ONE IRON-MAN’S EXPERIENCES

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Courtesy of Val Frey, McLennan, Alberta, Canada. Mr. Frey with 28'' Case separator and a Holt 60 tractor.

McLennan, Alberta, Canada

(I had to retype this letter and I did a little correcting on
grammar -and some on spelling but not as much as you would think
after you read the first paragraph of this letter preceding the
story. The letter Val sent me was typed and all I can say is I
certainly give a lot of credit to someone who has this much
ambition and thoughtfulness to write us. I’m sure it wasn’t
too easy for him. Truly, he is one of our respected
‘Iron-Men’ -Anna Mae)

Val writes: Every time your wonderful magazine, the Iron-Men
comes in the mail, it is a real picnic for me to read every line
and I enjoy it very much and the letters of those old
threshermen’s experiences. So today I decide to write a few of
my experiences with those monsters of yesteryears. But first of
all, I must tell you. I am not too good at writing letters. The why
is – my Father came from France in 1904 to gamble $10.00 with the
government on a homestead northeast of Halkirk, Alberta, Canada. In
those days there were no schools and when the schools came, I was
too old or too busy with the farm work so I never had a chance –
never seen the inside of a school house. Besides, I had to learn to
speak English, so will you please excuse my poor grammar and
misspelling. Besides, I am getting tired looking in the dictionary
for my spelling – so I will start.

It was in 1915, we were threshing late in the fall – stack
threshing – no snow yet on the ground. I well remember it was in
the middle of November and that morning it was quite cold with a
white frost. We were threshing with a Holt 30-60 HP for power on a
28′ Case steel separator. On the ground, by the engine, were
three barrels of gasoline from Imperial Oil Ltd. In those days, the
gasoline barrels were not made like the ones of today. They did not
have a straight side, but were bulged like a wooden barrel. Rivets
were used instead of welding as welding was not worth much in those
days. Anyway, on one of the three drums there was no white
frost,

I happened to touch it and it was quite warm. Not hot to burn
the hand, but you could feel quite warm. One man of the threshing
crew was a well read man and he told us the only thing that could
heat that barrel was a bit of radium. Has anybody ever had this
experience? If so, please let me know. In 1923, I was running a
threshing outfit in the Rib Stone Creek, mid Eastern part of
Alberta. After 42 days of threshing, I was going back home across
country on a cow trail when all of a sudden – bang bang – the front
rod burnt out. This was my wonder of a car, a 1914 model T Ford. I
was with the separator man. We looked around and waited, but nobody
came on this cow trail. We decided the best thing to do was walk.
We walked about a mile or so when we got to a farmer’s place.
The lady was all alone as her husband was on a threshing rig. We
asked her if they had a Ford connecting rod, but the lady
didn’t seem to understand. So, I asked her if she had salt pork
and she looked at me and started to laugh, and said they had a
barrel full of salt pork. So, I took a chunk with heavy rind and
cut a strip of the rind the same width as the rod and wrapped it
around the crankshaft good and snug and the rod good and tight – as
you know, we were short of crankcase oil. And we put in one quart
of water and as soon as we had a chance we changed the oil, but do
you know we drove the 70 miles back home. The Model T was running
as nice as you please. When we changed the rod, can you believe
that the engine was not knocking? I have been wondering since why
they don’t use pork rind instead of babbitt.

Once we were breaking land with a Rumely 36 HP steam engine.
Anybody that has used and saw them, knows what a monster of an
engine it was. Anyway, that day we were breaking in some tall weeds
and shrubs, when all of a sudden the front end or the two front
wheels fell in an old cellar. We were in what used to be the
farmyard. The engine was leaning so bad that the crown sheet was
dry. I tell you it did not take long to put the fire out as the
engine was in a dangerous position. After the excitement was over,
we did some serious thinking as there was no power strong enough
around to get this monster out of this mess. I must say, that the
boiler of that engine was in perfect shape – no leak whatsoever.
So, we got hold of two good tire hand pumps and after 2 days of
hard work we managed to raise the gauge to 90 lb. After some elbow
grease on the shovel handle, the engine in reverse, we got the
engine out without any trouble at all. When I think of it now, if
it was today, we would get a small compressor with gas enough and
do the work in a few hours that back then took us days to do.
Anyway, the engine backed out of the mess on air pressure.

Once we were threshing and it was very dry and the wind shifted
and the straw stack started on fire. In no time at all, the fire
seemed to be all around the separator. I tell you the racks pulled
out in a hurry. I knew I did not have the time to throw off the
drive belt, so got hold of the clutch lever and yanked on it. The
engine let a great bark and out came the separator by the drive
belt’. Any of you old hogsheads ever had that experience?

One day a fork went in and all it did was to bend a few cylinder
teeth. You old separator men know what a teeth straightener is. I
do not know what happened, but he forgot to pick it when he was
done with it. Anyway, that evening when we were cleaning as the job
was finished, the bar was fed into the machine and it seemed it
went crossway in the cylinder. It left the cylinder by breaking the
two main top bearings and also broke the concaves.

I have a 20 HP 1914 Case steamer in mint condition and also have
a Case 12-24 Crossmount tractor, a 12-24 Hart-Parr and a 10-20
Titan -all in mint condition. Also have a 32 volts d.c. air cooled
Delco light plant, a 4 HP Cushman binder engine and a couple of
engines that I do not know their make.

I am now retired after working 30 years for a Power company. I
was installing diesel engine and also running shifts. My mind is
always back to steam so if somebody had experience with a warm gas
barrel, please let me know.

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