Robert T. Rhode

Robert T. Rhode
Robert T. Rhode

Saturday, November 18, 2017

My Father Said ... 4

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

My Father Said ... 3

On the 5th of July in 1937, my father, Joe Rhode, started to work for Standard Elevator Company as a clerk. In our conversation on the 28th of November in 1998, my father had a twinkle in his eye when he said—with a smile—“Once, when I was working at the elevator, Lee Rhode and Arby Brutus began to argue some point. They kept at it for over an hour. By about noon, they decided to go to their homes. They jumped in their trucks and took off. I had had difficulty working while the argument proceeded. It was so intriguing! I noticed that each combatant had taken the other’s truck. The trucks were nearly alike: a ’36 Chevy half-ton green pickup belonging to Arby and a ’34 Chevy half-ton green pickup belonging to Lee. Within a few minutes, both trucks returned, arriving at the same moment. Not saying a word to one another, the men switched trucks and drove off again.” While I did not know Lee, I did know Arby, and I am sure that, within a very short time, Lee and Arby were back on friendly terms. In my view, Arby could not have held a grudge.

One of Carter Dalton’s Homemade Model Steam Engines
Photograph on Page 12 of The Iron-Men Album Magazine
For July and August of 1956

Life in Pine Village, my hometown in Indiana, was usually serene. Occasionally, circumstances arose that called upon a person’s highest qualities. During a conversation on the 26th of November in 1998, my father said, “Carter Dalton and Jim Hooker were brothers-in-law; their wives were sisters with the last name of High. The wives were from Locust Grove. Carter’s wife died. He took it bad. Jim Hooker listened to Carter’s despondent remarks. Finally, Jim recommended that Carter [take up] a hobby. ‘You’ve always talked about how much you liked steam engines,’ Jim said, ‘so why don’t you build a model engine?’ Carter considered the idea. On another occasion, Jim repeated his idea. This time, Carter took the bait because he had no hobbies and felt he would enjoy trying to build a working model of a steam engine. He then built the Case model. [He] misfigured the boiler size by modeling the diameter when he should have used the circumference of the cylindrical part of the boiler; thus his boiler looked too thin. He [also] made a double Nichols & Shepard rear-mounted model.”

Wood Carving Attributed to Jim Hooker of Pine Village, Indiana

I well remember both models. While the Case provided plenty of fun because it was large and easy to drive around, the Nichols & Shepard was a thing of beauty! As I am not mechanically minded, I stand in awe of the work of machinists who can engineer a working scale model of a farm steam engine! I considered Carter Dalton an artist in metal, just as Jim was an artist in wood.

Jim’s barn was filled with carvings, many of which were lost when the barn burned to the ground. Cinders from the barn blew east across town. Volunteers came to our home several blocks away to ensure that the roofs of our house and barn were not harboring live sparks. Not too many years ago, I found in an antique mall a carving of oxen pulling a wagon. While there is no identification on the piece, I am confident that it is one of Jim’s earliest carvings that I used to see in his barn. Perhaps he gave it to someone. I immediately purchased the antique, as I had always wanted an example of Jim’s work. Incidentally, many years earlier, Jim “ran a Model T sales business from the first floor of the Pine Village Hotel,” as my father told me on the 18th of October in 1997. “He got one of the Model Ts out of the showroom as the fire was beginning, but the other Model T burned in the blaze, which destroyed the hotel.”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

My Father Said ... 2

On the cool day following a warm Christmas in 1998, my father, Joseph “Joe” Rhode, entered the house after doing his chores, hung his heavy denim coat on the rack, made a cup of coffee, sat in his customary place at the kitchen table, and began reminiscing by saying Jake St. John owned a side-mounted Nichols & Shepard engine with which Jake ran a sawmill near the Pine Village Cemetery. Jake sold the sawmill to the Cranes, and they powered it with their undermounted Avery steam engine. The Cranes also used their engine on a threshing ring, or run, northwest of Pine Village, Indiana. In driving the engine to the ring, they passed in front of a farm owned by Joe’s grandfather Tom Cobb. In a conversation on December 27th two years earlier, my father said that, “at sundown,” Charlie Allen, Tom’s hired hand, gave permission to Herbert “Herb” Crane and his son Loyd, nicknamed “Jersey” or “Jers,” “to park their Avery steam engine and thresher” on Tom’s farm overnight, “as it was getting dark. Allen smelled a rat and wouldn’t allow the engine to be parked in the barn lot but made them park it farther back, where the ground sloped down to the north.”

Print of Avery Undermounted Steam Engine
In Collection Published in 1954 by Elmer Ritzman
Editor-in-Chief of The Iron-Men Album Magazine

“This might have been in 1928 or ’29,” my father continued, “but Charley Cobb would have moved the engine sooner, so this probably happened in 1930, for Charley died in 1931.” Charley was Tom’s son and was an expert steam engineer. “Charley might have permitted the engine to sit there for a year but not for longer.” Joe said, “ … despite frequent promises to move the engine, the Cranes left it there.” Charley moved it away during the winter after the fall when the engine had been abandoned. My father speculated that the Cranes knew there was something wrong with the engine—so wrong that they were no longer going to fire the boiler.

My father took the big clevis from the Avery as a souvenir. In the 1990s, he presented it to me for use on my Case steam engine. Someone borrowed it when I was exhibiting my engine at the Central States Threshermen’s Reunion in Pontiac, Illinois, and never returned it to me, I am sad to say. I wonder if the new owner of the clevis realizes that it once graced an Avery steam engine.

After disposing of the Avery by leaving it on Tom Cobb’s farm for Charley to collect the scrapping fees, the Cranes “bought a Case [crossmotor] tractor that Joe Williams had purchased to replace his Reeves engine.” Meanwhile, the Cranes moved the sawmill a short distance beside the newer east part of the cemetery. My father continued, “Joe Williams had used the Case tractor ten years, approximately. Joe had died … and Lizzie [his sister] sold the Case tractor to the Cranes.” During our conversation on the 18th of October in 1997, my father said, “Joe Williams had replaced his Reeves engine with an 18–32 Case crossmotor, and [he had] used it to thresh.”

I remember well Jersey’s son Lester, nicknamed “Let,” who worked in the lumber division of the elevator east of town. He was consistently in a good mood and exhibited a great sense of humor.