Thirty Years At The Throttle

| May/June 1966

The first steam engine I can remember was when, as a boy four or five years old, my father took me to the nearby neighbors and showed me the steamer used to drive a stone burr mill grinding meal for neighboring farmers. Though but a child, the image of that engine is stamped indelibly on my memory. It was a portable, of perhaps 10 H.P., with wooden wheels, same size front and rear. One thing in particular I remember was a couple of braces; not unlike miniature ladders, one end was bolted to the top of the front wheel and the bottom of the rear wheel fastened in the same way. This kept the engine steady while running.

As I remember, the mill itself was quite elaborate. The meal was conveyed up to a loft, passed through a bolter so being rather refined. The mill was only operated on Saturdays, but I loved to hear that I telling the farmers to bring the grain. The steam I was a novelty in  those days.

Father told me one day the engine had been sold to two men from Garden Grove, Iowa, so we went to see them leave with it. It was pulled by four horses. The smokestack folded down and the teams were driven from a small seat mounted on the smoke box.

This ended my direct contact with engines at the time but little did I realize that the care and operation of engines was to be such an important part of my life. Even that early I recall crying because father wouldn't stop and let me pick up a couple of joints of old stove pipe thrown in a roadside ditch, for even then I had in mind building a steam engine.

About the next experience I remember was the day mother, sister and I were in the house when we heard a sound we compared to that made by the wind blowing over a jug. Going to the window, we saw an engine puffing by and at the noise we saw one of our horses in the lot by the barn leap the board lance and dash to the back side of the field, knocking clown a couple of rods of fence in passing. When Dad came home. I asked him if he saw the engine and he said that he had talked to the men driving it. That was a puzzler for me, as I thought it would be like a railroad train; only stop at towns.

Time went along for two or three years when a farmer, Lem McKinney, bought a new 10 H.P. Aultman Taylor engine and separator, unloading it at Osceola, ten miles south of our place. We lived on the main road and he would pass our place going home. Word reached us it was coming, so all forenoon we watched for it and about mid-afternoon, it came steaming along.