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Published September 26, 2008, 12:00 AM

Fresh face for old threshers

Valley City man takes joy in ag projects
Gordon Reiten is not taking retirement sitting down.

By: Tracy Frank, The Forum

Hastings, N.D.

Gordon Reiten is not taking retirement sitting down.

In addition to driving tractor for a friend and doing yard work for his son, the retired farmer from Valley City restores old grain separators.

“I found out sitting around town didn’t agree with me,” Reiten said.

Reiten retired five years ago and in that time has restored four grain separators, or threshing machines, as they’re commonly called. He finished his most recent machine about a month ago.

The threshers, which were once used to separate the kernel of wheat from the chaff, are between 50 and 100 years old.

He finds them in tree rows and on old farmsteads.

“They were all just old, rusty hulks when I found them,” Reiten said.

Now, they’re gleaming remembrances of agricultural history.

“There are a lot of threshing machines that are sitting back in trees or behind abandoned buildings that are just falling apart. It is a good piece of our heritage and it’s good that there’s somebody who’s able to take the time and kind of bring them back to life,” said Bruce Reiten, Gordon Reiten’s son.

Two of the machines were in such bad shape that Reiten had to find two more to piece them together into restorable machines.

“I’ve always been interested in old farm equipment,” he said.

The threshers are displayed on the farm Reiten grew up on, where his son and son’s family live.

It’s along Highway 1 near Hastings, about 15 miles south of the Oakes interchange on Interstate 94, just past Valley City.

The machines draw occasional sightseers. A man stopped to take pictures of the restored threshers earlier this week.

Reiten tries to use the original paint colors and decals, which can be hard to find. If he can’t find them, he has them custom-made.

When he restores a thresher, Reiten first scrapes it to get the rust off. Then he sprays it with aluminum paint.

He covers it with “as many Fargo Forums as I can find,” so he doesn’t get paint on the silver panels before painting the rest, he said.

Reiten then adds detailing around the panels and the decals.

The process usually takes all summer to complete in his spare time. He estimates he spends about a month working on one thresher.

“It’s a good pastime,” he said.

He doesn’t have any work on separators lined up for next year, but he said if somebody has a John Deere or Minneapolis threshing machine, he would take it off their hands.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526