Posted by: patwogan | September 5, 2008

Threshers

My Grandpa Hudiburg had a wooden leg.  I don’t know exactly what happened to cause his leg to be amputated.  I have been told that he was badly burned as a youth and that the burns never did heal properly.  I know that his leg was amputated sometime before I was born, because there is a blurb in my baby book about my being the first one to get to ride “horsie” on Grandpa’s new wooden leg.  I don’t recall the wooden leg hampering his ability to farm in any way.

Grandpa farmed with a team of horses.  All his equipment was horse-drawn and I remember among other things that he used a plow, a harrow, a corn planter, and a machine called a binder.  He had a hired man to help during the busy season, and of course, my father, uncle, and other family also helped as was the case on many farms.  Grandpa’s home place was about thirty acres and he also farmed his Mother’s place across the road.  It was another forty acres.  Not all was in crop land as there were several acres of pasture land on both farms. 

Although Kansas is known as a wheat state, Grandpa raised oats, corn, and hay.  It is the oats that I remember best because it was the oats that brought the threshers to the farm.   I know very little about farming, so my memories of this are from the perspective of a little girl.  Several things stand out in my mind.  I think that the binder cut the oats and tied it  in bundles.  These bundles were stacked in “shocks” by hand as men went along behind the binder and did this job.  The shocks were left in the fields until the threshers came.  I think the same procedure was probably followed by wheat farmers, but I don’t know that for sure.

The day the threshers came was a really exciting day.  The threshing machine was placed near the barn in the field and was powered by a tractor which had a big wheel of some kind on the side.  A big pulley drove a large belt which was attached to and powered the threshing machine.  The job of the threshing machine was to separate the oat grains from the straw.  Men with a horse-drawn wagon brought the shocks to the stationary threshing machine and somehow fed them into the machine.  Every once in a while, the big belt would come off and everything had to be stopped while it was replaced. 

The man who owned the threshing machine brought with him a crew of workers to help with the harvest.  There were also family and neighbors involved.  So there seemed to be a lot of people working.  One of my jobs was to make sure the workers had cool water to drink.  My cousins and I were busy at the cistern pumping water most of the day.  These men had to be fed, too, so the women of the family prepared large amounts of food for the noon meal. 

I really think the meal was a matter of pride with farm women as they didn’t want anybody to go away from the table hungry.  It was also a chance to show-off cooking ability to someone other than the family.  I remember the dinners prepared for threshers were always delicious.  Of course, there was always fried chicken, lots of vegetables, and many, many different kinds of desserts.  I loved threshing day!   Usually plank tables were set up in the yard in the shade of a large elm tree and it was like a great big picnic.  People were not fed on paper plates, but on real dishes. As it was always hot, there was iced tea and once in a while lemonade for the beverages.   

I also remember a couple of things about harvest.  There was always the possibility that there might be snakes under the shocks, so we kids were warned to stay away.  I now wonder is this wasn’t a good way to make sure we weren’t in the way of the dangerous machinery and also not “under foot” as people were working.  It was also a time of oat bugs.  I don’t know what oat bugs really were, but they were tiny little bugs that came in through the screens and were really pests.

As the threshing machine did its job of separating the grain from the stems, or straw, it blew the straw into a giant straw stack.  A straw stack is usually labeled a haystack, but hay is different from straw.  Anyway, it was really fun to play on the straw stack, but it seems to me that we were only allowed to play on it a short time.  Somehow, it was dangerous to play there without supervision and I really don’t know why.  Maybe again, it was a way to keep us from scattering the straw all over the place.  That makes sense to me now.  The straw was put in the “hay-mow” of the barn and used for bedding for livestock and placed in the chicken nests.  It was probably used for mulch around Grandma’s garden, too.  I am sure that none of it was wasted because wasting things was not tolerated on the farm.  Everything had a use.  I am sure that the oats were used for feed for the horses.  It was stored in graineries in the barn.  The finer details of the harvest were not something I was interested in at the time. 

This must have been a very social time for all, and also a time of hard work.  All without the modern conveniences we have on farms today.  Aren’t we all blessed!

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Responses

  1. Yes, we are blessed. I cannot imagine working so hard. And, with no air conditioning. Cooking everything during the hottest part of the summer. I am a weenie for sure!
    A good story that puts our easy, twenty-first century life in perspective.
    Thank you.

  2. I totally agree with Nella on this one. I admire the hard work that happened back then. Farm work, period, is difficult work, but without any of the modern conveniences of today, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be! I guess what you don’t know won’t hurt you. They didn’t know any better, so they just dealt with it.

  3. Whats interesting to me is the food was all “organic” everything was recycled and repurposed and there was very little waste. And the younger generations today think this is something new.


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