Tales from the Past: Note found on thresher traced to World War II vet in 1992

Jacob Smith • Updated Mar 8, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Several weeks ago, I learned from retired Col. Jim Henderson and Bill Schordorf that Wilson County played a huge part in the training of World War II soldiers, which, in part, is what drew me to this story from the March 5, 1992 edition of The Democrat. 

An abandoned thresher, retired on a farm near the Bellwood community in the mid-1940s, was credited in 1992 as reviving a friendship between Wilson County and a World War II soldier once stationed here. 

“He remembered a lot of things about Wilson County, but the first thing he told me that he remembered best was how friendly the people were here,” Stratton Bone said, recalling a recent telephone conversation between himself and Cletus J. Annen. 

Annen was stationed near Lebanon during military training maneuvers almost 50 years prior. 

Bone, then a member of the Wilson County Commission and one of several promoting a special 50-year reunion for veterans stationed in Wilson County during World War II, said he recently discovered Annen’s name scratched on the side of an old thresher he found on his farm. 

The thresher, covered in honeysuckle vines, has apparently been idle for years, according to Bone. 

“I started pulling some of the weeds and vines off the old machine, and when I did I discovered what appeared to be some writing in longhand on one side. 

“It was hard to make out exactly what had been written, but I finally figured out that it was a man’s name, a town in Oregon, his military organization and the date, ‘Nov. 4, 1943.’”

Bone said the name inscribed on the thresher was that of a Pvt. Cletus J. Annen. He had listed his hometown as Mount Angel, Oregon and had added a line to his message that said only “write me Bud.”

Overcome by curiosity, Bone headed for the house and decided to try and find the author of the inscription. He placed a call to Mount Angel and requested Annen’s phone number. 

The operator responded there was not a listing for a Cletus J. Annen but said she did have a listing for a C.J. Annen. 

Taking the phone number, Bone placed his call. It was late afternoon here and mid-afternoon in Oregon. 

A woman answered the phone, and Bone began his inquiry as to whether she knew Annen. 

He explained to her the situation that led him to calling, and finally Bone said she asked, “Would you like to speak with Cletus yourself? He’s here but outside at the time. I’ll take the phone out to him.”

“It was amazing,” as Bone describes his ensuing telephone conversation. 

“This man was here 50 years ago, and yet he remembered many of his experiences while living here.

“He talked about eating homemade biscuits baked in the kitchens of neighboring homes where he was camped. He said he had the opportunity to go into Nashville a few times and remembered Lebanon was close to Nashville.”

It’s pretty amazing a small note transcribed on an abandoned thresher could lead to recap so many memories. 

Jacob Smith is a staff writer for The Democrat. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @wilsonnewsroom.

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