R. D. 1, Eldorado, Illinois
JULY HAS COME AND gone and to most of us July and August was Threshing time, extinct now commercially speaking, and I am told an era never to return.
However, each year in some parts of the country the pages of history are turned back to the chapter written by the steam traction engine, and it is through the medium of the Reunion, field demonstrations by farm implement dealers that we can relive the scenes that we once lived through and enjoyed. Some towns and cities have used the old engine with their Centennial celebration along with the separator to thresh grain. One of these mentioned was the scene on the west outskirts of Mt. Vernon, Indiana, July 4, 1958 when the Juncker Bros., Massey-Ferguson dealers put on a field demonstration of their machines in collaboration with William G. Holler's 18 hp. Keck engine and separator. Eight loads of wheat were threshed during the day. Some nine to ten thousand people came to look.
All this not more than five city blocks from, where the engine and separator were manufactured. It was a familiar scene in and around Mt. Vernon.
The engine was most efficiently operated by two brothers, Bill and Jake Oeth, 86 and 76 respectively. They are the oldest threshermen in Posey County, Indiana. Bill Holler and Mengie Kemmerling said they knew Mr. Ritzman personally and spoke well of him. I want to say this: I never was around a finer bunch of men and the day I spent there taking pictures, talking to new and old friends is priceless.
Well, the bark of the engine, and the smell of frying grease and the escaping of steam, etc., were all fond memories, but the greatest thrill came when I was privileged to run the engine and separator around the field. It had been 22 years since I had pulled the throttle on an engine. So you can imagine how I felt running it around there alone.
Bill had his engine up in tip-top shape. I don't believe I ever run one that throttled as easy or handled as nice as this one, the gearing was quiet, which to me makes much difference.
The next day, July 5th, 1958, I was 44 years old. I am married, have two daughters and have the obligations of a man to meet but this is one weakness I have (some think it silly). I guess it will always stay with me.
They are still trying to hold to the tradition of County Fairs here in southern Illinois, but there seems to be a missing link, people just don't seem to care for the old carnivals and side shows any more. I firmly believe that a good steam threshing rig would really bring back the color and zeal the people would like to see. I am looking forward to the time when maybe it will be done.
In defense of the old thresherman A few of them, bless their hearts, are still with us but the most of them, along with my father, have gone on.
I have talked to a few people who thought machine men had it easy. They didn't consider a long move between corn fields on a hot July afternoon, sweat filling your shoes or a bad batch of water causing her to 'pull over' or falling through a bridge. Yes, it wasn't easy but we liked it? Yes, I'll answer for all you boys. Remember everyone who worked in a threshing run had a job to do. No room for gripes.