I was born on a homestead farm in Smith County, Kansas, October 9, 1875 and have always loved machinery. I was about 4 years old and my father had about an acre of rye. He cradled it, bound by hand and later threshed it with a flail. The first harvester I saw was a Marsh with 5-foot cut and two men stood on the platform where the bundle carrier now is and did the binding by hand. One binding a bundle while the other gathered a bundle. Next came the Walter A. Wood chain rake reaper, which was a good machine, but was soon discarded when the self binder came. This was in 1892 and made by Deering. I always liked to work on a binder, but as the wheat fields got larger they were displaced by the header and of course, the combine has almost entirely put all other machines out of business.
In those good old days we also had the Harvester King, made by Ciema Harvester Company and was a 12-foot push binder. This could also be changed to a header. It was in 1898 that I bought my first steam threshing outfit, a Nichols & Shepard 10hp. engine and a 32x56 vibrator separator, hand feed, with web stacker and tally box measurer. Later I got a self-feeder and Washington weigher and found I had too much load for the engine. T run this rig four years and then traded on a 22hp N & S straw burner, return flue, with vibrator separator 41x64 and all modern attachments. This I also run four years and again traded for an Avery 30hp. under-mounted and 42x70 Yellow Fellow machine with all modern attachments. In 1918 I bought a steel Red River Special 36x56, so in my years I bought three new steam engines and 4 new separators, in all was in the threshing business 55 years.
In my last years of threshing I changed to a government Caterpillar 40 on account of jobs being small and long pulls. This was not good on the belt. Just give me good old steam which never can be beaten for power. The N & S machines I owned had 12 bar cylinders with ?' teeth which was alright for hand feeding, but not so good on the self feeders as the self feeders in those days were crude and the light teeth could not stand the slugging. The Avery 30 undermounted had plenty of power but also used plenty of coal as it had no heater to get the benefit of the exhaust steam and the result was a big coal bill. The 22 N & S was a dandy and was easy on fuel. The N & S was a dandy, but should have been a 15hp. as it did not have enough for the self feeders, although fine for hand feeding. I also had one Emerson Big Four 30hp. which is yet in running order and not for sale. The N & S engines have long ago gone to the junk pile and the Avery 30 I sold to Elmo J. Mahoney of Dorrence, Kansas and was pictured in the Jan.-Feb. issue of the ALBUM. The Red River Special had 16 bars on the cylinder which was a great improvement over the old vibrator type. This machine is still in running order and will thresh as good as when new.
The Avery Yellow Fellow was also a good thresher but it had some faults in the wind stacker which was on the opposite side of the drive pulley, and this resulted in too much friction on the cylinder boxes so the company later changed to the other side. This was also a disadvantage in setting and the shoe movement was taken from the straw shaker which was too slow and it took an under-sized sieve to do good cleaning. After all I threshed many a bushel with this machine.
I also had a Mahoney extension feeder and it was a dandy. I want to praise this good old man who has gone to that land from whence no one returns. The Avery undermounted bad many weak points. The company failed to put babbit in the lower half 01 the boxing on the opposite side of the flywheel on the left side and this resulted in a broken crankshaft. I had bought this engine from the Avery Company and it was unloaded at Athol, Kansas March 10, 1907 along with one of their steam plows, but the steam plow was a joke. I let Mahoney have it for a show engine and kept one-half interest in it, but it later resulted in a disagreement and I sold him my half of the engine.
Threshing had its up's and down's as you can plainly see. I always had a full crew of pitchers and the farmers boarded the threshers and we always had plenty of good eating. The farmers were always glad to see us come and go, and I feel lucky I never burned one bushel of wheat or went through a bridge. In 1891 a man by name of Ed. Robertson bought a J. T. Case agitator separator 32x52 and this sure was a dandy, with 12 horses and 6 sweeps for power. This was the only new machine in this community so he took the lead. He soon paid for the machine and had fair wages left for himself.
I always liked to hear the howl of the side gear and the hum of the cylinder, of course this was before I ever had seen a steam engine. I enjoy your ALBUM with the experiences of the old threshermen.