28'' Wood Brothers separator, work done, heading for home.
RR #2, Box 30 Tremont, Illinois 61568
For the last couple of years our club, the Tazewell County Olde Thresher's Association, had done its threshing with a good, solid Case 28' separator. Problem was, it was being graciously hauled some 50 miles to the show site by a nearby John Deere dealer. As President, I started looking around for a good, reliable machine that we could keep on the grounds. This turned out to be no easy task.
After looking at several threshers which were either too far gone for my mechanical abilities, or not worth the price tag, I finally located one near the small Central Illinois town of Anchor, some 70 miles away. I met the fellow who owned the machine and followed him to a ramshackle corn crib where the machine sat.
It was dark as pitch and a tight squeeze, but I could see enough to tell that it was a Wood Brothers 'Hummingbird' thresher, and in good shape too. After a quick inspection to make sure there were no major problems we struck a deal and I returned in a few weeks to pick her up.
I found out that the original owner had bought her new in the early 30s (the service man's name from the Peoria Branch was still scrawled on the blower door) and threshed with it right up to 1963, using a John Deere D for power. After the final season she was pulled into the corn crib. A couple of years ago a tornado tore the roof off the crib, so they were anxious to get it to a good home.
As we pulled it out with a J.D. 70, I was surprised to see the old separator was in terrific shape! A good cleaning and a few minor repairs and she'd be ready to thresh! We hauled her home on the back roads with no problems (except for holding our breath going under low-hanging light wires) to the Al Beutel farm where we hold our show. I rented a steam jenny and cleaned off 23 years worth of dirt, grease and raccoon droppings, and with Al's help, got her all set up.
I was anxious to limber her up so we belted her to an F-20 tractor. Problem was, the belt I had was short and there was less than an inch clearance between the feeder and the tractor grill! We threw some straw in, which shot out the blower pipe, everything running smooth. After threshing a rack-load of oats using an MM 'G' tractor (and longer belt) a week before the show, we were ready.
Claude Troyer's 22 horse Keck-Gonnerman steamer was belted up to her. Claude opened the throttle, the belts slapped, and soon that familiar whirr filled the air. Teams of draft horses pulled the rack wagons up to the old girl all day long, and the old thresher hardly missed a lick. The straw was a little wet, and once I was called on to clean out the clogged wind stacker. (It's your machine!) The oscillating blower made a beautiful, tall straw stack, and at times it was hard to believe you were still in 1986.
This was our most successful show. We nearly doubled our number of tractors and gas engines, kept several teams of horses busy plowing and harrowing, along with a dozen other activities that make up a good steam show. Next year we hope to have a Keck-Gonnerman 36' thresher on hand, to better match the old steamer both in heritage and horse-power. My smaller Wood Brothers 28' machine will pull duty with the antique tractors.
So here's an open invitation to come pitch a few bundles with us, August 1, 1987!