Courtesy of Helen Ward Rennie, Montezuma, Kansas 67867. Gerald Wright doing the pyramid stunt.
Montezuma, Kansas 67867
For several years, the steam engine and threshing machine enthusiasts of Mid-America gather at the Roy Kite farm for an annual reunion. In the northwest corner of the state, the show is located 1 miles north and 3 miles east of Bird City, Kansas, just off U.S. Highway 36. The 1968 show was held October 3-4-5;
The first show, planned by Roy Kite, his wife and mother in 1951, has grown to a well known gathering; one of the better known steam shows. Mr. Kite was Case dealer in Bird City for over thirty years. Both he and his mother are now gone, but his wife, Leone, still owns several engines and takes an active part in the festivities each fall. The show is now sponsored by a very enthusiastic organization. At the ending of each show, each fall, the group starts again on extensive plans for the next year reunion.
For the three days of the get-together, wheat is threshed several times daily , using first one and then another of the entries. Various tractors furnish power, both gas and steam for the twelve bottom plow. Slow races, as well as speed are entered by nearly all the steam engines. There is Prony Brake and Baker Fan testing. All entries, both steam and gas, line up and parade around the grounds while a running fire of description as to ownership, characteristics, era and origin, comes over the microphone.
Home cooked food is dispensed by the different lady's groups of Bird City, and long lines of hungry, thirsty guests are served daily. One day is dedicated to the Flying Farmers and a special program is planned.
New models are on display by dealers and any type of old farm machinery or gas models find favor with the many people who come year after year. I am deeply indebted to Mrs. Ernest Bressler, who was our hostess for the data on the engines. Ernest has long shown his ancient gas models, but just this year purchased a 2 cylinder Nichols and Shepherd that had been shown before when it was a Brubaker entry. He wasn't able to get it completely restored before the show this year, but expects to do much more work on if for the 1969 display.
One of the engines on display, Fred Brubaker's 'Russell', was manufactured in Massillon, Ohio and purchased by a group of farmers in College Springs, Iowa for threshing grain only. Brubaker purchased the engine, No. 16917 in Savannah, Missouri in 1953. The Russell People went out of business in 1927, but parts were available from other companies until 1942. This engine weighs, without water tanks or side tanks, 17,350 pounds. It has an 8 by 10 cylinder. With two inches of water in the glass, the boiler carries 225 gallons, side and rear tanks, 330. This engine will travel seven miles on the water in the tanks.
The single cylinder Nichols and Shepherd on display was owned by Chet Sawyer. It was rated 25-85 HP, and is one of the latest models built. Shipped from the factory in Battle Creek, Michigan, it was first purchased at Farnham, Nebraska. Then it was sent back to Missouri, and later returned to Nebraska. It has survived a tornado and came out with only one small dent. Chet Sawyer bought the engine in 1966. Assisted by Al Deerk, Maynard and Gerald Wright, it was restored for the Bird City show in the fall of 1967.
Melvin Wright's 50 Hp Case was built, in 1916, bought as a company machine and used for threshing only. Chet Sawyer bought it from a junk dealer in 1954. He and his son, Kent, painted it especially for the Kite show at Bird City. It was the first steam engine painted, to show. Melvin Wright bought it in 1963, reflued it, repainted and stenciled it.
Ed Nelson displayed a Case that had been built in 1911. It rated 15 Hp on the drawbar and 45 Hp on the belt. It was the first engine that Case built that had a long smoke box. Mr. Nelson bought it in 1952. Rebuilding it was tedious, as the engine had been badly treated on a sawmill and threshing oats. Mr. Nelson, experienced in steam, began running a steam engine when he was but fifteen years of age. In 1910, he and his brother, Lawson, threshed with a Minneapolis for four and one half cents a bu.
The Advance, tandem Compound, owned by Maynard Wright, was built in 1913. It was 21 horsepower, and originally cost $2,100, as it was customary to charge one hundred dollars per horse power. It came from McCook Nebraska, and was brought to Bird City by Ed Nelson. Maynard Wright bought the engine in 1966 and he and his sons Gerald and Donald, did additional restoring. Maynard Wright did free hand drawing of the pictures and stencils used in the new paint job.
There were many others: fourteen conventional steamers and 3 smaller steamers, thirty or forty gas engines, threshing machines and farm tools, including a Sandwich Horse Power, used before steam power. One of the smaller steam engines was built by Mr. Lucky of Stockton, Kansas. It is a very handsome 2 cylinder engine. Although it is not a copy, some features of familiar makes are noted here and there. It was not complete when first displayed in 1967, but this year was finished - a very fine piece of work.
Mr. Ed Jacobs of Smith Center, Kansas displayed another of his many scale models; this year a Buffalo-Pitts. He has made several different models, all built to scale. He brought a full fledged threshing machine, complete with weigher, a Case that performed perfectly. Men like Mr. Jacobs are in big demand at shows of many kinds. Wherever he appears, he and his displays are always popular.
So for three days each fall, people from all walks of life, wallow in chaff, coal dust, nostalgia and smoke. Every one loves it all. A large tent is erected for the comfort and convenience of the guests. Between events, people who share common interests have an opportunity to visit and exchange experiences. Not all of the crowd is of the genera-when big steam engines were used. More often than not, the big monsters are piloted by young people; both boys and girls. Many youngsters have become intrigued with the romance of steam.
One of the most enjoyed features of the show is the pyramid stunt. This is best performed by Gerald Wright. He is able to place his big old Case one cylinder, atop a wooden pyramid, then lower it a few inches on either side of the wooden stack and atop it; denying the dead center tendencies of his engine. Gerald is a member of one of the most enthusiastic families who take part and plan the displays each year. A community project, the show is brought about by fine dedicated people.