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The dirtiest job
Mr. Foulk had built a large sheet metal funnel-like affair around the feed chamber of his baler and the straw was blown directly from the thresher into the baler. It still took a man to keep the straw fed properly, as well as a man on either side of the bale chamber to poke and tie the wires with which the bales were bound. The men on the baler had probably the dirtiest jobs and always ended up with black faces and lots of chaff down their necks.
Each completed bale was weighed on a platform scale and the weight was recorded in pencil on a small square of pasteboard slipped under one of the wires at the end of the bale. Mom and us kids cut all those squares ahead of time out of empty cereal boxes. The bales weighed about 100 to 120 pounds and it took several men to stack them in the barnyard. Much of the straw was sold on the spot to a hay and straw dealer, who hauled it away on his truck.
The last two or three years we threshed, the grain wasn’t first hauled into the barn. The separator was set up in a central field and shocks were gathered up by tractor buck rakes and brought to the thresher. This eliminated all the time and labor involved in loading, hauling, unloading and stacking sheaves in the barn, as well as saving the grain that was inevitably knocked out of the heads by multiple handling.
Help and help alike
I don’t know how many men it took to do the threshing but I’d estimate 20 or 25. Most of these were neighboring farmers who came to help us, just as we helped them with their threshing. Dad hired some help as well. One year I found one of them, a teenage neighbor boy, sleeping during the afternoon when he should have been working. Full of my own importance, I ran to tell Dad and ask him what he was going to do. I guess I expected an angry scene with the guy getting fired, but Dad just said he wouldn’t ask the offender back again next year and, as far as I know, he was paid off as though nothing had happened.
Most years it took two days to complete the threshing, and my mother and aunt had a tremendous job feeding all those hungry men. I know they spent several days getting ready for the ordeal, but I didn’t pay much attention to these preparations and don’t recall the details. I’m sure the womenfolk were mighty thankful when a custom combine operator showed up in the summer of 1948 and threshing days were a thing of the past.
Even though threshing was hard, hot, dirty work, I still look back on those days with fondness and wish I could relive them. Well, maybe just once. FCSam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact Sam by e-mail at email@example.com.
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