90-year-old Joe Vrbsky of Crete, NB., stands in front of a 16 HP Reeves double-simple steamer.
(The Lanky Yankee), K5PXV-KCR 1134, 708 Lorrie Drive, Richardson, Texas 75080
In July 1976, the bulletin board at Pitts Industries, Inc., Carrollton, Texas (where I work as an in-process inspector of Electro lock magnetic clutches) said the plant would be shut down for vacation the first two weeks in August. That evening, I happened to be thumbing thru I.M.A. and saw an ad for Trauger's 'Old Timer Day' on August 8. Having previously enjoyed the Urbana, Ohio and the Waukomis, Oklahoma shows in the early 70's, coupled with the fact that my folks live in Crete, N. B., all fitted into our vacation plans. With my dad being laid up in Crete Municipal Hospital, I did the next best thing and wrote a letter to my 90-year-old uncle-in-law, Joe Vrbsky, who also lives in Crete; inviting him to go with me to Trauger's on August 8.
Come August 8,9:00 A.M., I drove our faithful 1964 Chev to Uncle Joe's place in Crete. Uncle Joe was sitting on the front porch, cane in hand, raring to go. We drove slowly to Exeter. There wasn't much traffic on Highway 6, and Uncle Joe and I enjoyed seeing how the crops are coming.
Our part of Texas raises cotton, wheat and maize but practically no corn. Nebraska corn, especially the irrigated fields, is a striking example of God's handiwork when man helps things along a little.!
We got to Trauger's grove about 9:00 A.M., put our donations in and spent the hour moseying around the four steamers; Case, Advance Rumely, Port Huron and Reeves. The genuine friendliness of the engineers and visitors showed that Nebraskans are friendly folks just like Texans.
The ecumenical religious service was beautifully done. I belong to the 1st Christian Church in Richardson, Texas and Uncle Joe belongs to the 1st Methodist Church in Crete, NB. Rev. Herrick, Methodist from Grand Island, NB., gave an inspiring sermon, and Msgr. Ingenhorst from Exeter, NB., gave a particularly fitting benediction. A humorous note when one of the steamer's pop valves cut loose, Rev. Herrick, being fast on his feet mentally, said he planned it that way to wake everybody up before the collection plate was passed!
After church, Uncle Joe and I looked over the gas tractors (including 30-60 Aultman Taylor, 40-80 Avery, Rumely Six and Hart Parr) gas engines and antique cars. But we drifted back to Uncle Joe's first love, steamers. 'Hey, Charles, doesn't that steamer over there have two whistles?' he asked. 'No,' I replied, 'it has a whistle and a pop valve.' 'Oh' he replied disconsolately. I said, 'Wait here, I'll be back in a couple of minutes.' So I checked the four steamers and found the Case had two whistles. When I said that my 90-year-old uncle used to have a Nichols & Shepard with two whistles, the Case engineer said 'bring him aboard.' So Uncle Joe handed me his cane and hopped up on the Case platform and played a little Czech couplet that was his 'trademark' when he threshed all over Saline County, N.B., for 44 years.
Dinner was great. Coffee and hot dogs plus music from a local Polka band. When the band played my favorite polka at my request, I felt like an honored guest in a classy night club.
After dinner we cruised around for a while, then went to 'headquarters' where we saw a most interesting program put on by the noted University of Nebraska historian, Professor Manley. We also saw Shirley and Bob Trauger made admirals in the Nebraska Navy. Having been made a Nebraska Navy admiral back in the 1950's (for Boy Scout work in Crete, Nebraska), I felt something in common with this fine couple.
The 'Evolution of Threshing' was well done. (1) Flail. (2) Groundhog hand operated rig. (3) Nichols and Shepard 6 HP steamer belted to an Ellis-Keystone (chaff-piler) separator. (4) A 6 HP Frick portable steamer belted to a Belle City handfed slat-stacker separator. (5) Port Huron steamer and Port Huron 33' separator. (6) 40-80 Avery gas tractor belted to a 28' Case separator. (7) The Hart Parr tractor and 26' Wood Bros, separator made a fitting end to the era before combines took over.
I went up to Lt. Gov. Wheelen, after he finished pitching a load of bundles into the Avery driven Case and said in my best Texan accent 'I'm representing the great state of Texas at this show. Y'all must have pitched bundles before, they all went into the feeder heads first.'
We had a little chat, then headed for Crete where 80-year-old Auntie Clara (Uncle Joe's wife) had a bodacious dinner of all kinds of Czech goodies for her 'thresher-men,' a fitting end to a very pleasant day.