From Farmer to Area Thresherman

When weather made it difficult to shock and stack oats, Gilmar Johnson turned to a threshing rig – his own

| November/December 1986

It was the fall of 1946 and I was shocking my oats. I enjoy shocking grain, but not this oat crop. Our area had been hit by heavy rain and wind, lodging much of the grain. Consequently, there were many tangled bundles, mean to shock, let alone stack. Here comes my brother Evert, who farmed our home place, and a couple neighbors, Bob Hinrichs and Curtis Wedin. They had pondered this grain problem and had come up with the idea: Maybe I could buy a thresh machine with the idea of getting threshed as soon as possible. Normally farmers would stack their grain, then there was no hurry to thresh.

I had a 10-20 McCormick-Deering tractor on rubber and I was at least familiar with thresh machines. I worked with the Joe Kessel rig at Stacy, Minnesota, the fall of 1933. That rig was a 15-30 McDeering tractor and a 28-inch McCormick-Deering thresher. During the falls of 1938, ’39 and ’40 I worked on my uncle’s (Arvid Friberg’s) rig, a 22-36 McCormick-Deering tractor and a 28-46 Case thresher. The next five falls, 1941-45, I was with the Lindblad Brothers rig, a 60 HP Case steam engine no. 22714, and a 32x54 Case thresher. To me this was the ultimate rig for threshing.

Now back to buying a threshing machine. I got talked into it – nothing ventured, nothing gained. I saw an ad, a 28-inch Case for sale, and I made haste to check it out. I didn’t expect to pay $600, but threshers were hard to come by, and I already had customers. I had just made the deal for the Case when another prospective buyer from Minnesota was there. He offered me $700 cash, so I felt pretty lucky to get it.

Using my 10-20 tractor and this machine I threshed for 19 farmers, plus doing my own grain. My last job with this machine was 210 bushels of oats for Christ Peterson near Frederic, on October 21, 1946. The Case dealer in town then let me shed the machine in his building.

I was happy with my run, but I did thresh for a close neighbor, Arthur Knauber. His job of about 40 acres, was far bigger than I had threshed. He usually hired extra help for threshing, to get his job done in one day. He evidently did not feel I could thresh his in that time. I am sure he was right. A short time later, Art and I got talking and he said to me, “Why don’t you get a steam rig and thresh like we used to in Dakota?” (The Knaubers moved into our area from Webster, South Dakota, in 1920.) Now that was a challenge I could hardly pass up. After all, I’ve had steam in my blood since I was 5 years old, give or take a few years. (Farm Album Vol. 3 No. 1)

There were still steam engines setting around. Scouting around one day Hardy Lindblad and I found a 50 HP Case engine no. 33174. It had a cab, jacket, extension rims, contractors bunkers (which were not in bad shape). The owner, Tom Monson, said it needed flues. The price of the engine, as is: $100.


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