Book Release: Harvest Stories of Wheat Threshing

A new book from Purdue University Press presents a collection of harvest stories about wheat threshing at the turn of the 20th century.


| September/October 2001



harvest stories wheat threshing

Wheat threshing was a collaborative effort, as the harvest stories from Robert Rhode's book show.

Illustration: Morphart/Fotolia

The Harvest Story: Recollections of Old-Time Threshermen, by Robert T. Rhode, tells the epic tale of wheat threshing in turn-of-the-century North America. This book gathers into a coherent recitation over fifty volumes of harvest stories and other material published in the Iron Men Album magazine from 1946 until the present. From this rich mine, the author has distilleda complex, fascinating story about America's past: of hard but honest work, of heartfelt cooperation, of triumph not un-marred by tragedy. Readers feel a child's excitement as threshing day dawns, participate in the labor and practical jokes of the crew, and respect the power of the reliable, but sometimes dangerous, steam engines. With the author's skillful arrangement of the material, explanations, and photographs from his private collection, we come to share the 'iron men's' solid values.

Robert T. Rhode was born on a farm near Pine Village in northwestern Indiana. Every summer from the time he was one year old, he went with his parents to the Central States Threshermen's Reunion at Pontiac, Illinois. There, he came to appreciate the North American agricultural heritage. His great-uncle ran steam traction engines; his father grew up during the steam era and helped his uncle run engines; and his mother remembered playing on steam engines parked in the factory yard of the Keck-Gonnerman Company, manufacturers of threshing equipment, in her hometown of Mt. Vernon, Indiana.

Rhode is a professor of English at Northern Kentucky University and, for eleven years, he directed NKU's Honors Program for gifted students. He has published fifty articles on agricultural literature and history. He owns a 65-horsepower J. I. Case agricultural traction engine (serial number 35654) built in 1923, which he regularly exhibits at threshing reunions. FC