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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
He loves children, especially boys. He has three grandsons, one
granddaughter, four great grandsons, and three great
Now he’s content, my dear old Dad, Tom Plummer. I think he
is truly an Iron-Man.