THRESHING OATS CHALLENGES MEN AND OLD MACHINES

Old-fashioned threshing bee

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Reprinted with permission from The Miami Republican Newspaper. Submitted by Bob Harrington, Box 389, Paola, Kansas 66071.

It was an old-fashioned threshing bee minus the runaways and the big harvest crew dinner. Everything else was the same as if it had been taken from the pages of the 1930s.

An old 1926 10-20 four-cylinder McCormick-Deering tractor purred away pulling a 150' belt which turned the cylinders to an early 1930 model McCormick-Deering separator.

Bundles of oats were tossed into the mouth of the separator. A chain operated feeder fed the bundles into rapidly moving arms which cut the string tie from the bundles and spread the stalks of grain going into the giant stomach of the old separator.

As the stalks of grain moved into the machine a cylinder beat the grain from the stalks and a huge blower blew the straw from the grain.

The straw went flying out the blower and the grain was augered from the bowels of the machine.

Dale Hansen was threshing the oats he had raised on his farm, which is located a mile south of 327th Street on Cold Water Springs Road, north of Drexel.

Hansen, a retired machinist, and his friend, Fred Cohu, Olathe, had restored the old thresher and tractor as a hobby. They have 11 other old tractors ranging from 1925 to 1932 models which they have restored or are in the process of restoring.

In addition they have a second separator which is nearly ready to go.

Hansen planted some 10 to 15 acres of oats. He and Cohu used a 1928 M20 regular Farmall to pull a 1930 model McCormick-Deering binder to cut the oats and bind them into bundles with binding twine.

Cohu said the binder missed tying only one bundle. 'That was the first one,' he recalled.

After the field was cut and bundled, the two men put the bundles into shocks in the time-honored way of heads up, cut stalks to the ground and leaned together. The small shocks allow the grain to fully mature and dry before going to the 'thresher' or grain separator.

'In the old days,' said one of the neighbors sitting around watching the separator do its work, 'we used to stack the bundles and put 'em through the sweat' before we threshed.'

There were two schools of thought on preparation of the grain before it arrived at the threshing machine. One thought the grain matured better and stayed brighter by putting the bundles into big stacks rather than the small shocks. The shockers felt it a waste of time to have to haul the bundles to the stacks and wait for the grain to go through the sweat.'

Either way the bundles had to be hauled from the field.

Hansen and Cohu loaded the bundle wagons with the oats and pulled the wagons by a tractor to a large metal shed to be stored until threshing time.

A tractor was used to pull the bundle wagons to the separator instead of a team of horses hence no runaways. However, a pair of small red mules were used to pull the grain wagon from the separator to the storage barn. The oats will be used to feed the mules and some 90 head of cattle on the Hansen farm.

Hansen said, 'We've got another farm in Nebraska, We used the income off it to keep this operation going.'

The separator had been 'dug in' and leveled in the traditional manner, so the belt could be tightened by the tractor. Of course, the tractor wheels were blocked, and as was the case with many of the old-time tractors, steam boiled off the water in the radiator as it purred away.

A threshing machine differs from a combine in that the grain must be cut and hauled to the machine rather than taking the machine to the field, cutting and separating in one operation as does the combine.

Hansen plans to have another day of threshing soon. When he picks a date, the public will be invited to see this operation which was common 40 or more years ago.