THE LONELY THRESHER.

Huber Engine

This picture of a Huber, 10 HP, No. 6647, was taken in 1903. Courtesy of Mr. Roy Conn, R. D. 6, Wooster, Ohio 44691

Roy Conn

Content Tools

Elbow Lake, Minnesota 56531

(I found this story quite interesting and if you have any young folks in your home - believe they will enjoy it. Thank you Dr. Ostergaard, for taking your time to write it. - Doc was a medical missionary to India some years ago.)-Anna Mae

'Gran'pa tell us a story, please.'

Thirteen year old Selma and her twin brother, Mike, tired of playing monopoly, wondered what to do next.

Their grandfather lay down the book he was reading. 'I might do just that,' he said, 'if you will be quiet and listen.'

'We will,' choursed the twins.

'All right, Selma you sit here with me so Mike can't tease you.'

Grandpa settled comfortably among the pillows on the sofa and began the story-----

It was the year I turned fourteen. I had hired out to a farmer by the name Ole Lee for 15 dollars a month. You probably remember that my father owned a small hardware store in Sandby, South Dakota. Well, there wasn't enough for us kids to do there, so as we got old enough we had to find jobs.

Ole was a good farmer and hard worker. Promptly at 4:20 every morning except Sunday his alarm went off and he called Phil, his oldest son, and me. There was no goofing off either; we were up and dressed in two jerks.

I would get on the back of the old pony, Jep, and fetch the cows from the pasture. The others started feeding and harnessing the horses. There were no tractors at that time. After chores were done, we had breakfast and then Phil and I hitched up to the cultivators. We were usually in the field by 7 o'clock.

Cultivating, or 'plowing' corn, as it was called, occupied the first part of the summer. Then came haying and after that harvesting.

Although harvest time was interesting, we all looked forward to threshing. For then there would be bustling and excitment and many people around. Eight to ten farmers went together to help each other. The threshing machine would then go to each farm in turn until everyone had his grain threshed. In that way the farmers themselves furnished most of the labor, and only a few extra men had to be hired.

These extra hands were usually picked from itinerant workers, hoboes, college students and others whose background was never revealed. With several such different personalities working together, sometimes clashes occured, but usually not of a serious nature.

Our place was first on the run. Three days before threshing was to begin, a stranger came looking for a job. He was of medium height, a strong, heavy-muscled man of middle age. Although his face usually wore a comradely smile, his small, wary eyes had a shifty, watchful look, as if he feared someone would sneak up behind him and stab him in the back.

What marked him from anyone I had ever seen before was his fluent and profuse use of profanity. He could and did swear eloquently in both Scandavian and English. Very few sentences escaped his lips without several cuss words. Not in an angry way, understand, but mixed in with even the friendliest greetings.

When he first met me, he exclaimed: 'Well, if there ain't a fine young lad,' and exploded into several strong oaths. 'Put it there.' He held out his hand for me to shake.

I put down the two pails of water I was carrying to the hogs but couldn't say a word. There was something about him that fascinated, and at the time, repelled me. Something like the bird feels, I think, when hypnotized by a snake before being devoured.

He called himself Henry 'Hank' Jensen, which probably wasn't his right name. The grape-vine had it that he was a boot-legger from Omaha and that the cops there were looking for him.

The next forenoon another man applied for work. He was hired at once as a water-monkey and sent to the farmer who owned the threshing rig.

The third applicant arrived that afternoon. He was a young man, probably 22 or 23, clean cut, quiet, with an engaging smile. I was shoveling corn from the bin into a wheelbarrow to haul over to the pig-pen when he came and said: 'Can you tell me where I can find the boss?'

I told him Ole was over by the barn talking to some men. When I started to wheel my load of corn away I got stuck in a mud-hole and nearly tipped over. The new man saw my trouble and came back and helped me push the heavy load way over to my destination.

I thanked him, and he asked what my name was.

'Ted,' I answered.

'Ted for Theodore, I'll bet. A good name. Do you know what it means?'

I shook my head.

'It means 'gift of God,'' he said and smiled. 'Be sure you live up to it.'

I looked at him wonderingly as he walked away.

That evening Phil told me the young man had been hired to run a bundle team. His name was Jerry Sathre and he was a college student, out to earn money to continue his studies.

I'll never forget when Jerry and Hank met each other the next forenoon. Hank, loud and out-going as always, slapped him on the back and exclaimed, 'The new man. Glad to meet you by---.' He swore loudly.

Jerry stood dazed, as if someone had spit in his face. Then he said slowly: 'Man, do you know that the God whose name you take in vain is the best friend you've got?'

Now it was hank's turn to be thunderstruck. For once his boldness tailed him, he slunk away without saying a word.

That day towards evening the threshing rig pulled in. A big, black steam engine hauling a large, clumsy, red-painted grain separator. Hooked on behind that was the bunk-house, which provided sleeping quarters for the extra men.

When we had finished breakfast the next morning, the engineer and separator-tender had the rig all set up and ready. The engine, belching clouds of black smoke, was placed about 75 feet from the separator, a huge belt running from its drive wheel to a pulley on the other machine. The long, cylindrical straw blower stuck out behind the separator like an enormous snorkel.

Eight bundle teams, each consisting of a hay-rack pulled by two horses, were in the field loading up. The water-monkey, who hauled water to the engine, was busy pumping water from his tank on wheels into the engine's water container.

Soon the first two loads of bundles came in and pulled up, one to each side of the separator. The engineer opened the throttle, the engine snorted and puffed, the large belt flapped a couple of times and then moved steadily, the wheels on the separator whirred, the men began pitching bundles into its greedy maw and the first day of threshing had begun.

Although I had done a man's work all summer, I was not considered old enough to handle a bundle team alone. I was to help wherever needed, shoveling wheat in the wagons, running errands and, if time permitted, help pitch bundles. The whole thing was very exciting and I enjoyed it immensely.

Jerry and Hank each ran a bundle team. Hank didn't know much about threshing but soon caught on. Jerry knew what to do but tired easily as he wasn't used to hard work. So quite often I'd climb onto his load and give him a rest. He seemed to appreciate that. He looked lonely and, as he didn't mix much with the other men, liked to have someone to talk with when opportunity offered.

Once I went with him out to the field to load up. With two of us pitching, we could take it easy.

'What do you plan to do when you grow up?' he asked me.

'I'm going to be a doctor,' I answered.

'A doctor!' he exclaimed. 'How did you ever decide that?'

'Dunno. I decided several years ago.'

I wanted to ask him what he was studying at college but didn't dare. So I said, 'Are you going to college?'

'No,' he said. 'I've finished college. Now I'm attending the Seminary.'

Seeing I didn't understand what he meant, he added, 'I'm studying to become a minister.'

Then I realized why he had talked to Hank the way he did. But anyhow it seemed a pretty courageous thing to do.

'Ted,' he continued, leaning on his pitchfork, 'did you ever hear of men and women going out to foreign countries like India and Africa as missionaries?'

Well I had, but not a great deal.

'When I finish the Sem., I'm going to India as a missionary.'

I looked at him in surprise. 'Why?'

'Because the people there don't know the true God or Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Someone has to go out and tell them the Good News.'

I had nothing to say to that.

'And,' he continued, 'they suffer much from many diseases.' He looked at me intently. 'Maybe some day when you become a doctor you'll go out and heal their sick people and bring the Gospel to them in that way.'

We had finished loading up and drove back to the threshing machine.

That day, the work went smoothly, without a stop except for the usual hour at noon. The whole gang of about 20 men had dinner and supper at our place, besides lunch forenoon and afternoon. And did they ever eat! You've heard the saying 'he ate like a thresher'. Well, that's no joke. Meat, potatoes, gravy, bread, butter, several kinds of vegetables, pickles, jam pies, cake, coffee, milk. It was a regular banquet. But they worked hard, too.

The next day also went without a hitch. At night-fall, there was only a half day's threshing left at my boss's place. But that night a bank of black clouds appeared in the west and before bed-time a thunder shower hit us. It didn't rain much, but enough so there'd be no threshing the next forenoon at least.

Because of the rain the farmers who hauled bundles didn't show up the next morning. Only the extra help were there and they had no work to do.

I finished my morning chores and seeing no-one around, wandered up to the bunk-house. I looked inside. The men were there, a poker game in progress.

They had fashioned a table out of two grocery boxes set on end, with a suit case for table top. Other boxes and suit cases served as seats. Phil was there and three other men, one of them Hank. Jerry was lying in an upper bunk reading his Bible. He greeted me when I came in.

I went over and watched them play, standing next to Hank. It seemed that he was winning as he had the largest stack of coins in front of him. While I stood there he raked in some more. Cursing gleefully he said: 'Ted, you're a good boy. Here, take this.' He handed me a quarter from his winnings.

That was more than Jerry could stand. He jumped down from his bunk and walked toward the door, beckoning me to follow him. Outside he said to me in an earnest voice: 'Ted, this is no place for you. No good comes to those who keep that kind of company.'

The sun shone brightly all forenoon and by one o'clock the grain was dry enough to thresh. We finished at Ole's place that evening and I never saw Jerry or Hank again. . . .

Grandpa stopped, his story ended.

Mike and Selma had been very quiet and attentive. Now Mike heaved a big sigh and said: 'Grandpa, did you know then that you were going to become a medical missionary?'

'No, not the slightest idea.'

'Grand'pa,' ventured Selma, 'Maybe Jerry planted a seed without you realizing it, and later it took root and grew?'

'Could be,' admitted grandpa, 'But I wish that Jerry somehow could know that I went to India to bring

healing to the sick, as he suggested.' 'Maybe he does,' said Mike softly. Selma nodded her head in agreement.