Memories of a Case thresher

1919 Case thresher loomed large on Minnesota family farm.

| September 2005

My grandfather, Alfred Bjorklund, purchased a new 28-46 J.I. Case thresher in 1919 for $1,300. It came from the branch house in Minneapolis. It was belt-powered by a Twin City 20-35 (which he had purchased in April 1916) with big spade lugs.

The Case was used for my grandfather's crops until his sons, Henry and Edmund, started a threshers' route. They threshed for the neighbors, a father-in-law, relatives and even the speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives who was a neighbor. They had as many as 10-12 bundle teams, which were horse-drawn wagons. There were both forenoon and afternoon lunches for the crew. The noon dinner, prepared by the housewives, was like a banquet.

If they threshed in a hog yard, it was over a support made up of nine posts with a yoke, to lay straight rails across in all directions, creating a straw shed for the hogs in the winter time. It saved the work of cleaning the hog house. They traveled the ditches, property lines and as far away as 4-5 miles.

The Case was stored in a lumber machine shed built in 1920. When the thresher came out of the shed, holes had to be dug for the back wheels to go in so that the grain bagger would clear the roof eave and not take out the rain gutter in the process.

As children, we played upstairs in the loose boards between each section of the stringers. We'd swing down from a stringer and land on the big tool box on top of the thresher. One time when I swung down, the machine was out on its run. As a boy of 6 or 7, I didn't have the strength to pull myself back up, and thought it was too far to drop 12 feet to the ground. I called for my brother to go to the house and get mother. He ran to the house, yelling in Swedish, "Come, mother, Gordon is hanging!" Mother came at a full gallop and got hold of the ladder. She had big strong arms and moved it to me so I could climb down.

My dad had a 1922 GMC truck. The neighbor had an REO Speedwagon to haul the grain to the granary. The REO had a vacuum whistle which was fun for us kids to pull. When the lower granary bins filled, dad had us get in there to spread grain to the far corners. We'd come out spitting pure dust.