Milling Around

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Published on: Jan. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

Russ Noah didn't plan to accumulate one of the finest privately owned exhibits of forestry artifacts in Missouri. "My collection started accidentally," says the 74-year-old retired forester from Eminence. His love of antiques began with family household items and furniture that he inherited. At auctions, he picked up old household and farming items that fascinated him, such as a Maytag washing machine that ran on gasoline, numerous wood stoves, a rope bed, feather mattresses, sheep shears and grinders-anything that needed tinkering to make it useable again.

One day an old steam boiler and engine caught his eye. "That's what started the ball rolling on collecting forestry equipment," Noah says. Today that steam boiler can be stoked to run the up-and-down sawmill Noah built in his backyard (see sidebar). If he doesn't feel like gathering wood for the boiler, he could always back up a 1922 Fordson tractor, hook it up to the mill, start it with the hand crank and let it rip.

His career as a forester provided Noah with the expertise and the opportunity to collect, restore and preserve equipment that helped build Missouri's logging industry. While pursuing a two-year forestry program at the University of Missouri in Columbia, he spent the summer working for the U.S. Forest Service in California's fir, spruce and pine forests.

During World War II, he left school and applied for the draft, but was deferred. Instead of joining the armed forces, he worked for the U.S. Forest Service in northeast Washington and for the National Park Service in Yellowstone, where he spent two winters and three summers.

"I made my living one winter on snowshoes and skis," Noah says. His job was to keep trappers from illegally taking animals in the park. "I went through often enough to see any fresh tracks in the snow." In the fall, his job was to protect the animals in the park from illegal hunting. These duties allowed him to travel a lot of the backcountry on foot and horseback. "I got to see wilderness areas before they were designated wilderness areas," he says.

After the war, Noah went to work for the Conservation Department at Ellington and Doniphan, fighting fires. "I often thought the whole world was on fire," he says. "Sometimes it looked like the fire went on forever, and a lot of the forests did burn in those days."

In 1951, he took a job with Pioneer Forest Inc., where

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