That there is something about a steam engine is only too obvious to anyone who has attended any of the numerous annual threshing reunions that are held throughout the United States from coast to coast. This indescribable something about a steam engine not only attracts the rank and file of the old experienced threshermen who have toiled early and late inhaling vast volumes of engine smoke and straw dust, but also attracts many ardent hobbyists of various occupations and professions. While many of the threshermen reunion follow, more or less, a common pattern of activities, yet there are frequently a striking and interesting deviations from the regular pattern that make some individual reunions outstanding and pleasingly different.
To illustrate this point of exceptional differences, a somewhat cursory description of the threshermens' reunion held so recently at the Chris Busch ranch near Colton, Washington, will suffice. The Busch reunion which is formerly known as the Western Steam Fiends Association reunion, is scheduled to be a one-day affair, beginning with a rousing 'kick-off' the evening before at the local high school where some form of entertainment is provided, also films and a lecture on some phase of steam engines. But the real preliminaries, not officially listed as such, begun early the preceding morning at about six o'clock when Jake Wiever and Milo Gipson arrived to tune up the respective engines they had selected to operate the following day. Each of these men have reached the ripe old age of eighty years and still retain a surprising amount of their early agility. While Jake fired up the under mounted Avery and Milo had set a brisk fire in the big J. I. Case, Chris was busy installing a newly fabricated four-tone whistle on his favorite Minneapolis engine. The separator man was soon on the job and going over every minute detail on the separator very meticulously, inside and outside, to insure its successful operation in the belt. Soon photographers, amateur and professional, arrived. Three or four newspaper reporters appeared and also a professional writer. Although it was a day before the regular show was scheduled to begin, yet numerous curious individuals arrived to stroll around and gaze with wide-eyed wonderment at the various engines, and to ask many questions.
The official starting event was the evening meeting which was called to order by Chris Busch, the president and chairman of the Western Steam Fiends Association. The first event on the program was a humorous skit involving ventriloquism put on by Edgar Bergen, the radio star of Charlie McCarthy fame. Mr. Bergen is the proud owner of a J. I. Case steam traction engine and his name appears on the membership roster of the Western Steam Fiends Association which confirms him as an ardent steam fan. Following was a film furnished by the Norfolk and Western Railway, illustrating the building of a modern steam locomotive; also illustrating up-to-date servicing equipment and the ultra-servicing methods that has so greatly enhanced the economy of the old steam locomotive to such a degree that it now dangerously approaches the economy in operation obtained by the newer diesel locomotives. The meeting closed by a very interesting talk by Mr. C. R. Miller on the formation and treatment of boiler scale.
Early the following morning the engineers had hardly got their fires started before a lively and anxious crowd began to pour in to inspect the various models being exhibited, and watch ponderous steam traction engines being put through their paces. The mounted cook house swung into active operation early to accommodate the long line of hungry visitors who were waiting to be served much after the same fashion that the hungry threshermen in the past were served in the field.
Shortly after noon the separator was hauled out in the field by Milo's J. I. Case engine, while the undermounted Avery followed with Mr. Bergen at the throttle. Mr. Bergen and his assistant were very active throughout the entire day taking numerous moving pictures of the threshing spectacle and other attractions which he expects to use later in TV programs.
The whistle sounded out in the field to indicate that the threshing was about to start, and the excited crowd sallied forth to get a real eye full of an actual 'old fashioned steam threshing scene!'