Amusing Incidents Of My Threshing Days

12 hp Russell engine

12 hp Russell engine serial No. 14566. Reconditioned by Clinton Spencer of 1721 Plumb St., Newton, Kansas. Owner of the 1897 Model Case Agitator. Clinton on the engine. Picture taken at the threshing bee at Newton, September, 1960.

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Route 3, Muncy, Pennsylvania

What to do, Dad didn't know. Dick was prancing and dancing with his ears sticking up like pins. He knew he couldn't turn around and go back, and he wouldn't dare tie him and walk back even if there was a hitching post near because the engine was still bearing down on them. Finally he saw a small boy coming on the run with the hat and, after rewarding him for his good deed, Dick and Dad sped swiftly on, the hat jammed down to his ears so there would be no repeat performance. The following day the 'Big Heathen' stood proudly alongside of his own engine while threshing in the field, as cool-headed and brotherly as ever.

Dad was one of those determined, self-willed men who would take no warning or advice from anyone, not even himself. He had been warned many times never to touch a sparkplug while the engine was running. To him such advice was mere chaff! One day just as I started the engine he very deliberately took hold of the nut on top of the plug to see if it was tight, and instantly he gave a terrific jump, almost swallowing his tobacco. He looked around wildly and wanted to know where that -dog was that bit him in both heels just now.

He was almost ready to remove his shoes and socks to show the teeth marks - but what was the use - HE knew they were there. However, he never touched another spark-plug while the engine was running.

One summer day we were doing a big job of threshing on a farm where the barnyard had been scraped and cleaned for the straw-stack. Only the night before a heavy downpour of rain had filled all the holes and depressions with water, some places six or seven inches deep. The forenoon's threshing had covered the pools over with dust and chaff so that the yard looked dry and level.

After dinner the farmer asked Dad to take a look at his stack and see if he had it big enough and started right. Fingering a chew of tobacco from his pouch, Dad started to walk around the stack, looking it over, when suddenly he went H-m-m-m, lifting his feet high and wide, and walked right through the deepest of the pools to get to dry ground amid loud gaw - faws of laughter from the men. He walked out of the barnyard saying not a word about how the stack was being built - good, bad or indifferent.

Whenever we got anywhere near town we always had a good crowd of on-lookers both young and old, and especially youngsters. One day we were to do a job of oats threshing inside the borough limits. I went on ahead of the outfit to see where we were to set up, and as I parked the car in front of the house the housewife was talking to another lady and I heard her say, 'Oh, by the way, we're going to have a picnic here this afternoon. The threshers are coming and all the kids in town are going to be here.'

She didn't stretch that statement one bit! By the time we were in operation I never saw such a mob of youngsters either on or off a school ground. There were well-dressed boys and girls, and some not so well-dressed -some boys with cords over their shoulders to hold their ragged trousers in place. These were the boys most interested in the straw gushing from the stacker.

One of them approached me and asked, 'Hey, Mister, dare we go in that straw and play?'

I said, 'You bet you can. The boy that goes in there and stands in the midst of that stream of straw gets a dime!' That banter cost me just forty cents, for there were four of them took turns standing right in it squealing with delight to the amusement of all the others watching them.

Only a year ago during deer hunting season, a young hunter met me on our own farm and, as he approached me, he called me by name and said, 'Long time, no see.'

When he saw my look of wonderment he said, 'I suppose you don't know me. Do you remember the time you gave some boys a dime apiece for standing under your wind stacker? Well, I was one of them. You don't look a bit different now than you did then except you are wearing different glasses!' Before we left each other I said, 'Do you recall what you did with your dime?' With a wide grin on his face he said, 'Two bottles of birch pop.'

On another occasion we were threshing for a young farmer who lived inside of the borough, and whose nick name was 'Beany'. We were set in an alley and blowing the straw up in the loft of his barn with a seventy-year-old man taking care of the straw all alone. It was big long rye, very dry and brittle, and going through pretty fast, and by the time we were nearing the end of the job the old fellow couldn't quite keep up. Finally the straw piled up to the stacker nozzle too quick for him and started to choke up.

At the first choking sound I hurried and removed the short section of pipe below the deck and left the fan and machine clear itself, but the main stacker pipe was jammed full of ground-up straw and chaff, and while I was replacing the lower section the old fellow got directly in line with hood pushing away the pile when suddenly there was a 'poof and a splash of straw and dust that completely enveloped him.

He let out a wild bedlam of profanity that could be heard well above the noise of the empty running machine. Beany was helping with the bagging and when he heard the roar from above he put his hands to his mouth and called up, 'What did you say, Pap?'

Pap glared down with blazing eyes and consigned him to a certain hot place where no one. cares to go, and dug the straw and chaff from his neck and up-turned sleeves, and retrieved his battered felt hat.

I remarked to Beany that I'd better keep my distance from the old fellow and he said, 'ho-ho-ho, don't pay any attention to him - he's all bark and no bite!'

Early one October morning we were going to thresh at a lone barn that stood a short distance from the Susquehanna Trail. It was one of those times that the threshing hands and the outfit all arrived at exactly the same time. I was always known for making quick sets, and as I circled in front of the barn the doors were thrown open. I turned the engine and coupled, pushed in, then backed into the belt, and in a few minutes we were ready to go.

The stacker was pointed into a pile of old straw and as the machine reached its speed the men waved wildly and yelled, 'Stop, stop'. As soon as the machine died down the straw-pile kept on moving until a young man and woman emerged from it, slid down to the floor and walked out with down-cast faces. He was dressed in blue denim overalls and black coat, and she had on a much soiled gingham dress, brown sweater, white muddy oxfords, heels out of her stockings and plenty of chaff in her bobbed hair. As they walked out of the barn the men all gaped at each other in amazement and watched them go.

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