MR. E. R. BRIEN WRITES

Athol, Kansas

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
32×56 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 41×64 and all modern attachments. This I also
run four years and again traded for an Avery 30hp. under-mounted
and 42×70 Yellow Fellow machine with all modern attachments. In
1918 I bought a steel Red River Special 36×56, 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
32×52 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.

Farm Collector Magazine
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