Stinson's Steamer Went Down In Defeat to the Missouri

| September/October 1991

Reprinted with permission from the October 1, 1978 issue of the Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, Montana. Submitted by James E. Stinson, 706 S. Illinois St., Conrad. Montana 59425.

James E. Stinson, 61, east of Brady, uses modern machinery in planting and harvesting grain on lands including the original homesteads of his father, Ernest L. (Moonlight) Stinson and his father-in-law. But he remembers his father's large custom thrashing business with its big steam operated tractor, and especially the stories about the time in 1927 when one man was killed in an attempt to drive the huge Case 110 across the rains wollen Missouri River.

Stinson said his father got the nickname 'Moonlight' because quite often during harvest he would not sound the stopping whistle until the moon was shining brightly. 'Moonlight' had become an expert in handling steamers by working for the Advance Machinery Company in South America for six years.

In South America he would assemble steamers in the cities and drive them out to the farming colonies, where he would show the head man how to make them perform and then turn them over to the locals. But quite often the local authorities would meet him at a bridge and say the equipment was too heavy to cross. Moonlight would pull to one side, 'pull his fire', drive through the water under built up steam pressure, fire up again on the other side and proceed.

So, in 1927, a rushing 600 feet of Missouri River did not seem too much for his large Case steamer. That year Moonlight had extended his threshing season by starting in the Highwood Country, Stinson said, with the intent of moving to the Brady east area, then west and ending on the Porter Bench near Pendroy.

The Carter ferry was not big enough to carry the Case 110 across the river on the initial trip so Moonlight loaded it on a flat car and shipped it to Highwood. He hired Fred Deering of Brady, who was 23 at the time, to drive his old Waterloo Boy tractor to Carter, pulling the Red River Special thrasher and cookhouse, use the ferry and then on to Highwood. Deering is now a retired mechanic living in Cut Bank, Stinson said.