VERSAILLES — Casey Besecker was busy Thursday morning.
He, his sons Troy and Cole and their cousin Carson, of the Arcanum area, were getting their 1905, 16-horsepower Baker ready for the incoming crowd. The 61st Annual Reunion of the Darke County Steam Threshers Association, Inc., is held June 29 – July 2. The event is to showcase agricultural equipment and practices of the past, for the education and information of a generation not fully aware of their heritage. Casey’s dad Kim was showing his 1925, 23 – 90 Baker. The Beseckers have been participating in the reunion for many years. They are showing two steam engines, but they have many in their fleets.
“I enjoy coming out here and being with friends and family,” Casey said.
Casey’s engine was collected by some people that had saved several from scrap drives in their barn, in Pendelton, Indiana. His parents purchased it for him in 1989, for his 16th birthday. It has taken three years to restore, including fixing the engine, the front end, crank shaft, disc wheel and many other parts. Casey’s son Cole and his brother enjoy helping with the restoration of both their dad’s and grandpa’s steam engines. Cole plans on continuing the family tradition of preserving the culture. He can name all of the steam engines in his dad’s fleet.
“We help with pretty much anything we can,” Cole said “We put things together or work on the timing.”
Ted Wiant, of Laura Ohio, featured three items: a 1910 Case Threshing Machine half scale, which he built by hand; a 1910 road roller and a grain wagon. It took Wiant two years to build the threshing machine, half of which was spent collecting all of the parts. He enjoys contributing to the preservation of the farming history.
“If you don’t preserve it, it will be lost,” he said. “Most of the people coming up today, especially the younger kids, have never been on a farm or know where milk comes from.”
While the old steam engines were efficient in their day, the number of people required in the operation and the loss of them to the wars, called for modern engineering. Back in the old days, a flail, a manual threshing device consisting of a long wooden handle or staff and a shorter, free-swinging stick attached to its end, was used. The steam threshers made a considerable difference, still requiring large groups of people to complete the task.
“You had someone to run the steam engines; at least two off-loaders; a guy that watched from above and guys in the field with horses bringing the bundles back in,” Wiant said. “There were usually threshing rings, gathering farmers together to help each other. There is not enough help anymore and people stopped having 10-12 kids. They had to do something, which brought in the combine.”
According to Darke County Steam Threshers Trustee David Gibson, steam power is the main focus but it has expanded into more modern gas machines and tractors of the 1950s and 60s. Gibson exhibits his 1945 Massey Harris Tractor.
“I like the rural lifestyle and enjoy showing people who may not get a chance to see it anywhere else, how things were,” he said.
Darke County Steam Threshers Association President Joanne (Jo) Stuck, of New Weston, said the event is to promote education and return to the things that matter in life.
“We live on a farm and this is our history – the history of what made this country part of what it is today,” she said. “The hard work, the gathering of people when they threshed, the massive meals the wives cooked – it was great big gatherings where everybody helped everybody else. This is what the country needs to get back to.”
Officers of the Darke County Steam Threshers Association, Inc. include: President Joanne (Jo) Stuck, Vice-President David Laughead; Secretary Joellen Yost and Treasurer Alan Petitjean. The Trustees include: Taylor Stuck, Mike Thornhill, Jesse Shaffer, Jason Yost, Jason Overhosler (Alternate) Katina Edwards (Alternate), David Gibson, Chris Thornhill, Larry Simmons, David Shultz (stand – in), Joellen Yost, Jeff Hess and Alan Petitjean.