Reprinted with permission from McDonald County News Gazette. Submitted by Larry D. Van DeMark, 209 N. Grimes, Carl Junction, Missouri 64834.
In my younger days the threshing season was very exciting for the children to see the big steam engine pull the separator. My daddy and Cams' daddy both had an engine and separator. The men cut the grain wheat and oats with a binder pulled by two horses. The grain was shocked in the field until later, then the threshing machine pulled into the community.
The men traded help. There were four to six bundle wagons needed to haul the bundles to separator. It took two men to feed the separator and two wagons to catch grain and haul to the barn or granary. If six-bundle wagons were used it took three men in the field to pitch bundles on the wagon, a man on the engine and a man to run the separator. If an all wood steam engine was used there was a water man who hauled water in a wooden tank from the creeks. He was called 'water monkey'. That was my uncle, Bill Collings.
Everything was pulled by horses or mules. The exciting thing was when a team ran away scattering bundles.
The ladies cooked old-fashioned dinners on wood cook stoves. It really was hot in the kitchen. There was no electricity those days, no ice water, just well water to drink.
The ladies, like the men, traded cooking thrashing dinners. Oh, my, think about that good brown chicken fried just so-so, good vegetables cooked fresh out of the garden, those delicious cakes and pies make anybody hungry thinking about it. The men would eat so much till afternoon they said they couldn't hardly work for a while.
The children could watch those big long belts roll from engine to separator and hear the engine pop off or blow the whistle when it had enough steam. Us kids loved to lick the cake bowl where the cake was mixed (old fashioned mix, no store bought mixes) and smell that good light bread baked the day before to have plenty for the threshing crew. There would be 12 or 14 men, maybe more, five or six ladies, and then us kids, six, eight or ten of us. There always was enough for all to eat.
When the whistle blew during the day it meant for the water monkey to hurry, they needed water in the engine. If he wasn't ready, he better get ready, because the horses knew the time to go and they would start out to the creek for the machine. He had to pump the water with a hand pump, 100 gallons! Yes, all was hard work but that was the only way people had to do it them good old days.
Young folks nowadays don't know what older folks had to do. Nowadays everything is electric power.
The men came in at noon, fed their horses bundle-oats, and watered them at the well or pond. We drew water in old wooden buckets. There was a man who carried water in stone jugs to fields for working men to drink. If he had a horse, he rode; if not, he walked to each wagon. Sure kept him busy!