Threshing in France

Content Tools

204 East Cass Street, St. Johns, Michigan, 48879

I don't remember ever seeing anything in the Album about threshing in France during the first world war. Most likely some of the readers of the Album were in the army the same time that I was. At this time we were in a small town of a few thousand people, Cosne.

We took a walk out in the country this morning, I mean about 10 o'clock, and coming back in, here sat a threshing rig a block from Main Street. I couldn't stop just then as I was with a bunch and as soon as we fell out, I walked right back to the machine to look it over.

What got me as we walked by, the straw was coming out whole and was being tied back into bundles with the same willow bands it was tied up in the first place. As it left the straw rack in the machine it slid down another rack attached to it with a bench like for the men to walk in and get an arm full and tie into bundles again.

The first thing I did when I got back to the machine was to climb on top and look the cyl. over and it had no teeth. It was a flail-like cyl. like the old Allis-Chalmers combine, just angle iron but no rubber on it like the Chalmers had.

It was a good thing that I went right back when I did as they had gone to dinner so I could take my time to it. The separator looked a good deal like the ole Birdsall clover huller, like the one we had and the front of the feeder was printed, first prize, 1900 Paris exposition, and this was 1918 in August. The chaff was blown out of the front end, the straw came out the rear and it had a recleaner a good deal like the Birdsall had and it did a perfect job and the biggest red kernel wheat I'd ever seen.

It was run by a what I guessed was about a 10-12 horse portable steam engine with a big balled fly governor and it ran just swell, the whole machine did! And you know everybody lived in town and it all was brought into town and in the barn, and was wheeled out to the machine in a wheelbarrow and then back in again as the livestock were kept there too. Us guys would help a while and then out came the wine, vin blank, or vin roughe. That red wine or white wine but no cognac, that was higher priced.

Some of the farmers had their own little machine up in the second story of the barn and was about 18 inches wide and was powered with a horse down below, going in a circle. Everything went down below and the straw was forked out and the grain and chaff was dropped down in the wind and separated that way. That was 55 years ago and I imagine they have combines now the same as we have. I remember writing to my brother at the time, imagine them threshing without teeth in the cylinder. He was running our rig while I was in the army trying to make the world safe for democracy.

I was a motorcycle driver in the Veterinary Corps. We had a million horses then, or so it seemed anyway and we won that war with horses and haven't won one since. And we have since started something now, no win wars, and cost be dammed. A friend of mine who was an ammunition hauler up front got a direct hit with a load of ammo. and was blowed all to. What a way to go.

I got to see a lot of country with the motorcycle and one day I saw three men with a spike tooth harrow about 20-30 feet wide hauled by six white oxen and one horse in front and the man in front talked to the horse which way to go, etc. The white oxen as I thought they were then, I believe now they must have been Charlois cattle as we know it now.

For the benefit of some of the readers that were over there at that time I'll tell a little bit of my trip over. We were in a convoy of about 20-30 ships with some escort ships and a sub. attack we had near England and the depth bombs sounded like a great big giant with a sledgehammer pounding on the side of the ship and it was said that they got the sub. alright, but I didn't see that myself.

We landed at Liverpool in August, I know as I had a birthday on the fourth. The first thing that took my eye was the steam trucks working all around there but I couldn't get to look them over, just watch them. You guys know how it was, I wasn't the boss of the outfit. I was on British freighter going over and it had a three cyl. steam upright engine which ran about a 100 R-P-M's a minute. I thought at the time that it was a triple expansion engine but I'm not sure, I couldn't get down to the boiler room so I don't know what pressure it carried. I remember those bum British meals we got. Our Govt. at that time allowed 33 cents a day per man for his eats plus a buck a day we earned while the guys that stayed home got 8-10 bucks a day.

Why does a soldier always work the cheapest while putting his life on the line? The soldier is supposed to suffer, bleed and die for the honor and glory of this country, spill his own blood over somebody's land and for somebody else benefit, and what does the soldier get out of it when its all over? The war is over, we don't owe you anything. A grand and glorious feeling would you say?

Kaiser Wilhelm tried to get at France thru Belgium and how the Belgians fought, but here we started something new, no-win wars. About the draft dodgers, I always say, they weren't half as wrong as Washington was in the first place to start those no-win wars. Probably about three hundred billion dollars and still costing us, how much longer can we stand this? But I guess as long as we can get 5-6 bucks for a bushel of wheat, etc. maybe we can.

England at that time of year was a beautiful country, a good deal like Long Island where we were camped. I never will forget the channel crossing from South Hampton. It was a beautiful night when we started, but in the middle of it, we all got sea sick and the boat smelled like a swill barrel. I never was so downhearted as when we hit France, all together different than the so called bloody ole England. Fifty-five years ago and that trip was a college education for me. An all expense trip, what a deal, wasn't Uncle Sam nice about it? All for a buck a day. After all of this I have always said it's a good thing when, one first gets in the army, that one is young and stupid, do as your told and keep your mouth shut. You'll soon learn. I know nothing about the army or war back then, all I know was what we had around home and around the neighborhood. This was all before radio or TV or good cars.

Some of you readers that were in this same war, let's hear some of your experiences.