1408 S. Lea, Roswell, New Mexico, 88201
My name is Donald A. Coppock. I was born on October 29, 1916, near the village of Pleasant Hill, Miami County, Ohio, next to the youngest of five children. My parents were also born near this village.
In the year 1910, my Father, Harley Coppock, began working for Lawn Jackson, who lived three miles west of Pleasant Hill on the Hog Path Road. At this time, Mr. Jackson operated two threshing outfits. In 1904 on my Father's twenty-first birthday, Mr. Jackson sold one of the outfits to my Father. Mr. Jackson accepted a note with only my Father's signature.
The engine was 17 H.P., single cylinder, Gaar Scott, Keck Gonnerman separator, factory rebuilt in 1902, Appleton corn husker.
The other outfit Mr. Jackson sold to Joe Hacker. About 1905 Mr. Jackson sold his farm and moved his family to Canada.
No story is complete without a romance. Both my Mother and my Father were employed by Mr. Jackson. They were married in 1905.
In 1907 my Father bought a new double cylinder Gaar Scott and a sawmill. At this time many barns or sheds were being built to cure tobacco in. My Father was able to keep the Gaar Scott busy the year round. Jim Robbin, Roy Zimmerman, and my uncle, Delmar Coppock, were the men he employed. Years later whenever the old crew got together, they could tell some big stories.
In 1913, late in the season, my Father sold the outfit to a Mr. Bluholtz. When I was eleven or twelve years old we stopped at a sawmill near Bradford, Ohio. Gaar Scott engine was in the belt; my Father told me he bought this engine new.
In 1914, my Father and John Furlong bought a new outfit; 32 H.P., Mogul, kerosene tractor, Racine separator, and a Rosenthal corn husker. After two seasons my Father sold his interest to Mr. Furlong, who continued to thresh until after World War II.
The next several years my Father followed the occupation of farming, but he never lost his interest in threshing. Like so many others found out, once a thresher, always a thresher.
In 1923 we lived on a large farm, southeast of Pleasant Hill. Fred Wrong was threshing in the neighborhood and Mr. Wrong remarked to my Father that he would like to sell his outfit. A deal was made.
The outfit he bought from Mr. Wrong was a Port Huron Engine, 19 H.P. bought in 1918, Aultman-Taylor separator, 32 inch, new in 1920, McCormick corn husker, Birdsell clover huller, steaming pan to sterilize tobacco seed bed with; water wagon and a bunk house.
My Father was a good mechanic keeping the machinery in good repair and he was able to run this outfit for several seasons.
In 1927, my Father bought a new 20-40 Huber Tractor to thresh with. Huber was a good tractor, easy to handle, easy to belt, and needed very little maintenance. He also purchased a new Huber corn husker.
Again in 1927, when I was ten years old, and Huber was new, it was my first season to follow a threshing outfit; my last season was 1940.
Usually we started the threshing run after the Fourth of July and the run would last ten to twelve weeks, about sixty percent field threshing and forty percent barn threshing. Many a morning we left home before daylight, so we could move the outfit and be ready to thresh when harvest arrived.
At this time I was too young to drive. My Father had a special hitch made so we could pull the Model T truck behind the separator and I would curl up on the front seat and go to sleep.
The Aultman-Taylor was a good separator, but after ten big seasons, it began to show her age. In 1928, my Father traded the Aultman-Taylor for a new 30 inch Baker separator. I was very happy with the new Baker, it was always my job in the morning with the Aultman-Taylor separator to oil the crankshaft bearing on the rotary straw rack. The Baker had a different type of straw rack.
The Baker was a good separator, all metal construction, roller bearing, and very little work needed to keep it in operation. The Aultman-Taylor was better all around and easier to pull in the belt.
After a season run with the Baker, the cylinder spikes began to wear, the Baker separator began to back lash or bring straw around the cylinder again, making a very hard pulling separator. Before the next season, my Father respiked the cylinder and he used 3/8 inch longer spikes and this solved the problem of the back lash.
Threshing, corn husking, clover hulling, and sterilizing tobacco beds were a year round job. By 1930, my older brothers had graduated from high school and found employment in other occupations, and we moved north of Pleasant Hill on a small farm which belonged to my parents.
We continued to have large field threshing runs through the early thirties; each year the barn threshing would get less. The part of Ohio we lived in, we had large barns, in place of stacking wheat in open, the farmer would stack the wheat in the barn. This made very good threshing and we always charged one cent a bushel less for 'barn threshing.'
I have read many issues of 'The Iron Men' but never notice any article about sterilizing tobacco beds with a steam engine. The tobacco seed beds were five feet wide and forty or fifty feet long. The steaming pan was five feet wide, ten feet long, made of heavy gauge shut metal, would steam or sterilize each setting of the pan thirty minutes at 100 psi. We would get ninety cents a pan. The seed beds were sterilized in April and early May. This practice of sterilizing seed beds by steam came in after World War I. This added another income for the thresher and kept many old steam engines in operation for this task.
I would also like to make a few remarks about corn huskers. I always enjoyed feeding the corn husker and it was very hard work. The companies that built Corn Huskers were never successful in building a corn husker suitable for all kind of weather conditions. If they built a corn husker with severe roll for dry weather, then on damp days the severe roll would shell large amounts of corn; also the native corn and fodder came or grew in many different sizes. After Hybrid seed corn came on the market, the corn fodder was more uniform and the yield of corn per acre doubled. By this time the corn picker had been developing and it was very successful and this helped to bring to end big 'Corn Husking Ring or Run. 'In 1934 my Father purchased a portable sawmill for forty dollars. The saw was a 56 inch and in good condition. He rebuilt the mill and in the spring of 1935 and 1936 we sawed around 100,000 board feet. We received seven dollars per thousand.
After the federal government began wheat allotment in the early thirties, the depression was also in full bloom and many old retired engines and separators were returned to service to make a few dollars. About this time the Farm Machinery Manufacturing Company developed a successful combine to be operated with the two plow tractor and each succeeding year the threshing run would get smaller.
In 1936 it was our last big year. The wheat straw was short, but made above average yield to the acre. We had a very good run with the corn husker and we hulled several bushels of clover seed.
In September of 1938 my Father passed away and Mother sold the outfit to Joe Well.
By 1940, the combine was harvesting over one half of the wheat crop. 1940 was my last season. The next year I entered the military service.
Driving through the Southwest I often pass by an old separator or engine parked in a pasture half hidden by weeds and it always brings back memories of those bygone days. Harvest season was the time for neighborhood gatherings, the wonderful meals the farmer's wife would prepare for the harvest hands. For me, up early in the morning, checking and greasing the separator, refueling the tractor, threshing until dark.
I can still hear the old Baker separator groan toward evening, when the wheat straw began to get tough and the exhaust flame from the old Huber tractor would plume two to three feet into the atmosphere. About this time of the day as if it were only yesterday, I can still see my Father give me the signal to increase the governor setting in the Huber.