Incidents On The Farm

Threshing crew

John B. Mulford Jr., Penrith Farm, 8894 Upper Lake Road, Lodi, New York 14860, sent this photograph.

John B. Mulford

Content Tools

419 E. Church Street, Stevens, Pennsylvania 17578

When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my older brothers needed somewhere to work. Perhaps at the neighbors tobacco cutting or haying. Dad had cut hay and put most in the barn the day before. Then, with only two or three loads left, he said, 'Dan, you and I will have to get that hay in today. Think we can do it with John to ride the horse?'

We put up the hay loose, no bales. First we pulled the wagon in front of the hay loader. Follow the windrow hay comes up the chute, all of you old timers remember. Dad then forks the hay evenly over the wagon till full. Going down grade Dad yelled, 'Not so fast, I can't keep up!'

I, 12 or so, thought I was a man, but those big draft horses were hard to hold. I'm holding as hard as I can. Who a, Bill, steady Fred, not so fast, we are burying Dad in the hay! Finally the wagon is full.

Now to the barn. Our bam had a track and hay hook track along the very peak inside the roof. There was a stop catch on the track. You park the wagon under the stop, pull the hay hook with the trip rope a good tug and slam into the stop. Click, and down comes the hay hook. Now open the hook, set the four prongs into the hay, stump on them to set them in good. Now, you yell 'Okay.' Grab the trip rope and stand back. This complete contraption was mounted with a hay rope about 11/4' hemp with pulley arrangement leading outside. There we had one or two horses to pull the rope.

This rope goes from the horses into the barn via pulleys up the frame to the end of the track in the peak of the barn. Then to the stop, down to hook on the wagon and back up to the carriage. When you yell, 'okay,' the horses pull the rope. The rope pulls the hook up from wagon with a load of hay up to the stop catch. A loud click and where away goes the hay to the loft.

You gently feed the trip rope through your hands till the hay is about in the center of the loft. Yank the trip rope, and dump the hay. From four to six hooks full per wagon load. You need a man in the loft to spread the hay evenly over the floor. I was too small to move all that hay as it came off the hook. So, Dad said, 'Dan, you man the hook and I will spread the hay.'

I was proud to be trusted with this important job! Now John, about 10 years old, rides the horses to pull the hay rope. I stump the prongs and yell 'Okay, John, go.'

All goes well first load. Second load as we are unloading, some neighbors came to visit. They just stand and watch 'til we are finished.

But, John began to clown on the horse's back. Now this horse is gentle as can be, but this is too much! Horse takes off, and I, in the act of opening the hook, got caught. You see as the rope pulls, it closes the hook. When said horse took off, the hook closed on my leg.

Up I go, upside down, arms waving and me yelling. Up about six or eight feet off the wagon. Good old John, after the mischief, did not panic.

'Stop old Tony, back Tony! Back Tony! Back.' Well, Tony never backed at that rope before, always go the end and turn around. So this little 10 year old tugging at the bridle doesn't really mean a lot to the horse and he just stands still. I'm yelling, 'Back that horse,' slowly swinging by my leg.

Finally, back one foot, then two feet, finally I can reach the hay. Back that horse you little begger, so I can get loose. Finally, slack in the rope. Stand up and in a manly voice I hear, 'John, you control that horse, we got haying to do!'

Finished the load, Dad climbs down. What was all the yelling about? Dad inspects my leg. Puncture wound about three inches long inside the leg, just above the knee, bleeding freely. Looks clean, you can move leg okay? Bandage leg. Back to work and play. Never went to a doctor. It healed up okay. Forgive John in about three years.

Well boys, clean the barn, the threshers are coming soon. What excitement! Sweep up the barn floor. Clean the granary. Clean up the straw loft.

As I grew older, I got to go with the threshing ring. Only about six farmers in the community used threshers, as the combine is so much faster. I was too late to use steam for threshing-we used tractors for power. I remember a 44 Massey and an old Caterpillar. Don't know what size.

We had a good sized barn. Dad built a chicken house in the barn. Framed out the front with fence rails covered with hay and straw. Cut windows in the front and side of the barn. Presto, a chicken house under the hay loft and the straw loft. While threshing, we generally would blow the straw into the loft. We'd run a horse on the straw to compact it. I was in charge of the blower. Now put lots of straw over the chicken house before you run the horse over it. That should be enough. Giddap, Bill, tramp down that straw.

You guessed it, a fence rail broke and Bill disappeared. Climbed down, ran into the chicken house. There sat Bill looking kinda bewildered. Come on, Bill let's get out of here. The chickens crowded in the far corner. Bill gets up, had to keep his head down as the ceiling was low. Out the door like a big pet dog.

Back into the loft to tramp down more straw. When the straw loft was full, we'd pulled down a large pile of straw. We'd plead, beg and push the horse to the edge. He'd kinda sit down in the back, brace his front legs out front and slide down like a kid on a sliding board, thump landing, jump up, snort and shake himself, then just trot down to the stable. This always amazed me as it's 14 or 16 feet high.

Highlight of the year: Dad went to get steamer coal to steam tobacco beds. Soon a rumble and a puffing come up the road, turn into the drive. I was in dreamland! The engineer let me pull the whistle cord loud and long. The smell and hiss looking at that Frick, I was hypnotized. Dad did run the Frick from 12:00 midnight till 12:00 noon. Henry ran from noon till midnight. Steaming plant beds for tobacco seedlings, four to five weeks, 24-hours, six days a week-always stop for Sundays. Perhaps Saturday 4:00 or so. Began again Monday morning at 6:00.

Well this kid is going to have a steam engine when I get big. Lost Dad when I was 14 years old. He had a heart attack at age 49. Gone like a summer season. I still have lots of memories of him. When I was about 20 years old, I found an 8VS x 10 Frick for $1,700.00. Restored in good shape. No way could I afford $1,700.00 at the time. Put the steam engine on the shelf, I met this girl, even more exciting than a steam engine!

After I ran after her for a couple of years, she gave up and said yes. Evelyn Sweigart and Daniel Gehman married July 2, 1966. We have two children, Heidi, now married, age 22 and Daniel Earl, age 14, this week. Have one granddaughter born January 4, 1990, named Virginia. We had the usual American Dream struggle. I worked in construction till 1977, then started the wood shop. Self-employed, finally. Good year, bad year, and so it goes.

A threshing crew near Millport, New York in 1896.

But finally, I bought a steam engine in 1987, a portable Frick. Sold it in 1988 to get a traction engine-

20 HP Minneapolis. Sold it in 1989 to help buy some real estate. Sold some of the real estate and now we have four steam engines: 22 HP Keck Gonnerman, good condition; 45 Model Case 65, good condition; 20 HP Aultman Taylor, basket case; and a 6 HP Model F Peerless portable, now restoring. Used the Keck to fill silo this fall which was fun and hard work. This steam engine hobby is not all that easy but very rewarding. You meet the nicest people!