whistle or anyway they never used it. When I saw my first traction engine I was scared out of my pants.
I remember my Dad had a few rows of potatoes along the highway (excuse me-rocks and ruts, in those days.) I know I asked Dad what that noise was down the road. He told me it was a steam threshing rig going to thresh for my uncle. You can imagine how excited a bare foot kid can be waiting for such a thing to show up over the bill. When it did and I saw the smoke and heard the wheels crunching the ground, I began to be scared and when the operator blew the whistle I thought it was time for me to be going. I made the quarter mile home in less time than it takes to write about it. When I got home I told Mother there was a big 'Injin' coming along the road. She laughed and said, 'I guess you mean engine, don't you?' Anyhow I did look out the window to see the terrible monster go by.
Next morning Dad took me along to the neighbors where the machine was. In those days they exchanged work as there were no crews with any machine.
I remember looking between the rails of the fence and watching the wonderful engine but when the engineer blew the whistle for dinner I again got home quick.
In the afternoon I got. a couple of the neighbors boys to go with me. Then we were bolder and sat on the top rail of the fence and argued what this and that thing was for. Of course none of us knew the first thing about a threshing machine.
I'll always remember when one morning the separator man came and took me over to the engine and let me stand on the tool box and watch the machine work. I'll never forget that man. That was the thrill of my life. From then on I was all steam engine. Whenever a rig was around I was there, and would go from one rig to another and would be all excited when the engine got stuck in sand or gravel hill. There were plenty of them in my part of Wisconsin.
In later years I got all I wanted of digging down into a soft spot. I've had my share of them.
When I first got on a crew, then was I happy. I was bundle pitcher for two seasons then water monkey for one. Then I got to run a 15 hp. Birdsell for one season. The next year I got a brand new 16 hp. Buffalo-Pitts pulling a Niagara 2nd separator. Stayed with that one 13 seasons. Threshing, hulling clover, filling silos and in the winter was on a portable saw mill. So I was very happy. The next several years I was on a 15 hp. Case. From there I had a 20hp. straight flue Minneapolis. One of the finest engines I ever handled. Whoever designed this engine sure had been around and knew his stuff.
My last year on a steamer was in 1937, a 25 hp. Russell. A very nice little engine to handle and a fast steamer. One of your subscribers was a water boy for me in 1910-11, Mr. Rolland Buslaff of R. D. 5, Wauhesha, Wisc. I hear from him quite often.
I drifted away out here in '41. I can say I still prefer my old state. So many fond memories of the good old threshing days. I wish I could go back over them once more but the good old steam engine days are gone forever.
'Old engine men never die, they just fade away.' We do enjoy your magazine. More power to you.