Threshing Days: Diary of a Farm Wife

The Ladies Page: Ms. Ethel Bomberger puts to rest the myth that farm wives had less work to do during threshing days.

1905 Hart Parr tractor

A 1905 Hart Parr tractor waiting for a friend. Courtesy of Frank Humata, Schuyler, Nebraska.

Frank Humata

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Elmer and Karl got a big laugh out of this one. Then agreed that it was too true not to laugh at. I have never lived on a farm but I have associated with farm folks enough to know that farm life is not just sitting down to a Threshing Dinner. This article is a page from Mrs. Bomberger's Diary. As you read it you may shake your head, laugh or be glad you are not a farm wife or something. Mrs. Ethel Bomberger, Sargent, Nebraska, is the lady who has written the song- "Steam Engine Threshing Days." Every steam engine family should have this excellent poem and sing-able song.

A Thresherman's wife's diary 

I'll send a page from my diary. This particular year we threshed with a tractor although the year before my husband had used his steam engine for power to thresh our own and a few neighbors jobs.

I've heard said, "Mother gets a rest while threshing in the neighborhood is going on. No men at home to cook dinner for," you know. Well, here is just a sample of how things were in the good old days (not so far back) of August, 1939. I'm sure many others can recall similar incidents.

– Ethel L. Bomberger, Sargent, Nebraska 

"There had been a noisy storm cloud during the night and we were awake for a while, so we started the day by oversleeping a half-hour. (The usual getting-up time being five o'clock).

"I first took a three-gallon pail of  water, also a three-gallon pail of feed to the young chickens. Back to the house, I started the fire in the range stove, filled the wash boiler with water to heat for the family washing, while hubby and son were getting the cows in from the pasture and tending the hogs. Then I milked three cows by hand, (hubby and son were milking too) carried two large pails of milk in from the barn to the separator on the enclosed porch, I get breakfast cooking and set the table, then a call came from outside to stand a certain place to head the horses so they couldn't run back to the pasture as they were being driven toward the barn.

"I get breakfast on the table alternately with keeping the hand-turned separator tank filled with milk and changing the pails and of course all the while keeping the fire in the range replenished every ten minutes, or more often with corn cobs.

"While the men were eating breakfast, I sew up a rip in a glove for son, get a letter ready to mail for hubby and hunt up an account book for him to write down the number of bushels of grain from the thresher in, while he is starting the tractor. He is off to thresh.

"I then watch the team for the teen-age son, that he was hooking onto the hayrack while he moved the truck so he could get to the barn to unload a jag of hay brought in from the hay field late Saturday evening. I then get a piece of baling wire and pliers to fasten the extra fork to the rack. Next, "the water jug is in the garage. Will you please fill it, Mom." That accomplished, I notice the hay door is getting over full, so I mount to the left to pitch the hay back from the door. While son is cleaning the last hay from the rack I run to the garage to get the oil can so he can oil the wheels on the rack. Then he is on his way and on time. They were to be on the job by seven o'clock."

I'll go back to the house, stir up the fire under the wash water, dress and fix breakfast for baby son and eat a few bites myself, ready to start a  days work of washing dishes and separator, doing the family wash and so forth. Who ever said 'A half a days work before breakfast,' well it still rings true on a farm. IMA 

A farm wife's recipe: Bar-B-Cue Beef Burger

1 Small Onion
1 Lb. Ground Beef
1 Teaspoon Catsup
1 Teaspoon Prepared Mustard
1 Can Chicken Gumbo Soup
Just a little salt and pepper

Cut onions up fine and brown in a little fat. Mash up ground beef then add catsup, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir a few minutes until meat is partly cooked. Then add chicken gumbo soup and simmer 20 minutes. Spoon into buns and serve hot.