354 West minister Road, Rochester, New York
I quit school at 16, after my brother Duke Parker bought a new 14 H.P. single cylinder Frick engine and a 28-46 Case separator. Of course, I was very excited at the thought of going to threshing, as I have always loved steam engines. My Dad had a 10 H.P. Graton portable engine with which we ground feed, sawed shingles and made cider. From working with this engine I learned to do the firing, adjust the bearings, put in a water glass, and do all the other things necessary to keep the engine running smoothly. Dad always said, 'Keep the flues and the ash pit clean. Hook out the clinkers, give her a good blow down once a day and you've got a good working engine.' Well, I'm getting away from the main part of my story.
The new engine came filled with water so all we had to do was build a fire and steam up. When the steam was up we coupled her to the grain machine and started down Oakland St. As we were going toward the slight grade that led to Hunt road the engine stopped. The man from the Frick Company was with us and he took the plate off of the steam chest to check the valves. Since it was a hot day my brother sent me to a nearby farm house to get a pail of drinking water. As I was returning they got the engine started, but the exhaust was very loud and sharp. The noise set me to thinking. After I had passed the water around, I put on my gloves, opened the smoke box door, and felt the exhaust nozzle which was reduced to . I took out the bushing and in-creased the opening to 1. This proved to be the answer and the engine worked fine and was a good steamer. We pulled into the Baily farm in Penny cook. The day was the warm kind that makes you glad to be alive. In the shed next to the barn I found some Western story Magazines, and since I like to read I grabbed a couple and went back to the engine. I looked at the steam gauge, which help at 125 lbs. and glass of water so I read on. The next time I looked it was 115 lbs. and plenty of water, but the following time it was 100 lbs. and only 2 in. of water. I thought it was time to put in some coal. When I opened the fire box there was not a spark of fire. I scrambled to get an armful of hay and some pieces of old board. I didn't have to shut it down, but it was close. I never got caught again.
Another time we had to cross the deep cut bridge which is about 200 feet long and 100 feet above the ravine it crosses. This bridge is not considered safe as it has been there for many years and is made of wood, but it was the shortest way to where our job was. I had orders from my brother to pull the engine to the bridge and uncouple it. After having a cup of hard cider they were to meet me and draw the separator across with the team. Even though I was young, it made me mad to think that I couldn't have some cider. When I got to the bridge I went over it at full speed. Just about that time my brother came around the bend and saw the bridge sway a full three feet and did I get Hell.
Some of the farmers that lived across the bridge were Amy Kennedy, Carl McMaster, Bill Linsly, and Roy Asbusso. Amy Kennedy was a big man about 6' 4' and hard as nails. If he liked you he would do anything for you that he could, but if he didn't like you you had better stay clear of him. He always had several barrels of cider from 1 to 4 years old and wasn't stingy with it. If you went to bed at nine he would wake you up at twelve and bring you a glass of cider. Later in his life he got incurable cancer and ended it all with a shot gun.
Later in my life I hired a man by the name of Floyd Yuiwald for a separator man. He could lace a belt like a professional and he took good care of the machine, but he had one bad fault and that was that he liked hard cider too much. One time we were threshing at Amy's and he got pretty well looped, so I had to take over the firing and looking after the separator. While I was in the bam he threw off the governor belt, but I got it shut off before any damage was done. However, all the belts were off except the drive belt.
Threshing is hard work and long hours. Many times we would finish a job at 6 p.m., go in and eat supper and then pull several miles with just a lantern hung on the front coupler of the engine, and then get to bed around midnight. But did we ever get the food! I think that all the farmers wives tried to out do each other in this aspect. We would get creamed mashed potatoes, baked beans, fried chicken, and cabbage salad, or fried crispy salt pork, boiled potatoes, and corn bread, and boy 'how I could eat.'
Later we bought a 16 HP double cylinder engine from Charles Lee at Tuscora. It was a nice engine to handle but it used a lot more coal and water than the little single Frick which the farmers didn't like too much. After using it for 2 years we sold it to Buck Nucom to use on a lumber mill. My brother lost two fingers and a thumb in Nucoms' mill, when his ring caught on a board and drew his hand into the edger.
Once we were threshing just outside of Dalton. The owner of the farm took us up in the attic to sleep in an old broken down bed, even though he had better rooms. However, he thought that this type of a room was good enough for threshers. Our tank wagon man, Frank Whitney, hunted in an old trunk and got an old fashioned black silk dress that fitted him fine and I discovered an old dress suit so we dressed up and decided to have some fun. After a while the old guy came up in a bad mood so I said Mr. Yelsher, 'you are treating us worse than dogs. I have as good a house as this is and I don't sleep in the attic on the bunk, and if you don't pipe down we'll pull the rig to the next job.' He shut up and took us down to a much better room. This proves that folks are funny and just because threshing is a dirty job they think the workers aren't human. One woman said. 'You are awful dirty' and I said 'Lady it is your own dirt'.
I had a little short man for water boy for a while who was always having trouble with the tank pump. One day he didn't get back till late so I had to shut down. When he finally came I was a little sore and said to him, 'If you don't get around faster, I'll kick your bottom.' He looked up and grinned at me and said, 'You'll never find a handier one to kick.'
Once when I was going down the hill into Lusboro with the single Cylinder Frick and bean machine I felt myself and the engine slipping on the wet macadam. I tried to straighten her up but couldn't, so I threw the reverse in the center and jumped. The tongue broke on the bean machine and it ran in the ditch, but didn't tip. The engine turned around side ways and stopped. I was sure lucky. I took the broken tongue up to George Hanro who did that kind of work and in two hours was ready to go again.