Farm Collector


Storm Lake, Iowa

I have been taking the Album since 1952 and, like all the other
Album readers, I enjoy it very much. For some time I have wanted to
write a letter to be printed in the Album. I have enjoyed every
letter that has been printed so maybe some folks will read this one
all the way through and enjoy it too.

I have been in the painting and decorating business since the
spring of 1928. I was in Grinnell, Iowa, in March, decorating a new
church and staying with my son-in-law, James Lang. He told me there
was a steam engine about a mile out of town. We drove out there and
it was a 16 hp Gaar Scott, cleaned up and painted. I didn’t get
to talk to the owner.

The May-June Album carried a picture of a 20 hp Reeves exactly
like one I owned and run for seven years. I was not an old-timer –
just a steam fan – always happy to just be near a steam engine –
but other than hauling bundles to one, I never got a chance to
really be near one.

I went to Harper, Kansas, in 1918 and got a job hauling water to
a 30 hp Reeves Double. This machine, also 36 in. Case separator,
had been shipped up from Oklahoma (I think from near Enid) by a man
named Geo. McDowell. He also brought the engineer and separator
man. They were brothers and I think named Peedam. Dick was the
engineer. This engine had, in addition to the two side tanks, a big
tank (8 bbl., I think) that was laid down crosswise behind with a
coal bunker on top so that all the coal had to be cracked and
shoveled up there. It fed down to platform through a chute. I
imagine most of you know all about this. You had to go up onto the
engine from the left side. I pulled the water tank up on the right
side which is a bit unusual as all the others we run in on the
left. We had 36 days threshing, 18 of shocks and 18 of headed.
I’m still not sure I was ‘around’ that engine much
while it was running as it took 6 tanks one day and 7 the next and
this was a Port Huron boiler steel tank that held 14 bbl. as
compared to these galvanized tanks that probably hold 10 bbl.

The next year I went to Red Field, South Dakota, and got a job
hauling bundles to a Buffalo-Pitts 32 in. Separator and a 15 hp
Case Engine. I don’t think this one took as much water. This
machine run 7 bundle racks. Three of us didn’t like to change
sides every time we came in, so we made a deal with the other 4
that we would keep one side going if we could have the belt side,
that being the side they took the grain from. Guess I have always
been a glutton for punishment. That ended the wheat threshing. Oh
yeah – the owner of that machine was named Arch Miller.

In 1922 I hauled water to a 20 hp Return Flue Minneapolis that
was pulling a 36 in. separator of the same make. This engine was
run by one of my brothers, Lester, and was owned by Howard Byam,
Walt Phipps and Bert Johnson.

In 1927 I run a 20 hp Straight Flue Minneapolis Engine on a 36
in. Minn. This machine was owned by Charles Jacobsen. In 1928 I run
a 20 hp Case Engine for the three already mentioned, Byam, Phipps
and Johnson. Byam is my father-in-law, but he wasn’t in

In 1929 I run a 20 hp Gaar Scott Engine on a 36 in. separator,
same name, for Edw. Ingram. All of these starting in 1922 were in
the Sioux Rapids-Marathon, Iowa, Communities. Then I bought a 36-60
Avery Yellow Fellow Separator and an 18 hp Return Flue Avery
Engine, got a run in the same community a little closer to
Marathon, and threshed it till 1936. However I only run the engine
one season, and then I bought the 20 hp Reeves. In 1937 I threshed
a run near Webb, Iowa, which was as close to Byam’s where I
stored my machine as the other run was. Now to do a little
reminiscing about these years of Steam Threshing –

In Kansas on that Reeves I was working a team of horses for a
week or so while waiting for a team of mules to get there from
Oklahoma. This team of horses never fell in love with that steam
engine! I had hitched them up as I knew there was only a few
gallons of water left and the injector was on. I was setting on the
engine to shut off the injector when it started to get air. Dick
would let me fire the engine and run the water and later let me
stop and start the engine and of course anyone that can stop an
engine can start a Reeves, Anyway, just before this water ran out
the water glass blew out and I mean blowed! This team started just
like Tim-Tarn out of a chute and would have beaten him for 200
yards and Mrs. Davis’ little boy Len leaped and lit on the tank
and it wasn’t runaway horses that I was thinking of either.
While they were making the first turn to miss separator, bundle
wagon, etc., I picked up the lines which were wrapped around the
seat and we took off for a tank of water. This water glass
didn’t stay put for a while. I asked Dick how he could tell
when he had too much water and he said when it ran out of the smoke
stack. Another time the glass blew – it just cracked. I was on the
engine alone and reached down to shut off the water first when it
did blow and I got a piece of it in one eye. The boss took me to a
Doctor. The glass missed the sight by only a hair – he took the
glass out – sold me a pair of dark glasses – and I only missed one
tank of water.

In 1922 the Minneapolis that my brother Lester run was at our
place. We set early and, backing in the belt and backing downhill,
I let the belt get away. It run off on the inside and the gears cut
it in two. One of s took it to Sioux Rapids to a harness shop and
he cut out every other layer of canvas from both ends about two
feet, lapped them together, sewed them with 13 rows of stitches,
and we were able to use the belt.

Lester T. Davis, my brother, went on the Western Pacific
Railroad at Portola, California, in 1926 as fireman, was promoted
to engineer in 1940, and was one of their top passenger engineers
at the time of his death (heart) in 1952. He was 47 years old and
had also been in the state legislature for 6 years.

In 1927 we had trouble steaming the Minneapolis Engine belonging
to Charlie Jacobsen. When we did discover the trouble it was soot-
either in the stack or on the exhaust nozzle I don’t remember
which. Charlie was truly an old time thresher. He told me that the
old timers talk about a 4 minute set, said we would try it some day
and we did. We also made it in 4 minutes flat! We did everything
but roll up the belt. We folded the feeder, ran the blower around,
turned the engine around, made a complete loop with the machine,
dug both front wheels down, put the level on (which don’t mean
it was level), turned the engine around again, backed into the belt
and were threshing in 4 minutes. Charlie passed out of this world
in ’47 at about 63 years of age.


  • Published on Nov 1, 1961
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