‘OUT OF THE PAST’

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Courtesy of Mr. Don Grilley, Deering, North Dakota. In this picture you can see the late Mr. Lester Grilley standing on the platform of the 75 HP Case.
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Courtesy of Mr. Don Grilley, Deering, North Dakota In this picture the late Mr. Lester Grilley is standing by the rear wheel of the 20-75 HP Twin Nichols and Shepard.

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.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment