Highland View Farm, Cochranville, Pennsylvania
Next morning the livery man loads us on a two-horse rig and starts toward Gras Lake. When out about half way there met us a man going into town. He stopped and talked a few minutes, found out who we were and where we were from, then wondered if any of us were engineers. Why yes, of course I was one and hired to him for the season's run at five dollars a day. That was something. So he arranged for us to be at his home that night, which, needless to say, we were only too glad to do after our recent trip from Nebraska. This man, Jonas Renno, Grass Lake, N. D., then hired Kauffman to be the separator man and Hertzler got in on the fireman end on the Gaar Scott straw burner.
We set to work immediately, getting the machinery in shape, which took us about two weeks. I gave the engine the best I had, believe me, but cutting wheat was going on full time. So I got a job with Samuel Spicher shocking until the threshing started. Well, the day finally came to get the engine fired up and see that all was in order. These were exciting days, the size of the tractor and large Red River Special thresher, water tank and straw wagon and all that went with it. Well, what do we take to start the fire? No wood or anything like that in the prairie country. Take hay from the lake, we stuffed it full and put a match to it, but nothing happened. Someone whispered, just put in a little at a time, which we did, and soon had the familiar sound, water boiling, getting steam, blowing off the whistle and all that went with it. That long 180 foot belt, heavy as it was, just did not want to stay on. That quick starting Gaar Scott would pull out from under it. These were exciting times but with little practice all soon went well.
Had the thresher going with its thrill that makes the thresher blood warm up, and the engine, the way it purred. I can, still feel it under the skin or at least I think so.
The threshing started about September 14, and lasted through November 11, 1904. That is the end of that first year's experience. There could be many things said in detail about this time and all the exciting things that went with it. The hoboes for help, they go on strike and quit, putting wrenches in machinery to make things miserable, etc.
I left Grass Lake or what then was Wolford, the Great Northern Railroad built an extension into this community during the summer and winter, but Renno took me to York of the Great Northern and I took a train for Surry, North Dakota, about sixty miles further west where I had a cousin, Isaac S. Mast, living near Minot. They were still doing some threshing here but soon finished. I stayed here until about Christmas, then went back to Goshen College and spent some time at school, until March 1905 found me back in Dakota again helping get the ground ready for spring seeding of more wheat, barley, oats, speltz. Horses were the power for getting ground ready for seeding except the prairie land which was mostly plowed with large tractors. I got a job for a while on such a rig. This was a large Buffalo Pitts engine, coal burner. We pulled twelve plows when going was good, but mostly had nine 14 inch plows turning over the tough prairie sod that had never been turned with its buffalo carcasses and prairie dogs. There was a bounty on these little squirrel-like dogs, a penny a tail. This was a pastime in spare time. Those half-mile and some mile long furrows will stay with me while time lasts. It was a sight to behold that big Buffalo Pitts chugging, followed by those plows. That was getting something done but it was not all fun.
My job was often to get water from a hole or slew as they knew it. Pretty soft sometimes getting close enough, and one night about midnight a very heavy electric storm blew our tent away giving us a cold bath. We ran shivering to the cook shack where the cook, a fine lady, soon had hot coffee for us and a hot stove to get our clothes dry.
When this plowing was over for the season I got a job carpentering, building what is now known as the Fair View Church just south of Surry. While working on it John Yoder from the Grass Lake section near Wolford came to see me about running his engine for the 1905 threshing season. I hired with him but continued carpentering and did some coal mining in a mine getting coal known as lignite coal, and helped cousin Mast with his harvest. Then the latter part of August I left Surry for Wolford to Yoders where I immediately started getting the tractor in shape for the threshing season.
This was a Nichols & Shepard engine, which also was a large engine. We had a fine crew and threshed many bushels of grain that season. I often wished I had kept a record. It went well except with a few experiences which were not pleasant. One was a severe storm while threshing. It hailed something like I never saw before. Teamsters just could not control their horses and manned teams ran off. Another time the soft plug blew out while threshing. I knew there was plenty of water in the boiler but it did put me on the spot for I was the engineer and it should not have happened. Another time we got stuck in a low place while moving the rig and it got dark. Of course it was not the only time we got stuck in that loose loam, but this time in the night. I put the steam on a little too soon and nearly ran over a man who had his foot partly under the front wheel. This was a hard pull for me. I was up all night bathing the man's foot with laudnum. Well, he got alright and was able to work, which was a great relief to me.
On this season's threshing we scarcely ever got to sleep in a bed with the exception of Saturday and Sunday nights. Always in hay lofts or straw stacks, or wherever you could dig in. Coyotes were plenty and chilled my blood more than once.
As the burning of straw was hard on the flues that terrific heat caused the flues to leak as well as klinker. The oat straw was the worst for that, but made more heat than wheat straw which kept the fireman busy. But firing was much better.
Regards and best wishes to the ALBUM magazine.