My father, Joe Rhode, loved to talk about the days when threshing wheat was powered by steam engines. When Dad was growing up and when he became old enough to run an engine, his uncle Charley Cobb, who ran several engines in the vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana, taught Dad how to run steam. I ran my Case steam engine at shows for nineteen years, and I can attest to the fact that learning to run a steam engine is a steep learning curve! On the day after Christmas in 1996, my father recalled the days before his uncle had begun my dad's training in the operation of a steam engine: “My mother rarely would get up early enough to let me go with Uncle Charley [her brother] to the threshing. [Charley left to fire the engine] before dawn, you see. I had to wait until my grandfather could take me to see the Reeves engine later in the day.”
|One of Fred Albright's Rumely Rigs in Pine Village, Indiana|
My father continued, “The Max family’s Advance engine was scrapped as junk.” Incidentally, I have made sour milk drop cookies from Elsie Dowden’s recipe, which was handed down to me. The recipe came from Elsie’s mother. Elsie most likely baked the same cookies for the threshing crew surrounding the Advance engine on Jay Max’s ring.
|The Other of Fred Albright's Rumely Engines|
Dad said, “One of the [two] Rumely engines burned in a shed fire at ‘Oklahoma.’” An area of houses near the grain elevator was nicknamed “Oklahoma.” The two Rumely threshing rigs were owned by Frederick “Fred” J. Albright (1876–1965). Fred’s brother, Joseph R. (born 1861 or 63), ran one of the engines. My father remembered Fred as the owner of a grocery store in town. Although I have no proof, I think that Fred and Joe are standing beside the Rumely engine in a photograph that Eric Brutus gave me. Early one summer, a fire destroyed the shed where the engines and threshing machines were housed. Residents of Pine Village speculated that children had set the blaze. My father said that at least one of the engines and probably both threshers were lost.
|Maybe Fred and Joe Albright Standing Near Rumely Engine|
Dad also told of a Keck–Gonnerman steam engine that was purchased new in 1928 by the Fleming family south of West Lebanon. “It threshed for four years then sat unused for eight or nine years,” Dad said. “Then it was cut up for scrap during World War II.”
|Fred Albright Threshing Near Pine Village, Indiana|
On the 28th of November in 1996, my father told of a Huber steam engine north of town: “[The] water tank on the Huber was a wood-stave tank with a thin metal skin, which had rusted away on part of the bottom edge of the tank. I saw the tank smoking when the engine was threshing on a hot summer day of barn threshing at a tall barn in a low area where the heat was trapped. It was on [my grandfather] Tom Cobb’s farm. The engineer was Jake Kiger, an easy-going guy, not excitable. He was slow moving, but every movement counted. He had a white mustache and would whistle through it. I was five or six years old. The water wagon would pull up, and a hose from the injector would be placed in the water wagon. Water was used directly from the water wagon until the water hauler decided it was time to go get more. He would take a hose from the nozzle at the bottom of the water tank in back and insert the hose in a small livestock tank beside the engine. He would fill that livestock tank then take off for more water. The hose from the injector (with a brass screen) would be placed in the small livestock tank. Joe Williams also used a small livestock tank with his Reeves outfit. No one got excited about the Huber water tank when it began to smoke—except me [because I was] afraid of fire. Probably, Jake … started some kind of ejector to fill that tank so it would not get too hot.”
|Joe Rhode Beside Joe Williams' Reeves Engine Being Run by Charley Cobb|
While we were seated at the kitchen table, my father gave me instructions to sketch maps of threshing rings and sawmill engines around our hometown.
|Joe Rhode Near Reeves Engine Threshing on Joe Williams' Farm|
On my father’s birthday in 1996, Dad discussed the so-called “bucket run,” which began at the Builta farm, “went west to Edgar Akers, out the angling road, up Lovers’ Lane [for the] first two houses on that road, back west to the next road to Perry Short’s farm, back down west to the place just west of my grandfather’s, then back to [State Route] 26 to where Jim Dill lived (Burgoyne Davis owned the farm), on to where Sherman Carter lived, to Andrew and Martha Rhode, to the next house—Doc Fenton’s (rented by Earl Simmons)—on west to Dave Hale’s on the north side of the road, to ‘Toss’ (a pronounced abbreviation ‘Thos.’ for Thomas) Young, then back to the creek road to do little jobs for small farms owned by Burl McDonald, Ed Shoults, Fred Dowling, Ed Bowman, Orval Maxson’s place, Bill Cox, then up the road to the north to Bill Milligan. Men carried dinner in a dinner bucket instead of the women having to cook a big threshing dinner. They used basket racks on the bundle wagons. This run hired Jack Strickler to thresh for many years but hired others, [such as] Jake St. John. Joe Williams did it two years in succession while someone filled in where he [usually] threshed.”
|My Chart of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 1|
My father explained, “Bucket-run workers had two feed boxes on the two back corners of their basket wagons and did not take their horses inside people’s barns along the run but fed the horses from the wagons. The sills extended back farther than normal to hold the feed boxes.” As my father fondly recalled the lavish threshing dinners that other rings offered, he said, “It must’ve been the least pleasurable to work on the bucket run of any run with which I was acquainted.”
|My Chart of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 2|
|My Chart of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 3|
|My Chart of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 4|
|My Chart of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 5|
|My Diagram of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 1|
|My Diagram of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 2|