Threshing Days start ignited by local engine club

Hundreds of people attended Goessel?s Country Threshing Days this past weekend?taking a step back in time to enjoy agricultural demonstrations, exhibits, food, entertainment and other family events.

Now in its 41st year, the Wheat Heritage Engine and Threshing Co. and the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum host the three-day event with the goal of fostering a legacy.

For James Wiens, a member of the WHEAT Co., it?s about preserving history.

Seated near an engine used for a cotton gin, circa 1930s, Wiens, now 65 years old, said he worked on engines even before he had a driver?s license.

?I got into this when there was a small threshing show at the (Marion) County Fair in Hillsboro in the 1960s,? he said.

Not long after that, Wiens said, the county?s show was discontinued, and the Goessel group started to emerge.

Initially, he said he worked with small engines, then tractors, but now spends most of his time on larger projects. One of them is a two-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse 100 horsepower, 2573?4 revolutions per minute.

?It was originally used to run a cotton gin,? he said. ?There were five or six gin heads and burnt out remnants of a facility when we went to get it in Coweta, Okla., a little town south of Tulsa.?

The facility was still smoldering from the fire.

?The engine was not in the same building, but in a separate building,? Wiens added. ?That building was torn down so there wasn?t enough wood around the engine to burn it down.?

The engine used for the cotton gin has become a permanent fixture in the WHEAT building for about 25 years.

?It is a very permanent fixture weighing over 20,000 pounds, plus the concrete base,? he said.

Engine?s use

?When the cotton grower grew his cotton, he would bag it and bale it,? Wiens said. ?The ginning process removed seeds from cotton bolls, making it into relatively clean cotton.?

This particular engine was originally capable of running five or six units.

?The engine runs on diesel fuel, but it could also run on furnace oil,? he said. ?I am not sure how far (this engine) could deviate from regular diesel fuel, but some did allow heavier oils.?

Other engines

Scanning the building that houses five other large engines, Wiens pointed to one that used to provide the horsepower needed to run the city of Canton?s municipal power plant.

?They discontinued (using the power plant) years ago,? he said, ?and we have been waiting for 30 to 35 years for (that engine) to become available.

?We would quietly check on it once every year or two until it finally was available.?

On moving day, he said, it took three club members to remove the engine from the concrete, load it and then transport it from Canton to Goessel.

The club has also acquired an engine used for municipal power at Perry, Okla., and another supplying power for an alfalfa mill and, earlier, an oil field.

Memories

A lot of interesting stories could be told, he said, about ?engine- fetching trips.?

One particularly fond memory, he said, involved the trip to Coweta.

?We had two semis, seven or eight other vehicles and 28 men descending on a site to take some equipment apart, load it and go home on a non-stop trip,? he said.

The man in Oklahoma who was there to meet club members had doubts whether the group could take it apart in one day.

?He hired a crane to load for us,? Wiens said. ?I don?t know how many thousands of dollars he spent helping us get it loaded, but because they were also strip-mining coal out from under it, they wanted (the engine) out of the way.?

Once loaded, Wiens said club members had the engine, compressor and other mechanisms loaded onto two semis.

?The caravan was headed home with a few truck breakdowns on the way.?

Wiens said somebody once asked him if this was everyone?s profession?moving engines and large equipment.

With a smile, he said: ?One man teaches music, one is a biology teacher in college, one is a pig farmer and another does mechanic work. I did tool-and-die work at a factory (years ago), maintenance and whatever else.?

Times are changing

For Wiens and some of the other men in the club, age is beginning to work against them.

?We are all getting older and slower, but we used to do a lot of fun things,? he said. ?We would get up at 4 a.m., load up a bunch of people and head out to pick up (equipment).?

Wiens said he hopes younger people will consider keeping the tradition alive.

?We (club members) want to pass this history on to future generations, and not just have to scrap (the engines and equipment) and see it die when we do,? he said.

For more information about WHEAT Co., visit: wheatco.org.

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