615 W. 2nd St. Minneapolis, Kansas 67467
On page 3 of the January-February issue of the Album, there is a story that rather aroused my interest in the Geiser Manufacturing Company of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. It reminded me of a number of very wonderful things that happened to me about ten years after the turn of the century. One of them was of a man that came to me one day and asked me if I thought he could get a job as pitcher with the machine that he knew that I had already hired out, to be the engineer of. Course I had nothing to do with the men who were to be the crew, but I told him that I would inquire into the matter for him, also would recommend him to the owner of the machine. However, in my judgment of him wanting to go along as a pitcher, he seemed a little old for the job. Anyway, I was successful in getting him on and he stood up remarkably well with the other men who were not over half his age. You see I did actually have an ax to grind here, because I was going with his beautiful Irish daughter whom I married a few months later.
Well, back to the machine itself, 'the theme of my story.' The engine and separator both happen to be manufactured by the Geiser Manufacturing Company of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. I am the only one now living of that crew. The man standing on the step of the engine was the owner of the rig, and his name was John Kellogg of Glasco, Kansas, not far from where I live now. We had a nice run that year and good weather for threshing. This was a smooth running engine and an easy steamer. The picture was taken on the Mike Griffin farm, southwest of the town, Simpson in Cloud County, Kansas. I had run this engine a few days the previous year finishing up a stack threshing run in the same neighborhood. This time the machine was parked on a farm where they had finished the shock threshing run and pulled in there. It was here that I got an introduction to something that as a boy engineer of seventeen years had read about but had never tried to do.
I fired up the engine about daylight on that morning in September when we were supposed to begin threshing and with the separator and coal wagon pulled across a field into the road and started up a long, but not too steep a hill. The man who was to be the separator man was steering the engine, standing on the steel table about a foot above the platform. Without any warning, whatsoever, a flue let go and water flooded the fire box putting out the fire and blew the fire door open. Steam of course, engulfed the whole machine and the separator man jumped from the table right into the feeder of the separator. We both escaped getting burned, but the steersman, when he jumped into the feeder punctured his hand on a raddle spike, rather severely. I was frightened of course, but never left my engine.
Mr. Kellogg then went to town and brought out a new flue and a man to put it in. The boiler was still hot and after several attempts, the repairman gave up trying to get into the firebox. He told me I would have to put that flue in as he was too big to get through the door. After all, I was the engineer and could learn this trick no younger. I crawled in that hot fire box, knocked that flue loose and they pulled it out the front with a team of horses. They broke double trees and log chains, but finally the job was done. I had gone in there without a cap on, so imagine what my head looked like. I fired up again, pulled it a mile and a half to the job before getting any dinner. This boy was never so black and hungry, but he had learned considerably more about running an engine. I found that it was one thing to read about it and something else to really do it. I was proud of my lesson that I had learned, even though it was a tough one.
Well, so much for the stack threshing debut, a little more about the run the following fall. I learned a very valuable lesson that year that stayed with me throughout my threshing years, and and that was 'to be ever on the alert while operating an engine.' I just happened to be where I should have been at the proper time. We were cleaning up and I had reduced the speed somewhat by partly closing the throttle. Mr. Kellogg was tending the separator and gave me the signal to stop, by dropping his hand. At the same time he did this, he some way placed his other hand on the feeder raddle and a sprocket caught it and started pulling his hand around the feeder shaft. I quickly reached for the reverse lever and pulled it clear back at the same time closing the throttle. My quick action saved his arm from being badly broken and mangled. I never forgot that either!
These incidents that I have mentioned here were all with Geiser machines as pictured and my beginning career as a threshing engineer. I was reminded of it all by reading the story in the last issue of Album about the Geiser Manufacturing Company of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Before this experience I had already owned and operated a ten horse Advance traction that my lather had bought for me, with which we sawed wood and shelled corn, but that would be a separate story. I had also, at this time, graduated from my course of steam engineering and like many other throttle pullers, had many years with many makes of engines. Maybe more about it at a later date. Those were all wonderful days to think about, and how thankful we should be to have the wonderful magazine now that we all have the Iron men Album and the wonderful folks who make its existence possible. Those days are gone but still wonderful to remember.