OLD THRESHERMAN REMINISCES

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We thank Robert Kipfer,413 West Linden, Pontiac, Illinois 61764 for sending this clipping from the Central States Threshermen Reunion Book of 1976.

This being the bicentennial year for our great country, I got to thinking about the great advances that have been made, especially during the time I have been on this earth.

I was born on a farm around the turn of the century, give or take a few years. At that time farms were smaller than they are today, but the farmer was mostly self-sufficient.

Every farmer had a herd of cattle, some hogs, a few sheep and a lot of chickens. He raised his own meat, which he butchered and cured in an old smoke house or canned. He churned his own butter and had laying hens for eggs.

On the weekend the family would go into town 'to trade' taking along their extra butter and eggs to swap for other needed items.

The farm had a big garden with potatoes and other root crops, which were stored in a root cellar, where they kept well through the winter months. The farmer also usually had an orchard for fruit. It seems like there were fewer insects in those days to spoil the fruit. The fruit was often peeled, cored and cut in half and laid out on tables in the sun to dry for storage. To keep what insects there were away, a mosquito bar was hung. A mosquito bar is a coarsly woven fabric tacked on windows in the summer to keep out mosquitos and flies.

Some farmers also had a few geese, ducks or turkeys, which they prepared for special events.

We always tried to have the corn all in the crib by Thanksgiving Day. This called for a celebration.

I remember one farmer who had a few Guinea hens, which always roosted on top of the chicken house. They were good watch dogs, according to the farmer, setting up a terrific racket if anything moved in the barnyard after dark. Their call sounded as if they were saying 'buckwheat, buckwheat!'

In the fall of the year, after Thanksgiving, we would get out the Sears-Roebuck grocery catalogue and order staples we did not grow, like flour, sugar, crackers, etc. These staples were shipped from Chicago in wooden boxes or large cloth sacks, sometimes weighing 100 pounds. We would drive the team and wagon into town to pick up the order.

Nearly every farm was surrounded by a hedge fence which was quite a chore to keep trimmed. It finally gave way to barbed wire on posts, which was quite a labor saver.

The farmers son could find extra work in the summertime, when he was not helping with the farming, by herding the neighbors' cows along the road side to graze when the pastures were short. He sometimes earned as much as ten cents a day and with that kind of money he could buy a lot of things when he got to town, which wasn't too often.

We would walk a mile and a half to school and thought nothing of it. We may have had patches on our overalls, but mom always kept them clean. I remember she always boiled them before washing them on a washboard in a tub.

One of our neighbors brought a new-fangled washer that he ran with a gasoline engine. We all had to go over and see the great marvel.

And what farm boy has not sat by an old barrel churn for an hour or so churning butter. The sweet buttermilk was worth it, if you could get a drink before Dad fed it to the hogs.

Those were the days we dream about, but would not go back to them for anything. Gone now are the fences, for three reasons: There are no more chickens, cows and other stock on the farms anymore; It was hard to keep the fence rows mowed; and the modern farmer can get an extra row of corn or beans planted where the fence row was.

We have lived from the era of the Edison Cylinder phonograph to the 'life-like' sound of a stereo component outfit; from Kitty-Hawk and the Wright brothers to a man walking on the moon; from a single row cultivator with a team of horses to a massive machine that will cultivate an acre of corn once across the field; from corn that produced 60 bushels an acre to corn that produces 200; from an old Sears catalogue in the outhouse to White Cloud bathroom tissue; from a single cylinder automobile to cars that go faster than safety allows; from a homemade cats whisker radio built around an oatmeal box to the modern color television set; from the old coal or wood burning stoves where we dressed on cold mornings to electric (soon solar) central heating for the whole house; from hanging perishables like butter in the well to the modern electric, ice dispensing refrigerator; from the smokehouse to the deep freeze; from the wash board, boiler and clothes line to the automatic washer and dryer; from binders to the combine; from the steam engine to diesel tractors nearly as big; from a school slate to the pocket computer; from mud roads to super highways; from the cook stove to the modern range; from corn husking to the combine; from corn cribs to steel bins with driers.

Farms are getting larger and so are the machines to work them. There are fewer farm houses and most of the individual farmers no longer keep all those cows, pigs and chickens. Even the Guinea hens are gone.

There are a lot less birds it seems and a lot more insects for which the farmer must spray to save his crops. Weeds, which we plowed the fields to eliminate, are now destroyed by chemicals.

It costs a heck of a lot more to farm today then it did in the good old days, but prices are higher and work is easier. The cost of a new, modern tractor is as much as a whole farm cost in the good old days.

Yes, we like to talk about the good old days, but we would not like to return to them. But why are folks so crazy about antique shops and flea markets: I just don't quite understand it all, but I still think, while doing my tour of duty here on earth, I have seen more progress than a man living in any other equal length of time on earth. What lies ahead for my descendants is hard to guess, but I think it will be good and may put us to shame for progress. We hope.