I realize that in writing this, I am threading on controversial ground, but here goes anyway.
During the past decade, I have attended many steam shows, and have met a lot of interesting people. However, I have met some that I do not care to meet again. For the greater part, men in charge of engines have been a friendly lot, but some have been just a little short of rude.
I realize that some of the questions that men are asked are very simple, but we as engineers, need to remember that a steam engine is not a common thing to most of the people who attend steam shows. We can make friends for ourselves, and more important, we can make friends for the shows by answering their questions, regardless of how simple they may seem, in a courteously and friendly manner.
I had my engines in a show for the first time this past season, and after the show was over, looking back I realized that the greatest enjoyment of the show was in sharing my engines with others. Many old engineers attend these shows, who do not own engines, but their love for them is strong. I am particular with my engines and certainly do not intend letting anyone run them, unless I am convinced he is capable of doing so, and then, only if I am on the platform with him.
I have never ran another man's engine at any show, although I have been invited to do so many times; but having my own engines I see no need for it. But, I have seen many men stand and look with a longing eye toward the engine controls, and they did not have to speak for me to know what they were thinking. It does not take long to determine if a man is an engineer, and if you find he is, you can furnish him with the thrill of a lifetime by asking him if he would like to 'take her around the circle?' But ride with him. You'll make a personal friend as well as a booster for the show.
Having spent a few seasons in the 1920's running a threshing engine, and later seeing many good engines consigned to the scrap heap in the next two decades; it was with considerable satisfaction that I saw a renewed interest in steam traction engines in the late 40's. However, it was not until two years ago that I was able to buy one for myself. The
Mrs. and I now have two; a single cylinder side mounted Robinson and a double cylinder rear mounted Keck-Gonnerman.
We live in an area where traction engines have never been too common, and as a result, there are few people in the immediate area who have been bitten by the steam engine bug. Because of this, we hesitated to attempt to promote a threshing day here at the farm, but this past season, we decided to give it a try.
We sowed a small field of oats last spring, and not having a grain binder, we started looking for one. Was fortunate enough to find an 8-ft. binder that had been used very little before it was stored in a good dry shed in 1931. The canvases were in excellent condition, and there was part of a ball of twine in the box. The latter part of June, we pulled the binder into the field and threaded it up with the twine that had been in the box for 37 years. Due to my threading the machine incorrectly it missed the first three bundles; this error corrected, the machine did not miss another bundle in the field of four acres. When we started cutting, the word went out and we had plenty of help in shocking the bundles. One man who had heard a-head of time we planned to cut on a certain day, drove 18 miles to help with the shocking.
On August 10, we held our first threshing. However, after several weeks of extremely dry weather, a heavy shower of rain fell the night before the date we had announced. The oats were still in the shock, but by the middle of the forenoon, under a hot sun the shocks had dried somewhat, and they were loaded on wagons and hauled to the threshing site. The starting time had been announced for 2 o'clock, but by noon the people began coming and by 1:30 a good size crowd had assembled, and again the rain began falling. Fortunately, we had enough canvases to cover the bundle wagons, but many of the people gave up and left. The rain did not last too long and we went on with the threshing.
I had intended to run the engine that was pulling the thresher, but when the time came to put the engine into the belt, I was busy with other matters, so asked my good friend John Hall, of Cape Girardeau to line up the engine for me. I was kept busy with various matters and it developed that I never got back to the engine during the whole operation, but Mr. Hall kept the wheels turning. Many old timers took turns pitching bundles into the machine. My good friend Ed Foeste of Cape Girardeau took care of the separator, assisted by the St. Francois County Recorder of Deeds, M. C. Kin-non. Mr. Cahm Gastineau, an old time thresherman, and my friend for 60 years, took care of sacking the grain.
We were using the Keck-Gonnerman engine on the 22 inch McCormick Deering thresher and a good friend, Velvie Williams of Farmington, kept the Robinson running around in the area.
When it was all over, we felt it had been a very successful day. We are planning another threshing this coming season, and we plan to have our saw mill and stationary baler in operation as well as the thresher.