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1912 - Bill Steuck on the Engine.
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My Last Run - 1949

Primghar, Iowa

(In 3 parts – Part 1)

My innate mechanical ambition was apparent, I was told, at a
very early age. I remember being spanked for losing hammers, saw,
monkey wrench or knife (about all the tools father had) which
didn’t help. I sat on or played around anything with wheels
(never had a coaster wagon or tricycle). Steam power enhanced me
very early. I made my first imaginary steam boiler, smoke stack,
wheels, etc. from logs. Also a box affair for a separator. My
second venture, with some help, was from an abandoned steam feed
cooker boiler about 5 feet long by 2 feet in diameter with mower
wheel drivers, smoke stack platform, and tool boxes on which I rode
while other boys (and girls) pushed it around. This contraption
looked quite real from a distance. I threshed many an imaginary
grain, grain stack setting (4 stacks) of barn yard chaff or just
plain dirt and dust while herding cattle. The steamer exhaust bark
was done by mouth. I sent for a Case thresher catalog so young I
feared a rebuke from father, because to put it mildly, he never
encouraged my ambitions until later. Guns also thrilled me no end.
I learned to track rabbits and pull them from their snow or sod
burrows. Everybody ate rabbits then.

1908 – Went Threshing.

I matured early. At 16, I begged Dad (who was 58 now) to let me
go stack threshing, (I wanted to be near the steamer) which was
much harder than hauling bundles. You pitched bundles regardless of
dust from side or tail winds from 7A.M. until dark. Dad wanted to
exchange with me but I wouldn’t give up regardless of how tired
I got. We finished in raw, cold October weather, then came corn
picking. I wasn’t myself until after Christmas. How foolish can
a guy get?

Everything was done by hand, not just farming, but everything
for the table from planting to table. There was no refrigeration.
Meats for summer were brined and smoked in cold weather. My parents
were slowing down. I helped with everything.

1910 – Homemade Tractors

Gas engines were not uncommon now. I was interested in
everything with wheels and studied steam and gas engineering. Most
of the first gas engines were heavy, rather crude and complicated.
Westinghouse, Fairbanks Morse, I. H. C, etc. sold by implement
dealers were expensive. So William Galloway, Associated Mfg.,
Sears, etc. came along and sold direct at reasonable prices. Father
(or I could say we, because I was taking over responsibility more
and more) bought a 6H.P. single cylinder Associated engine (which
was of standard design) with friction clutch pulley and special
crankshaft to accommodate pulleys on both sides. I planned and did
make a tractor with it from two McCormick binder drive wheels, two
disc plow front wheels, chain drive car differential, etc. all
picked up cheap. Now I took engine to work, instead of work to
engine. It did many jobs otherwise requiring horses. It would pump
water and run wash machine for hours on one gallon of gas. We
bought a feed grinder, pump jack, and our first Maytag (wooden)
washing machine with pulley drive, which I placed in cob shed and
ran with line shaft (part of which is still in east wall). Please
remember the man hours required to do things. My folks were slowing
down. Anything mechanical was easy for me. Maybe you now understand
how this new setup saved me time. I built tractor with small forge,
(I could forge weld quite well) old vise and tools. There is a
picture of this tractor with my folks and sister, Alvina, taken
late in 1913. I could not do it with the same tools today. I assure
you the time required came darned hard and was possible only
because I worked hard. I seldom went to dances, town, shows, not
even to weddings invited to (big affairs). This worried my folks.
They could not understand. Compare this with today’s boys, just
graduating, and then ask yourself, ‘Can I blame Dad for being
what he is?’


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