Thirty Years At The Throttle


| July/August 1966



Maxwell, Iowa 50161

Work finished at Koester's, Sam and I settled down on our claims and after a not too bad winter, I went to work for Chas. Creighton near Colome, running a new Case, two cylinder tractor, one of their first, number three hundred as I recall. He had contracted to plow a lot of old ground east of town and we could pull four plows in it easily. We lived in a tent and did our own cooking, as simple as possible, but we were so hungry after a half-day run, we were not too particular what we ate. only wanted plenty. The work was not bad as we took turns driving and tending plows. The worst part was cranking the big two cylinder, direct opposed motor, as it had a low tension magneto and batteries to start on. When brought up on compression, if allowed to rock back, the mag points would open causing a kick back and if one didn't dodge the long, heavy crank, he got a knot on his head. We found by both of us on the crank and by holding onto the driver, we could pull it over center and get going. It was quite a spring's work with many exciting experiences.

The new settlement around Colome was ready for their first threshing run that fall and as Harry Monroe and Charlie owned a Gaar-Scott rig in Chas Mix County, east of the Missouri River, we had it shipped to Dallas but the freight was so much more than we expected, we had to turn our pockets inside out to raise the money, leaving us nothing to buy food and lodging. We had brought some food with us so we made out all right that day, unloaded and were all set to move the next day so we slept in an empty shed that night and early morning started home.

From here on unfolds a tale of hunger, hard work and hardships as bad as I can remember. After several hours of slow progress, getting in and our of sand holes, the freight agent drove out from town with a hired livery team to tell us he had made a mistake on the bill so we owed him $20 more. Tired and hungry as we were, it didn't take long to tell him he could tie up out on the prairie and whistle for his pay or let us go on to the settlement where we could earn the money. He let us go on.

When about half-way home, we made a lucky decision that avoided worry later on. At one corner we could go a mile west, then south, or a mile south, then west; so we decided to go south on account of sand holes. Half way on the west road, a new barn was just finished that day and a lot of farm implements stored. During the night the barn burned, cause not known, but if we had passed they would naturally have thought we threw a spark causing it. That evening, tired and hungry, we came to a school house, locked, but I picked the lock with a wire and after trying without much success to roast some field corn roasting ears in the firebox (they had a decidely coal smoke flavor) we retired on the 'hard pine' floor. Mid afternoon found us near my sister's farm, so leaving Harry to keep coming, I burst in on Sis, telling her I was starving, so as she had just removed a baking of bread from the oven, she cut off a thick slice and put a generous quantity of butter and choke cherry jelly on it and prepared another for Harry. I took it to him and both of us agreed nothing ever tasted better. We found two large stacks of oats ready and from then on we kept Gaar-Scott number 10796 busy in the belt or on the road all fall and had many experiences, some amusing, some not so funny. At one farmer's place we arrived just after noon. He had gone that morning for groceries and had stopped at the saloon for a glass of beer, but met so many friends he didn't get back until after dark, but his neighbors did the threshing for him any way.

I spent the night at my sister's, which was near, and next morning I fired up. No signs of life in the house so I blew the whistle but still no stir, so I just blew 'off brakes' and pulled to the next job for breakfast, arriving just in time. To make it more enjoyable they had a very pretty blond daughter who proved to me the truth of the old saying 'Pride goeth before a fall', and this is how it happened. A two-wheeled tender had wheels controlled by rods attached to the front axle on the engine so one could back up or go any way. Taking off the governor belt I made a flying switch all but backing up to the separator when one of the guide rods broke. It spoiled the show and reminded me of what the old Swede I ran an engine for would say when the crew started scuffling, 'I tont like tat darned boy play.' This tender could have caused a fatal accident. Harry's wife and sister would drive the little mule team, hitched to a top buggy, out to see us every day so in case we needed supplies they could get them for us and this day they had driven up behind the tender and called us to come help eat. a water mellon. I put in an extra shovel of coal and upon finishing the mellon, the girls started to drive away while I had started around the tender when the wind, which had risen, blew the drive belt off on the inside of the flywheel, setting the clutch, tearing the belt in two and the engine came backing up several feet before I reached the throttle. If the team had still been headed up to the tender, they would doubtless have cramped the buggy around, overturning it, and the girls would have quite likely been run over. However, the torn belt was a problem as we were still financially embarrassed and had no lace leather. I had heard that striped bed ticking made satisfactory lacing so we tried it and it ran all fall. Another time a small hole came in the body of the steam blower valve on the live steam side wasting a lot of steam but I made out until night. Then I placed a small can around the base of the valve and filled it with lead.