Remembering Thrashin' Day

Threshing was hard work, to be sure – but also offered the pleasure of neighborly camaraderie.


| March 2018


Only the oldest among us have first-hand memories of neighborhood threshing. Those who do, remember with fondness the noon meal, as the neighborhood women tried to outdo each other with an over-the-top feast.

The farmer whose wife succeeded at that had no trouble getting his neighbors to join him in the threshing ring. A threshing crew consumed and expended calories by the thousands. As evidence of that, the expression “to eat like a bunch of threshers” lives in on our lexicon.

When I was a lad, my maternal grandfather had a big Case steam engine and a Case thresher, which he called a “separator.” He lived in a neighborhood of small farms, most of which were owned by relatives. I’ll never forget the excitement of threshing day: the rumble of the steam engine, the lineup of horse-drawn wagons, the hot, dry September weather, women bustling to prepare a large noon meal. To a small boy, threshing day compared favorably to Christmas.

Our farm family consisted of Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Leroy (a bachelor), a couple of older cousins who usually lived-in and helped out around the farm, a hired man, and my mother and my sister and I who just came for threshing.

Jobs for everyone

Children were up with the chickens on thrashin’ day; Grandpa and Grandma had been up long before. Farm life in those days always began before sunup, but this day called for extra effort on everyone’s part. The youngsters had to do extra morning chores so that Grandpa and Uncle Leroy could get “Old Sal” (the steam engine) fired up. That meant getting the cows in, fed and milked; the eggs gathered and the chickens fed. We also had to get the windmill hooked to the pump so that the big tank by the barn would be full for both the horses and Old Sal, a machine with a voracious thirst.

The older cousins were detailed to catch five or six big chickens for butchering, followed by scalding, picking and singeing to remove pin feathers. Others of us would build a roaring fire in Grandma’s great iron stove, because Grandma, who had been up since 3 o’clock, had potatoes ready for the kettle and 10 or 12 pies ready for baking. She wanted to get the baking and cooking done before the September sun made the kitchen too hot except for the really strong.