Memories of a Farm Boy

When I was about five years old, I went corn shelling with my father. I drove a gas engine following behind him. I had a quiet team of horses which never ran away. If they had, I would probably not have driven them. At that time my dad had a Joliet 4-hole spring sheller and a 9 HP Galloway gas engine. One time he borrowed a gas engine to shell corn, as the Galloway had a broken crankshaft. As we drove up an incline, I upset the engine after which Father had to repair the clutch. Father shelled corn with the 4-hole sheller until 1915, when he purchased a Joliet cylinder sheller. He was going to run it with an Alamo 12 HP gas engine, but not having enough power, he bought a 20 HP International fiber driven tractor. The tractor’s engine slid back and forth to engage the traction. There was a smaller fiber wheel that went between the larger one and the drum, giving reverse to the tractor. The tractor was a Mogul, I believe. Dad sold the outfit to a neighbor for $400. He did no more corn shelling for a few years. Later he bought a Joliet 4-hole spring sheller, which I ran until 1930. I ran this sheller with a Moline Universal tractor, and I shelled many bushels of corn with it. I remember one morning it was 20 below zero but I got the Moline started. It always started as it had a storage battery ignition.

In 1916, Dad had a saw mill but no power to run it, so he bought a Gaar Scott outfit. It had a 16 HP engine and a 31-inch separator. He threshed and sawed lumber with it until about 1923, when he sold the outfit.

Dad purchased a second machine in 1918. This was a new 32-inch Minneapolis threshing machine. He did not use it that year for shock threshing, however he intended to use it for stack threshing. After he had threshed about three jobs, sparks from the engine set a stack on fire. He lost the machine, but fortunately still had the Gaar Scott separator to finish the threshing. Since our country was at war during that period, the coal used by farmers was of poor quality, resulting in more stack fires for threshers.

Around 1923, my dad purchased an 18 HP Minneapolis and a 36×56 Minneapolis separator. This is when my dad made me an engineer. We used this steam outfit until 1931. My two brothers bought a 28-inch machine and a John Deere tractor, with which they threshed until 1952, when the combine took over.

The last time I used the Minneapolis engine, I pulled a number of mulberry tree stumps out. I had cut the trees about three feet high and I wrapped the log chain around the eight to ten-inch stumps and twisted them out. At times the front end of the engine would lift off the ground. I never did burn out a soft plug, but sometimes when the injector or pump did not work properly, the water dropped to a low level in the glass.

I recall that in 1917 Dad bought a G.M.C. 1-ton solid tire truck. It had no lights, cab or windshield. It was a breezy ride, of course! The top speed on it was only about 18 miles per hour. We took the governor off and then it gained a mile or two per hour. We put a Presto lamp on it to shine down the middle of the road.

Using the truck, I hauled hogs thirty miles to Sioux City, Iowa on dirt roads. One time a fellow, whose hogs I hauled, rode along with me and coming home we got caught in rain. We had gotten as far as Vista, Nebraska, now called Willis, Nebraska. Since this was only about halfway home we had to take cover in someone’s barn for the night. The next day we bought some one-inch rope, wrapped it around the rear wheels and started home. We arrived home late that afternoon.

In 1910 or 1911, Dad bought his first automobile, a two-cylinder chain driven Rambler. It had no windshield or top, but did have carbide lights and was air cooled. To get at the motor, you had to raise the body at the dash. Later the Rambler was traded for a more modern E.M.F.

In the winter I helped my father shoe horses. I would tap the horse shoes for him and put in new calks. When spring came, Father would sharpen plow shares and cultivator shovels. My job would be to grind and polish them.

In 1959, I went to the threshing show at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and that is when I got the steam fever again. I bought my first steam engine from Budenski Bros, in 1960. Marvin Fuoss and I put on a threshing show for fourteen years and did enjoy doing it. Then, four years ago, we decided to quit, as I am getting up in years. I still have three steam engines: a Minneapolis 28 HP, a Huber 20 HP, and a Nichols and Shepard 20 HP. I also have several gas tractors.

This concludes my story of going back over the years.

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