A shrill whistle from the steam engine would pierce
The threshing runs had started! In the early days, there were the Lee, the Elliott
and the Ishmael threshing rigs. On Sandridge "Long Charley" Boehm had a run.
Later on there were the George Ortman and Clarence Stroh runs.
The community could tell who was starting their runs, for each steam engine
had a different tone to its whistle.
As the wheat and rye fields ripened the farmers hitched the horses to the binder and cut the grain. Then came the task of shocking the bundles. There was a knack to the job so the wind didn't blow them over and so they shed the rain. Often the chores was done first thing in the morning or evening, in the cool of the day.
The women sometimes volunteered to help out.
Then came the day the thresher rig would come to your farm. As the family watched the skies for the column of black smoke or listened for the sound of the whistle, varied thoughts raced through the minds of each member.
For Dad: the long hours hot days, the back breaking work -- not only for his own grain, but the exchange work with his neighbors. For threshing was really a community venture. Hoping the harness was in good repair and the wagons would stand up under the loads. Just so the neighbor keeps a tight rein on his skiddish team and not have a run away when the pop-off sounds.
For Mom the hours all ready spent over the wood or coal stove. The many loaves of fresh baked bread, pies, and cakes. The hours spent in the garden picking and preparing the fresh vegetables. Now time to get the pots and pans on the stove and prepare the noon meal. But after dinner --- when the stacks of dirty dishes were cleaned and the kitchen was tidy again--a time to relax and chat with the neighbors, who have come to help.
For the kids: oh, what a good time summer vacation. So many smells go with threshing. The smell of the engine--the steam, the grease, the oil the coal smoke. The sun-hot straw, the sweat of the horses and the squeak of the leather. But most of all the delicious aroma from Mom's kitchen, that was heavenly. If you didn't help in the field you had to wait till the last table to partake. Then also, maybe you would be fortunate to get to ride with the boy in the pony-cart, to keep the busy men supplied with fresh cool water. The brown jugs wrapped in gunny sacks and soaked with water to keep them cooler. To see the red kerchiefs tied round the necks to help keep out the chaff. To hear the flap, flap of the big belts, then the fin of playing on the new straw stack, getting straw all through the clothes, all thoughts to be remembered and cherished through the years.
The things dreaded by the engineer were sand hills and creek bridges. On sand hills, a steady moving team of horses was hitched on the engine to help pull them over. The time comes and the rig pulls into your barnyard or field. The machinery is set so the straw blows away from machinery and men. A thresher separator could keep abut 25 men busy hauling shocks of grain with bundle wagons. Usually an uneven number was used, so one wouldn't always get the "clean" side. There was a pitcher in the field for each bundle wagon. The box wagons were used to haul grain to the elevator. In earlier days, the grain had to be sacked and or scooped into a granary.
Besides the engineer and the separator man there had to be a "clean up" man under
the feeder. Another job for the kids was to pump water for the men to "wash up"
in when they came in for dinner. Fill buckets and tubs, for lots of "splashin".
Most often the men washed up outside under a shade tree. To the hungry men. Mom's heaping table was a beautiful sight. This was the daily routine of the men during the threshing run, which lasted several weeks.
Another familiar sight -- as the train pulls into the depot at Oakford, a salesman alights ad goes to the livery stable to rent a rig. Looks around the country side until he sees a column of black smoke. The owners of the threshing rigs are always glad to see him. They are always in need of grease and oil.
In later years, the women of Oakford and New Hope Churches prepared the threshing dinners for the men. The Oakford women used their money to pay for their church basement. Despite the hard work during those old threshing days. It was a wonderful time -- a time worth remembering.
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