FROM MY THRESHING AND SHELLING EXPERIENCES.
(In 3 parts - Part 2)
Building hen and hog houses, etc. were neighborhood affairs. I was handy, therefore in demand. I was even asked to help on barns and houses. Cement was hand mixed. I conceived what turned out to be a bright idea. I built a one sack capacity cement mixer to team up with my tractor. Now we were paid by the sack instead of working per gratis. I mixed all cement for Fred Guse's bam, hog and hen house. Gus Steuck's hog house, house basements for August Marquardt's and Fred Steuck's, my own shop and machine shed and granary basement, etc. By now, Wm. Galloway was building Barrel Mixers.
When I was a little boy, I would crawl along the ground and clear out the lug marks left by the steam engines. I would climb trees to get a better look at a distant threshing rig, etc. In other words, I was possessed by a desire to become a steam engineer. I diligently studied everything I could lay my hands on pertaining to steam and gas engineering, even in bed by small lamp. By now I felt I knew more, technically, (also knacks) than some old engineers. My parents didn't seem to understand, which was embarrassing. In 1912, our German threshing ring brought an old Minneapolis 18H.P. return flue steam engine and a 1902 Advance Separator from Ed Rhinehart. They voted me in to be their engineer, which was one of the greatest thrills in my life, followed quickly by disappointment when Father objected. However, after a brief discussion and Fred Guse's remark, 'Bill can do it,' Father consented and I imagine he was pleased later. He became afflicted with esophaugus cancer in 1913 and died on April 25, 1914.
Allow me to relate my first day operating that steamer. It was old and neglected, needed repairing and adjusting badly. The shaft was out of line with the cylinder, resulting wrist pin wearing conical and heating, requiring daily adjusting and constant watching. The cross head and wrist pin brasses required filing. Piston rod and valve stem needed repacking. Cross head pump rod and packing glands were hopelessly ruined, leaving me only one Penberthy Injector for water feed source and it was limited enough to cause trouble. The whole engine was dirty beyond description, yet I was not given an opportunity to work on it before threshing time, which was unfair to any engineer. This didn't dampen my enthusiasm. I couldn't wait for the great day to come, but, of course, it did. I was up at 3:45A.M. (after a night of unrest and dreams). I had no trouble at all steaming up or operating it, coupling up, moving, setting, etc. It was an easy steamer. The injector fussed and sputtered and finally refused. We were threshing at home and luckily for me, I had Muriatic Acid on hand (used for soldering) to clean up the limed-up parts. Afterwards, I did this regularly and never had trouble again. We finished at home and threshed several hours at August Marquardt's. I was very tired, but managed to work until after midnight at repacking, filing brasses, adjusting etc. My good pal and water boy, Ed Guse, encouraged and helped me and finally took me to our house door and then woke me up, explaining that I had fallen asleep right after getting into the buggy. I had done my work well and felt I was ready for the next day. Therefore, was relaxed and being dead tired, fell asleep at once. That was the end of 21 hectic hours. From then on I managed wonderfully.
I worked many hours per-gratis, cleaning and painting and repairing until the engine was spick and span, ticked like a clock and was admired by many. I realigned and rebabbited crank shaft bearings and made an automatic draw bar coupler, eliminating fuss at coupling up. I installed new cross head pump rod and glands, etc. I never understood why engineers didn't use their cross head pumps. This one would hold water level for hours at a time with little attention.
My wages were figured the same as regular help plus $1.00 per day and $4.00 per day for out of run jobs which was not enough. The water boy, Ed Guse, and separator man, Fred Brandt, were good pals. Both and 15 others of that first group have departed.
I loved that steamer. It steamed easily with good coal, therefore, I could use a large exhaust nozzle which quieted the familiar bark down to a soothing exhaust under all ordinary working conditions. By the end of the 1918 season (my 7th year) I questioned the safety of its boiler. I told fellow share holders in no uncertain terms that I would not steam her again until after a cold water test was made. Then, as now, people love the easy way out. Regretfully, I bowed out, which was not easy, for this group had made it possible for me to realize my great ambition. On its first job in 1919, the front wheel boiler bracket gave way, letting the front end down. Two repair men installed a large patch and she finished her last and final run. It was now decided a pressure test must be made, however, after stripping the jacket and bands it was found hopeless, and so, Old Faithful was put to rest without harming anybody, as I had hoped it wouldn't.