The Ladies Page

1 / 3
The engine is a 1917 Case 50 HP and the separator is a Huber 30 X 50. Both these machines are owned by Fay Palmateer of Hamlin, New York. They were threshing oats October 31, 1971. Mr. W. Vosburg from Centerville, New York is on the engine and Fay is stan
2 / 3
75 HP Case engine threshing wheat in Mason County, Illinois in 1924. Ted Kruse by wheel and Joe Adkins, water hauler in rear. Courtesy of F. H. Warnock, 422 Euclid Ave., Peoria Heights, Illinois 61614.
3 / 3
The wood water tank and pump belong to Fay Palmateer. He is standing at the left and Mr. Vosburg is standing at the right. Courtesy of R. C. Schepler & Son, Hamlin, New York 14464.


It has been drizzling rain from a deep gray atmosphere for two
and a half days as I begin to write. And as we are so securely
shielded from it all in a well built house, my thoughts are drawn
back to sod shanties on the American plains.

This era in our country’s history became very real to us as
we visited with Mr. and Mrs. Herb Shafer of rural Minot, North
Dakota recently.

And having remembered nothing but substantial frame houses here
in Wisconsin for all of my lifetime, I was intrigued to learn that
a sod house has been in existence there until recent years. In
fact, one of Mr. Shafer’s buildings is covered by a wooden roof
he removed from a soddy which was still standing when he purchased
some additional farm land a few years ago.

Then, in October, when the Friends Magazine arrived, my husband
showed me an item telling of two two-story sod houses still
standing in Broken Bow, Nebraska, and one in Kirk, Colorado. I am
hoping these will be put on our list of ‘we must see
things’ in the near future.

How I wish there had been time that day to talk to a Mrs. Dye
who knew the feel of living in a sod house such as this. She told
Mrs. Shafer that when the dirt sifted down they knew snakes were
moving about in the sods. (OH! HOW I LOVE MY HOUSE!)

This story brought a vivid remembrance of milking our cows at
one time. We had just put some grubby hay in our barn. As the hay
began to heat, the grubs came squirming through every crack. We had
our collars closed tight around our necks, and wide-brimmed hats on
our heads while we milked our cows. It was real messy to see them
bouncing off our hat brims. It was one of those things you never

Butgetting back to sod houses the Shafers told us of the
homesteading there. The territory around Minot was opened up about
1889. They believed that this sod house was built around 1902.

By 1905 most of the land was taken by homesteaders. Mr. Shafer
has a quarter section of native prairie grass left. The roots of
this are very compact. Years ago as the plows broke the sod,
strips, three feet in length were used for the construction. These
were laid horizontally in courses, like bricks. Then a spade was
used to smooth the walls, after which they were often plastered
with clay and ashes. Sometimes the roofs were of frame
construction, and then thatched with sods. While sod houses were
wind and fire proof they seldom kept all the rain out, and after
heavy rains you might have to redo your roof. Windows were a
problem too.

This type of prairie sod was also used for fences at one time.
Eventually these became most unsightly. It is the general feeling
‘homely as a mud fence’ was describing these.

Memories were filling my husband’s mind as we travelled this
area. The years when he was seventeen and eighteen he threshed on
Jess Shafer’s crew as they followed the rig from Minot up into
Canada. Jess was Herb’s father.

In Minot we found several men busy in preparation for their
thresheree which was to be held in a little over a week. I was not
aware that such huge gas tractors existed as those seen in that
shed. Jess Shafer’s tractor, a 40-80 Avery was securely housed.
Nearby was a 1913 Ford Touring car. There was a Big 4 30-60, and a
1910 Pioneer 30-60 originally owned by Paul Dobrinski of Makoti,
and now owned by John Knudsen, also of Makoti. There were steam
engines as well. When they have their parade they have over 100

The gentlemen who showed us around were most courteous and
helpful. Thank you, Sirs. Teasingly I tried to run down the
whereabouts of an old girl friend my husband knew out there, the
cook’s helper on the chuck wagon, but I failed. Nobody knew
anything. I wonder!

There were other highlights on this steam trip. Two beautiful
churches so entranced us in Minnesota that we missed our turn-off,
near one of them. As we came into Green Isle we saw the first one.
The setting was perfectthe church awe-inspiring. In Norwood was
another, almost as breath-taking. These were structures of some
years duration, with the type of architecture our generation is
thrilled by. Evidently these were built by rugged pioneers and
their sons and daughters. How we rejoiced to see them among the
changing scene. An elderly friend of ours maintains that some of
the modern churches look as though a cyclone hit them as they were
being built. True? Louie?

Should you want to get into some historical winter reading there
is a biography of Hannibal called ALPS AND ELEPHANTS by Gavin De
Beer (1956) and another by Harold Lamb (1958). Pliny, the Elder,
who lived A. D. 23-79 left writings telling of a rammed earth fort
built by Hannibal which had survived 250 years at that time. And R.
L. Patty and L. M. Minium wrote RAMMED EARTH WALLS FOR FARM
BUILDINGS in 1938. Also a later book-1947-BUILDING IN COB, PISE,
AND STABILIZED EARTH was written by Clough Williams-Ellis, and John
and Elizabeth Eastwick Field.

So, should some of you adventurous people want to build a cheap
cover for your equipment you might try the good earth. And if any
of you have memories of building or living in a sod house let us
hear from you. Did the walls ever green up in a wet season?

But how great to know from earthen houses, however they were
built, to modern places of worship, and even in our comfortable
homes, we can praise and adore the same Everlasting Father. He
hears our prayers in joy or sorrow, comfort or discomfort, in
cathedral or shanty. His Son was born in a stable yet He reigns in
heaven awaiting those who will accept Him as Lord and Saviour.
Surely the dwelling He prepares for us there will be the best of

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment