Mt. Vernon and Keck Shines

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.

Farm Collector Magazine
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