Farm Collector

Threshing The Wheat From The Chaff

By Staff

A reader from Orlando, Florida, writes, ‘Your religious
remarks would be very fitting in any National Council of Churches
magazine (they appreciate you belittling God), but away out of line
in the Iron-Men Album; this is a steam magazine and let us keep it
that way.’

The reader goes on to infer that my boyish prank of
‘sneaking out of church after Sunday School’ was the reason
‘you were valueless as a president of Christian Endeavor and
valueless as a teacher.’

The letter concludes, ‘I can assure you God is in Ohio,
Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Florida. I believe God will take care of
Elmer Ritzman. In the last paragraph you infer he may not. (The
writer should have capitalized ‘He’.) The one person you
should be very worried about is Joe Fahnestock, and you can only
get in touch with God on your knees.’

‘P.S. Save your stamp, no reply necessary.’

First of all, I’m glad to know that God is taking care of
Elmer Ritzman as I believe He has been all the time. I am also
encouraged to know that God is not only in Ohio, Indiana and
Pennsylvania, but also Florida as I believe He has been all along,
including the entire world and the universe. Our first space men to
encircle the Moon were inspired of God’s presence to read from
the Book of Genesis as they surveyed the grand spectacle of our
Earth shining in the distant, dark abyss just across the Lunar
sphere. And the first thing our returning space men of the
ill-fated Apollo Thirteen engaged in was prayer to God in
thanksgiving for a safe return from a very hazardous, almost fatal
sojourn, bolstered as they were in their darkest hours by the
prayers of the faithful here on earth.

As to worrying about Joe Fahnestock let me say that he is the
very guy I’ve been worrying about most ever since I was born,
although the Good Book says, ‘Take no thought for yourselves.
.’ ‘Pray for your enemies, do good unto them that
despitefully use you.’

May I add sneaking out of church when I was a lad might have
been smiled upon by a merciful God as a rather boyish prank. Or it
could have been that God, who knows all things, might have forgiven
me, especially if the preacher wasn’t up to His standards. But
during my lifetime I’ve listened attentively to enough sermons
that, if all their scripts were laid end to end, they’d reach
from here to the Moon and back again. And I’ve hardly felt that
my leading Christian Endeavor and teaching Sunday School were to be
classified as failures. For I’ve never considered that reading
out of the Bible and teaching the lessons of scripture were ever
wasted, even if the kids were too to get up early enough on
Sunday morning to attend the Bible classes.

Standing on engine is yours truly and on separator is my
brother, John, who is my separator man. The man pitching bundles is
an old friend of ours. Otto Heit-kamp, who said he enjoyed pitching
bundles once again – bringing back old memories.

Picture taken by Mr. Fred Heiland, 128 So. Market St., Belle
Plaine, Minnesota. Courtesy of Arthur Krueger, R. R. 2, Box 58,
Belle Plaine, Minnesota 56011.

Let me state that, although I was an elder in my particular
church, the main reason I finally severed connections with it was
because the church leaders worried more over what color the walls
were to be painted, or buying a new carpet for the sanctuary than
they did about the spiritual welfare of the communicant or the
importance of the Bible lesson for the next week’s service. And
I look askance at many trends in the World Council of Churches for
the very same reason. Whenever any church puts building decor above
Bible, and emphasizes the painting of psychedelic blobs on the
church school walls over and above the importance of the Sunday
School lesson, as a cheap inducement to lure the youth within its
doors, then it ceases to be a church. And I didn’t feel I was
forsaking God’s House, but rather registering my disapproval
when I ceased attending.

Heretofore I have felt that in every Iron Men or steam
thresherman, there is a rather generously endowed sense of
God-given humor. Indeed, humor has been man’s safety valve over
the centuries of struggle, a sort of salvation that has lightened
the burden of human labor and involvement with sterner things of
life. Whenever a nation or people lose their sense of humor, they
lose much that makes life livable. The trend of things in our
modern world have almost made us grim to the point of thinking we
must live without laughing. The steam threshing reunions have
become one of civilization’s last frontiers of humor and
laughter. Men have found out that, by going to a steam engine
reunion, they can once again bask in the good, old-time humor of
yesteryear, the reminiscing of boyhood and youth without some
stern-visaged government official striding over the grounds to see
if it meets with licensed approval. And I have attended enough
midwest steam threshermen’s reunions to know that steam
engineers, bundle-pitchers, saw millers and even preachers come
just so they can blow their stacks a little and laugh and just
plain ‘have fun’. When Elmer Ritzman said to me, last
summer at Wauseon, ‘If I hadn’t come and got a good whiff
of engine smoke, I believe I’d have died,’ I didn’t
take him seriously or literally, but I laughed heartily at his
rare, Pennsylvania-Dutch humor just as he was laughing in telling
it. When the old-time threshermen’s float was being towed
behind Percy Sherman’s Russell Engine at Wauseon several years
ago, with Elmer Ritzman sitting at the head of the table just
behind the engineer, and Percy left the throttle and began reaching
around the Preacher-Ritzman neck to grab his coffee and eat his
cake, leaving poor preacher an empty plate everyone on that float
and up in the grandstand laughed, as did Rev. Ritzman, at the sheer
fun of it all. That is what makes a threshermen’s reunion.

We could go on and on and on, relating the anecdotes, the
hilarious transpiring, the spontaneous cut-ups of the free-lance
clowns that go to contribute to the steam threshermen’s
reunions, world without end and still there’d be not enough
pages to record it all. There were those perennial clowns, Clint
and Ferm Blume pulling off the daily, yea hourly antics of chasing
rubber rats in straw piles, shooting squirrels out of trees with
seven-foot shot-guns, the slicing of watermelons on the reunion
sawmill by Mac Keller, or the stopping up of an engine smoke-box
with wet straw to make some unwary engineer wonder what’s
making of smokey smoke so. That’s what makes a
threshermen’s reunion and Harry Wood man see sleeping soundly
in the old straw pile makes it even more so.

May we never grow so grim with our world’s problems and
work-a-day lives that we fail to laugh in the summer’s sun,
even if preachers get so long-sermoned that sonny boy sneaks out of
church under the watchful eye of a forgiving God who loves him just
the same. May we never forget we are Americans, dedicated to
preserving the things that made America great the steam engines
that built our nation, the dedicated men who maintain and run them,
the stars and stripes, the government of our land, the schools and
churches and, oh yes, when we sit down to the threshermen’s
dinner, fit for a king, let’s give thanks to the God above
whose blessings have made it so.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1970
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