Old Threshers at 36

| January/February 1986

10022 Marnice Avenue Tujunga, California 91042

When a feller gets steam and valve oil in his veins, he almost always never gets it out, and like an old hound dog at possum huntin' time, his ears prick up and his breath comes in short pants when someone mentions steam engines. This is what happened to me this past August when my wife, Retta, said, 'Are you going to Mt. Pleasant this year?' Of course I could have given her a big hug and increased her allowance to fifty cents a month, but instead I acted rather reluctant and said, 'Oh, I dunno. Probably not.' Then she came up with the clincher. 'If you go, I would like to go, too.' Well, with an offer like that, who could refuse. Someone to carry the heavy luggage, to do all the driving, to act as navigator so I wouldn't get lost and to say, 'NO, NO, NO, that's too much money' when I would start to talk about buying a ten thousand dollar steam engine. So right away we started to make plans.

I wrote to Henry Oswald to tell him we were coming. You remember Henry as being the walking Chamber of Commerce for the Old Threshers and owning the 1983 Engine of the Year, an undermounted Avery. Also wrote to Stan Mathews of the Midwest Central Railroad and was about to write to Edna Wright to have her reserve us a room when I remembered Wes and Darlene Glidewell had told us that we might be able to stay with them in their motor home if they had room, so we called them at their home in Dixon and after promising Wes I wouldn't snore, they agreed to let us stay. With all this out of the way, we packed our duds, oiled the clockwork and wound the mainspring on the old Reo Speed-wagon and away we went, across the burning desert, the shining mountains and the lone prairie to that cloud of wood smoke in the air that marks Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, the home of the thirty sixth annual Old Settlers and Threshers Reunion.

Every year, about a week or so before Labor Day, Mt. Pleasant is transformed from a sleepy little country town to a roaring metropolis with the advent of the Old Threshers Reunion. People pour in from all over the country to get together to look over the antique farm machinery, see some of it in action, renew old acquaintances and maybe even swap a few tall tales. Just about every extra bed, cot and sleeping bag in town is filled, thanks to the efforts of Edna Wright. (I call her the Beddy Bye Lady of Mt. Pleasant.) Edna takes care of most all of the reservations for rooms in the town, and while she hasn't handled quite as many people as Conrad Hilton, she runs a close second. Without her and her card file, lots of people would be sleeping standing up. The RV section of the grounds is full, this year 3900 trailers, campers and motor homes came and stayed for a week or more, besides all the odd spots that people stayed, all makes for wall to wall people.

As we had been invited to stay with Wes and Darlene, as soon as we hit town on Thursday, we looked them up, got settled and went out to look things over. Wes and Darlene have been donating a lot of time to taking care of the big stationary engines in the very aptly named 'Steam Room', but this year Wes had brought with him his new (to him) one half scale freelance traction engine, so he didn't have to spend as much time in the 'steam room' as before, having fun instead, riding around the track in the big parade and showing off his latest toy to everyone.

Here's a steam pumper built in 1902, used for 36 years, retired until it was rescued by Gene Morris and restored to better than new condition as evidenced by this picture.