Threshing Wheat 50 Years Ago

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Red River Special steam threshing outfit owned by George M. Kestler. Mr. Kestler is standing on top of the separator. The engine is a 25 HP double cylinder rear mounted Nichols & Shepard. The separator is a N & S 44''. This picture was taken about 1919 ne
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Is George M. Kestler's plowing outfit. Mr. Kestler is standing on the platform of the plow. Mrs. Kestler is the fartherest lady to the left. The steamer is a 25-75 HP Case. Picture taken in 1915 near Haxtun. Courtesy of Melvin Kestler, 1339 Evergreen Driv
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Is Nichols & Shepard 44'' x 64'' wooden separator when new. Mr. George M. Kestler, owner is standing on top of the thresher. Picture taken near Haxtun in Eastern Colorado about 1919.

1339 Evergreen Drive, Twin Falls, Idaho 83301.

Mr. Dewey Green, Sr., of Haxtun, Colorado sent me the following
article which appeared in the August 18, 1971 issue of the Haxtun
Harvest Newspaper.

‘August 11, 1921 – 50 Years Ago’

‘The threshing season is well underway in the Haxtun,
Colorado district and a number of large outfits are going to
capacity, but George M. Kestler, with his (steam) Red River Special
(Nichols & Shepard) outfit has set a record which he believes
will stand well toward the top in number of bushels threshed in one
day. Working in the fields of J. W. Markham south of town last
Tuesday, Mr. Kestler moved his outfit four times and threshed a
total of 2,670 bushels (over 44 sixty bushel wagon loads of

I made Mr. Green’s acquaintance at the Antique Engine &
Thresher Assn. show which is held on the farm of Mrs. Roy E. Kite
of Bird City, Kansas where my Case 65 steam outfit was kept and
shown for many years. Mr. Green was well acquainted with my father,
George M. Kestler, who died in 1941. Mr. Green attended the Bird
City show several times. It was always a pleasure to visit with him
and learn more about the days when steam was king on the farms in
eastern Colorado. At the time of my father’s steam engine
activities, I was not old enough to accompany him or be a part of

At one time, my father was an engineer on the Burlington
Railroad which runs through Haxtun, Colorado. My parents moved to
Haxtun in 1914 when I was 4 years old. His first steam outfit was
headed by a Case 25-75 H. P. engine with 36′ drivers as shown
in the plowing picture which was taken about 1915. I saw an engine
just like this with wide drivers at the Saskatoon show several
years ago. This plowing picture shows a man steering the engine.
Later, the engines were steered with a guide with a long steel pole
fastened to the front axle with a crazy wheel which was held rigid
and followed the furrow through the field and the wheel was
released with a trip rope from its fixed position at the end of the
field so that the outfit could be turned around.

About 1919, my father purchased a new Nichols & Shepard Red
River Special outfit which is what the old newspaper article is
about. The N & S outfit consisted of a 25 H. P. double cylinder
rear-mounted plow engine and a 44′ x 64′ wooden separator
which was shipped to Haxtun from the manufacturer’s branch
house in Lincoln, Nebraska. Recently, I visited with an elderly
gentleman in Haxtun who told me the story of helping unload my
father’s new outfit from the railroad flat car. Wouldn’t it
be more than a thrill to unload such a brand new steam outfit
today? The nearest experience I have had to this was two years ago
when I shipped my Case 65, Case 40′ separator and water wagon
by rail from Bird City, Kansas to Twin Falls, Idaho. The story of
this moving experience ”Shipping a Case’ appeared in
the May-June 1971 issue of The Iron Men Album-Magazine.

My father paid $4,500 for the N & S engine and he said he
made enough money on the first plowing job (breaking sod) it was
used on to pay for the engine. He received $3.50 per acre for
breaking sod. It is not known what he got for threshing wheat. His
outfit included a cook shack and he furnished most of the threshing

My Case 65 was purchased in February, 1952. Several years prior
to this, the late Mr. Roy E. Kite of Bird City rekindled my steam
pressure and I started to look for a steam engine of my own.
Considerable time was spent in the Haxtun, Colorado area looking
for my father’s old Nichols & Shepard engine until it was
eventually learned that the engine had been scrapped after the war
in 1946. In 1952, ‘Mike’ Ivan Middleton of Rulton, Kansas
found his 1912 Advance 16 H. P. engine in the Haxtun area. One day
my wife and I were standing in this eastern Colorado farm yard
looking at this complete Advance outfit; engine, separator, plow
and water wagon and in drove Mr. and Mrs. Roy Kite looking for
steam engines unbeknowing to us. Mike ended up with the Advance
which he restored into a beautiful engine.

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