Krueger: Missing the old harvests, but only sometimes
Ah, harvest! Every year at this time takes this aging old farm boy back many, many decades to harvest on the K-farm.
Since threshing machines were very expensive back then, usually there were one or two farmers in the community who owned a rig and went to their neighbors with their machines to custom thresh for them.
There were usually five or six bundle racks with a team of horses and an operator. Plus there was a spike pitcher who roamed the fields, helping each bundle hauler load up his load of grain bundles. Each rack operator had to keep his turn at the threshing machine and was admonished if he lost his turn to unload at the machine. There was usually a rack on each side of the machine, and an extra hand in each rack helping to pitch the bundles into the hungry threshing machine.
The owner of the machine was usually the boss of the entire operation. He was responsible for the smooth operation of the entire threshing process.
The grain handling was where the youth of the farm came in. I suppose I was only 7 or 8 when I began to move the grain in the receiver wagon to keep it level in all corners. The grain was weighed before it was dumped into a hopper and came down a chute into the wagon. If the grain was thick and heavy and the bundles were thrown quickly into the machine, it was hard for a young lad to keep up with the shoveling. Of course in those days no one ever heard of aluminum scoop shovels, and it seemed as though those old iron scoop shovels weighed a ton without being full of grain.
Loading the grain from the machine was just one chore because back in those days there were no grain augers. Some farms had a conveyor device that was always broke down when you had to be back to the machine very soon. So, most of the time it was the Armstrong method that unloaded the grain trailers.
With those heavy old steel shovels it was great exercise, but very tiring. Drudgery was everywhere. My childhood friend Dwayne and I would take turns. Each one would shovel 10 scoopfuls and then the other would shovel 10 until the trailer box was empty. Of course most of the time the bin we put the grain in had a high, high wall and the grain always had to be thrown over the top of the bin. Sometimes, if we really hurried, we could take a quick dip in Dwayne’s creek before taking the trailer back to the threshing machine.
The women of the operation always brought to the field a morning lunch and an afternoon lunch. The evening meal was always well attended by some very hungry threshers. These women were the unsung heroes of the threshing operation. There was always a dozen or more hungry men who devoured vast amounts of food every evening. Could you blame them for a huge appetite? Putting in a 15-hour day in the hot sun with no breeze was an enduring chore for sure. It was always a challenge to hire enough bundle haulers to compliment the crew. More than once I recall Pa going to the jails to hire bundle haulers and bundle pitchers.
Always fun to look back — but never wanting to go back?
Gerald “Jerry” Krueger is a retired educator, coach, commercial pilot and farmer.