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The Beginning of the End of the Threshing Ring

Wilfrid Vittetoe recalls memories of threshing rings from his childhood in the 1930s.

| August 2019

Ed Vittetoe’s Allis-Chalmers All-Crop combine in the field, 1939. Ed is shown third from left. 

After reading the story of the Allis-Chalmers All-Crop combine in the May issue of Farm Collector, I thought these recollections might be of interest to readers.

My dad, being a progressive farmer, purchased an Allis-Chalmers combine on June 20, 1938 at a price of $720. He traded in a team of 3-year-old horses, one 10-foot binder and a cultivator for a balance due of $80, paid in cash.

This was at the start of the decline of threshing rings. After the terrible heat of 1936, I can believe this was a great incentive to get away from the drudgery of oat harvesting. After Dad got the machine, everybody wanted him to cut their oats. We could see that from entries in my mother’s diary:

July 14, finished at McLaughlin’s. July 15, combining at Gallagher’s. July 16, finished at Wheelan’s. July 20, working at Warnock’s. Working at Dad Pfeiffer’s.

A lot of small acreages at the edge of town had small patches of oats. Dad seemed to get talked into cutting these fields. The gates were always narrow and invariably they had to pull a corner post to get in. On one occasion, Dad backed the combine and tractor through the gate, twisting and turning to get the machine through. Being in town, there were always kids and people watching. They marveled at how he got that AC combine through.

Repairing the combine

This incident happened in 1939 while cutting oats at Wheelan’s. There was a truck garden alongside the oat field. They had used a check planter to plant the corn to make the rows straight in the garden. When they finished with the check wire, they laid it over the oat field. It was forgotten as the oats grew and covered it. As Dad was cutting their oats, the wire fed up into the combine and wrapped around the cylinder. It tore out the rubber-backed concaves under the cylinder.

Dad had to bring the machine home to cut the wire out of the cylinder. Since I was small and lightweight, he had me crawl inside the machine, lie on the grate and reach down under the cylinder and hold the wrench on the bolts holding the ripped concave. Dad was under the combine, unscrewing bolts with old pieces removed and new ones bolted in place. He then went back to Wheelan’s. As a 10-year-old, it was a big deal for me to help repair the machine. It made me feel so good to be so important.

Threshing scene, 1936

8/21/2019 7:12:38 PM

Great memories, Wilfrid; thanks for sharing them.


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