Some Stories Grandfather Told

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Courtesy of Donald Mitich, Rt. 1, Box 16, New Castle, Wyoming 82071. A 50 Case belted to a Red River Special in heavy, tough wheat, really putting it out, 131 lbs. steam. Taken in the Black Hill, Four Corners, Wyoming.
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By Donald W. Mitich, Rt. 1, Box 16, New Castle, Wyoming 82701. Blower end of Case cleaning up.
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Courtesy of Donald Mitich, Rt. 1, Box 16, New Castle, Wyoming 82071. Pulling the big Red River Special out of the shed. Notice the rope on the flywheel. Taken in 1915.

Rt. 1, Box 16, New Castle, Wyoming 82701

I first heard of your wonderful magazine in the fall of 1964 and
subscribed immediately. I was very lucky from then on because I got
all the rest of the issues from No. 1 on from Mr. Howard Moyer of
Cheyenne, Wyoming, so now I have the complete set.

Although I can’t qualify as being a thresherman, an old
timer, at least, I have been threshing since 1946 when I got my
first machine, a 28 x 46 Case, and in 1965 I got a real 28 x 46 Red
River Special. I have always been crazy about threshers and
engines. Last year I threshed 100 acres of wheat and 80 acres of
oats.

My good friend, Merle Sissions of Sundance, Wyoming, has a real
good 50 Case engine that he completely restored and we threshed
with it two years. It is a beautiful engine and Merle is an
excellent engineer. Merle also has a model of a 65 Case he built, a
real wonderful model. Although I am not an old thresherman, I would
like to tell you about my Grandfather.

My Grandfather, Charlie Miller, was an old thresherman. He got a
brand new N&S Red River Special in 1914. He threshed in the
Four Corners area in the Black Hills for years until 1943 when he
died.

Another old timer is Mr. Ep Johnson of Newcastle, Wyoming. He
started with a horse power rig and got his first steam rig in 1911,
a 50 Case. In 1922 he traded for another 50, the rig for a new
thresher in 1929, a model L tractor.

Another old timer is Mr. Tom Plummer who is about 94 years old
now. He came to this country from Iowa in the early 1920’s. Tom
claims he bought the first steel thresher sold in Iowa, a 1905
Case. From visiting with these two gentlemen and remembering the
stories my Grandfather told, there was a lot to humor and some
tragedy connected with threshing. I would like to tell you about
them.

Mr. Plummer tells of a pitcher who was cleaning up under the
feeder when his fork tines got caught in the drive belt, driving
the fork handle through his chest killing him almost instantly.
They sawed the fork off and buried him that way because they could
not pull the handle out.

There was another time a pitcher got mad at his fellow pitcher
and threw his bed roll into the feeder. Mr. Plummer said, ‘When
it hit the cylinder on the old wooden Rumely, the cylinder flew
completely out of the machine and rolled a couple of hundred yards
past the engines.’ Luckily, no one was hurt.

Another instance was when we were threshing with my
Grandfather’s machine. The grain hauler was setting in the back
of the truck smoking. Grandfather had the side door on the machine
open. When the grain hauler finished his smoke, he flipped the
still burning butt into the open door. Out the blower it went and
started the top of the stack on fire. We sure had to work fast for
a while.

There was a neighbor who always threshed with us, a little
Polish fellow with a bad temper and a loud voice. When he was
loading his wagon and moving from shock to shock, he would holler
in a loud voice, ‘Whoa’, and every team in the field would
stop. One day his team ran off. Another bundle hauler caught them
right away, but John (the little Polish fellow) was sure mad. He
jumped in the near empty wagon, grabbed the lines and started
running the team around and around the field cussing a blue streak
and jabbing the horses with his fork. While he was circling around
the field, the wagon hit a dead furrow breaking the reach. There
was the team going full blast with just the front wheels and the
rest of the wagon setting right where the reach broke. He came to
work one morning with a hangover. While he was unloading someone
unhooked the tugs. When he finished unloading, he snapped the lines
and hollered, ‘Giddyup’, and the team took off with the
neck yoke. John was sure mad. He said he was going to whip every
guy on the crew.

John wasn’t the only one to come to work with a hangover.
There was this other pitcher who came to work with a hangover, too.
His wagon was loaded and he was next in line so he was really
hurrying, but before he got there, some other fellow wired all four
wheels of his wagon to the sills of the rack. The bundle hauler
hitched up his team, climbed on and hollered at his team. Now this
was a real good team but they could barely move the load so he
climbed down and looked for some wire cutters. He had to run to the
machine finally and get a pair from Grandfather who was telling him
to hurry up. So he ran back and after considerable effort and much
sweat, he cut the hind wheels loose, threw the wire cutters to the
engineer and climbed back on his load only to discover he still
couldn’t go, so he had to do it all over again. He certainly
was mad but he never came to work late again, needless to say.
Grandfather sure frowned on such goings on as it slowed down the
whole operation.

There was a man working a team of mares and one mare had a colt
about 3 months old. We named it Sugar. Now Sugar got to be a real
pet and also a real nuisance. Grandfather kept telling the fellow
to lock Sugar up during the day but to no avail. Well, one day when
this fellow was unloading, Sugar was fighting flys and she backed
into the blower pulley. The belt grabbed her tail nearly pulling it
completely off, throwing the belt and plugging the blower.
Grandfather was unhappy. The crew felt bad about Sugar, so after
doctoring her with fly repellent she stayed in the barn.

One time we pulled into a man’s yard and were going to
thresh oats. The machine was parked about 20 feet from the grainery
but we had to put the grain into the trucks and haul it around to
the grainery. These were real good oats. They made 83 bushel per
acre when we got finished. Anyway, it was about 4 p.m. when we
started and that night after supper, the grain hauler and the
bundle hauler got into an argument over who was working the
hardest. The pitcher finally said, ‘I’ll bet you $50 I can
carry them oats for an hour in sacks. All I want is three sacks and
someone to put three dumps in each sack and I’ll keep up with
the machine.’ Now you threshers know in good oats a machine
will dump 16 to 18 times a minute, so when we started next morning
and the pitcher started carrying his sacks, he was on a hard
gallop. After about ten minutes he was sweating so hard he looked
like he fell into the creek. Grandfather shut the outfit down and
told them to call off the bet as he thought the pitcher would kill
himself. But each man thought he had $50 won and so they didn’t
want to quit, but Grandfather wouldn’t start until they called
the bet off. I doubt if he could have stayed with it.

I suppose some of you people are wondering how come we still
thresh here. Well, we’re high in the hills about 6000 feet and
it’s a real winter country and threshed straw, especially oats,
is a real good feed. But more people every year are baling behind
the combine so I suppose threshing is about through here, too. I
still like to thresh a couple of days a year. We never got to use
Merle’s engine last year because he was sick, but in 1965 we
used it for three days over Labor Day weekend. They had a piece in
the paper about it. On Sunday we had about 500 people out to see
the old Case run.

Notice to parents: ‘Peace on Earth! No PTA this
week’.

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