Rt. 1, Box 170 Sand point, Idaho 83864
Hello Good People - Please may I put in my nickels worth? I learned of the Iron-Men Magazine just this last year, when an old friend of Dads wrote to him about an article in it. It stirred old memories and I thought Dad should have his story in print so that his grandchildren and great grandchildren would have it to remember him by.
Dad will be ninety years old the 8th of September 1969. He was born in Illinois, was christened Thomas Rutherford Plummer. He had three brothers, one sister, was raised by Grandmother and Grandpa. He was Tom to all who knew him. After his schooling he wandered over into Iowa. Worked on farms, trapped and hunted. When a boy in Illinois, he had trapped fur bearing animals, he also found it profitable in Iowa. Spent many a winter evening skinning and stretching fur pelts. He liked country life, farm work, especially machinery. He enjoyed hunting, fishing and baseball. Umpired many a game!
Now he goes on with his story!
In 1902 I had the opportunity to buy a ten horse Advance engine and thresher. A man was foreclosing on his brother so another fellow and I decided this was our big deal. We made our money back on the clover that we hulled that fall. I sold my share in these machines to my partner's brothers.
In the fall of 1905, Alfred Samlon and I bought a second hand Nichols and Shepard ten horse engine and a Case separator. We ran them for two years. These separators were hand fed. In 1907 I traded the Nichols and Shepard in on a 15-45 O.S. Kelly.
On December 12th, 1909 I married Adelaide. She was in nurses training. We had a little home in the country, west of Tiffin, Iowa. By 1910 I was more prosperous. Bought a brand new Case steel separator, 32 x 54 at Des Moines. Pulled it with the O. S. Kelly for five years. Most of the threshing was done around Tiffin and North Bend. Charles Wolfe was the first man I threshed for and Bill Quinlon the second. There would b e sixteen wagons hauling in, three pitchers, six grain haulers, myself, an engineer and a water boy. I remember when we charged 1 cents a bushel to thresh oats and 2 cents a bushel for wheat. A fellow named Ed Smith had a 75 horse Compound Port Huron and he helped me with the separator for a while.
I bought a J. I. Case 50 in 1917. By this time my daughter, Evelyn was six years old and we had moved into Iowa City, so she could attend school there. Many a year I started threshing about the 4th of July and wound up in November threshing stacks. We had wonderful meals on those Iowa farms. Those Iowa farm ladies really knew how to cook. We would start early in the morning and often the women folk would bring us a mid morning lunch. Then we would go in to dinner at noon, to what appeared to be a wedding feast. Many Bohemians lived in this part of the country and they baked all sorts of fancy goodies including poppy seed rolls and kolachy. Many of them had outside kitchens, a room apart from the house screened for coolness and to keep out insects. And in these kitchens they'd bake and do the hot stove cooking. They'd set a fine table with nice white table cloths. It was good food, good conversation, much laughter, good living! One time at a farm house not so clean, the crew eating dinner and the farmers wife asked one of the men if he wanted sugar in his iced tea. He did so she dumped in a spoonful and stirred it with her finger! Ha! Did he drink it? Don't remember!
One time one of the pitchers got mad at another pitcher, so he rolled up a sheepskin coat lining and put it into a grain bundle. When the pitcher pitched it into the feeder it hit the cylinder and took concaves hangers and all, completely cleaned out the front end.
On the 25th of July, 1922 I rushed home after a days work, took my wife to the hospital. Went back home, received a call telling me my daughter, Gertrude, was born. It was four o'clock in the morning, the 26th. I called to Evelyn and told her to go and stay with a neighbor and I headed back to the threshing rig to begin another day.
The following year we left Iowa. Moved to the Bitterroot Valley in Montana. The two summers we were there I returned to Iowa by train to conduct the threshing run. My family returned to Iowa. We stayed two years and started back to Montana again. We got snowed in in the Black Hills of South Dakota and there we stayed. My wife died in 1928.
When I left Iowa I left the threshing machine and engine at Bruce Browns. His son and Clyde Wolfe used them the next fall. I don't know what became of them after that.
My daughter Evelyn and I went into partnership on a ranch in South Dakota in 1929. Had a good crop that year. The neighbors did well too and there didn't seem to be any thresher to accommodate us, so I bought a new McCormack-Deering 20-32 separator. Pulled it with a new F-20 Farmall tractor. I ran this rig for thirty seven years, doing custom work as far as thirty miles either way from home. In the fall of 1968 I turned it over to Gertrude's husband, Tedd Mann. It is in excellent running condition. Altogether I threshed for sixty years.
We were threshing oats on our ranch in South Dakota one hot fall afternoon. We had our pickup pulled in along side of the separator and were running the grain into the bed of the pickup. My grandson Vernon Schulze, four years old, was up on the separator with me. He thought this was a great treat and was all interested in what was going on. I said 'You be careful now, don't stumble or fall, that would be awful! Do you know what would happen if you fell in there'? And he quickly answered, 'Yes, my teeth would come out in the pickup'.
Threshing is a summers run, winter is another story. I ran saw mills for twenty years during the winter months. To begin, I bought a Frick mill for $200.00. I sawed cottonwood, hickory, elm, cherry wood, oak, walnut all the different kinds of wood that grow in Iowa. Three or four men helped me run the mill, they were paid as much as $1.00 a day and board. At one time lumber was worth $13.00 a thousand. We cut bridge plank, sawed out barn frames and cut very fine hardwood lumber.
When we moved to the Bitterroot Valley, Montana I had to leave the mill. When I returned it was all gone as some one had helped themselves. I worker at saw mills near Darby, Montana two years and on a saw mill in Boles canyon in South Dakota two years.
Now I (Evelyn) shall add my bit. Dad always set up a tent to camp in when he was sawing. He called it his rag house. I loved to visit the 'rag house', I liked the smell of it, a combination of sun on canvas, lumber, tobacco and summer sausage. If I scrounged around a bit I could always find some summer sausage. I loved that too, and we seldom had it at home. (We lived in town, you remember?) I could always find some un-shelled peanuts in Dads pockets too. They usually had tobacco leaves mixed in with them but I didn't mind. I still love the smell of the steam engines. There is a man here in Sandpoint, Idaho that has one he enters in parades and has on display at special events. It is an old J. I. Case in excellent condition and he keeps it polished to perfection. It brings tears to my eyes whenever I see it.
When Dad was bringing one of his engines home, to move it somewhere or for repairs, he'd tell me when and where to come and meet him and I'd listen for the sound of it and go then and get a ride back home and he'd even let me toot the whistle.
Dad always did his own repair work. Kept his machines in excellent condition always ready to go. He would set his own saws. They had to be perfect. A farmer would tell him he wanted a barn 'like this', give him a few measurements, and Dad would figure it all out. Then he would set up the sawmill and saw out the barn frame and lumber, often from the farmer's own logs.
Driving to town one cold snowy day he and his men stopped at an old man's cabin to see if the old fellow needed any groceries. The man checked the supplies in his cupboard and said, 'Let's see, I have flour, sugar, salt, -oh- just bring me a half gallon of whiskey'.
Dad and his fox hounds and coon hounds were always ready and anxious to take off on a hunt. One time Dad and a pal who stuttered were hunting squirrels, and he laughed as he told of the guy exclaiming, 'Look - there's a sq-sq-sq-sq-oh-he went in a hole'.
Another time when a bunch was going hunting, they stopped to pick up a buddy. It was early morning and he said he was ready to cook some pancakes for his breakfast. They told him to 'Hurry up and eat and we'll wait'. In just a minute he came out ready to go. Somebody said 'You didn't take time to cook and eat pancakes'? He replied, 'No- I just drank some of the batter'.
Dad took great pride in his guns. Duck hunting, big game hunting in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. There was always game to be found. Clever at trapping, he caught muskrats, mink, weasel, bob cats, lynx, badgers, fox, raccoon and skunks.
A lucky fisherman, he fished many rivers including the Mississippi, Iowa, Cedar and Bitterroot many creeks and mountain streams. Stockade Beaver creek in Wyoming, a favorite, is near his home in the Black Hills. There are many small lakes, and big ones too like Lake Pend Orielle in Northern Idaho and Lake Taweel in British Columbia.
Now he has retired from all except fishing. He still drives his car to where the fish are biting! An ardent baseball and football fan he enjoys the games on TV and knows many of the players and their capacities. He lives alone, in his small cabin, reads, keeps up to date on politics, visits friends and relatives, when he wishes.
He loves children, especially boys. He has three grandsons, one granddaughter, four great grandsons, and three great granddaughters.
Now he's content, my dear old Dad, Tom Plummer. I think he is truly an Iron-Man.