Tazewell County Olde Threshers Association: Three-Way Threshing!

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Bound and shocked, waiting for the big day.
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Loading bundles with horse power.
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Pitching into the 22'' Wood Bros.-Hummingbird separator.
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22 HP Keck-Gonnerman engine pulling 32'' Keck-Gonncrman separator.

Rt #2, Box 30 Tremont, Illinois 61568

Three separators: 22′ McCormick-Deering, 28′ Wood Bros.,
and 32′ Keck-Gonnerman.

I guess I’ve gotten a bad reputation around the Tazewell
County Olde Threshers Association, especially among the wives.
I’m the one who’s constantly spotting those rare ‘gotta
have’ machines their hubbys have been dreaming about. I’m
sure some actually dread to hear my voice on the phone, thinking,
‘Well, Thompson’s found another piece of junk!’ The
result: home repairs have to wait while money is scared up for the
one-of-a-kind find, and the wife doesn’t see her husband again
for a month!

Such was the case when I ‘found’ Mark Fehr a
McCormick-Deering 22′ Separator that would perfectly match his
F-20. Vernon ‘Butch’ Koch had purchased a Keck-Gonnerman
32′ Thresher some twenty years ago, and after two years of
pestering on my part finally got her pulled out and into shape.

With my 28′ Wood Bros. Thresher, that made three machines.
Someone then got the cockeyed notion of threshing with all three
machines at that summer’s show (I wonder who!). What an idea!
Had it ever been done in Illinois? Three threshers running at once!
We had to do it.

After weeks of scraping, patching and mending we were ready to
go for a trial run the day before the show. All three ran
beautifully with only minor adjustments! What a sight!

Friday night I nearly had a heart failure. We live four miles
from the show site on the Alvin Beutel farm.

Imagine my horror when a gigantic storm front crashed down upon
us, dumping 4′ of rain in hour! I called Al and told him I
feared the worst for our four acres of shocked oats, when he said,
‘Whattaya mean? We only had a light sprinkle here!’

Saturday dawned hot. Real hot! It was 100 degrees by 11:00 a.m.,
but the crowd was enthusiastic and the turnout was incredible for
such a scorching day. The gas engine people immediately staked out
the shady parts of the fruit orchard and shade trees, and soon were
shelling corn, running washing machines, pumping water and
generally making sweet exhaust music.

The tractor boys turned out in great force and were soon lined
up in dazzling rows of John Deere green, IHC & Massey red,
Minnie-Mo yellow, AC orange, Case grey, and so on and so on. Soon
they were turning over long slabs of black earth with 2 and 3
bottom plows.

The beautiful Belgian draft horses seemed oblivious to the heat
as they toyed with the bundle wagons on which the men were loading
a mountain of golden shocked oats. Soon the threshing began. Claude
Troyer’s 22 HP Keck-Gonnerman steamer laid into its work on its
counterpart thresher with a vengeance. Bill Mugler belted up his
22-36 onto the Wood Bros., followed by Bob Dietrich’s
Allis-U.C; then Butch Koch’s Minneapolis U settled into the
belt to stay. After a few false starts, even the 22′ McCormick
got into the act. But even the best-laid plans…

We couldn’t seem to get all three machines going at once.
Soon as one got wound up, a chain would break on the other. Finally
about 2:00 p.m., covered with sweat and chaff, we were pitching
bundles into all three machines, and how the straw did fly! Soon,
however, those ominous clouds returned, and we were treated to a
heavenly cool drizzle. The relief was short lived, though, when two
machines plugged! Ten more minutes and we would’ve been

We shut down the ol’ Keck and started pitching the remaining
bundles onto one wagon. It stopped raining. Someone suggested
‘Hey, let’s finish these up!’ And then a typhoon broke
loose driving gales of wind and rain everyplace! People scattered
and everyone made for tarps to cover exhibits as the heavens
opened. Seven or eight of us sought shelter under a small tent and
for awhile wondered whether we would be sucked into the sky to the
Land of Oz!

Then, suddenly as it came, the sky cleared and things settled
down in time for us to hold our annual Threshers’ Dinner after
the show. I don’t know when I’ve seen folks more ravenously
wolf down food such as roast beef, bowls of potatoes and beans,
loaves of bread and whole pies, all of which disappeared as if by
magic! The old camaraderie of the Threshing Ring was still alive
and well. The most amazing thing was, everyone was anxiously making
plans to do it all again next year!

Hope to see you the first Saturday of August!

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