Heritage Harvest


| July 2008

  • This John Deere 28x46 thresher is put through its paces at a threshing bee in Merrill, Iowa.
    This John Deere 28x46 thresher is put through its paces at a threshing bee in Merrill, Iowa. Photo by Bonita Davison.
  • Draft horses get a workout
    Draft horses get a workout pulling wagons of shocked wheat. John Conley, Merrill, Iowa, has helped load and pitch bundles at all of the Davisons’ threshing events. Photo by Bonita Davison.
  • John Deere Model D paired up with the John Deere thresher
    A restored John Deere Model D paired up with the John Deere thresher. Antique tractors supply power for the threshing; horses are used to pull wagons. Photo by Bonita Davison.
  • Loading the wagon for the threshing bee
    Loading the wagon for the threshing bee. Photo by Bonita Davison.
  • To unload the grain, the Davisons use a wagon hoist operated by a horse power
    To unload the grain, the Davisons use a wagon hoist operated by a horse power. John Conley and Mike Luckel, Le Mars, Iowa, provide teams of draft horses for the horse power. A 1928 paddle elevator, owned by Duane Junck, Kingsley, Iowa, is used to load grain onto a waiting semi. Photo by Bonita Davison.
  • Pitching bundles from the wagon to the thresher
    Pitching bundles from the wagon to the thresher. Anyone interested is welcome to participate. Photo by Bonita Davison.
  • The noise, movement, dust and chaff surrounding a threshing machine can be frightening to a team unfamiliar with the process
    The noise, movement, dust and chaff surrounding a threshing machine can be frightening to a team unfamiliar with the process. Even teams used daily for fieldwork had to become accustomed to standing next to a threshing machine. Photo by Bonita Davison.
  • Bundles of oats can be pitched into the machine by several people at a time
    Bundles of oats can be pitched into the machine by several people at a time. The sound of the oats going through the knives is an indication of how quickly or slowly the bundles should be pitched. Photo by Bonita Davison.

  • This John Deere 28x46 thresher is put through its paces at a threshing bee in Merrill, Iowa.
  • Draft horses get a workout
  • John Deere Model D paired up with the John Deere thresher
  • Loading the wagon for the threshing bee
  • To unload the grain, the Davisons use a wagon hoist operated by a horse power
  • Pitching bundles from the wagon to the thresher
  • The noise, movement, dust and chaff surrounding a threshing machine can be frightening to a team unfamiliar with the process
  • Bundles of oats can be pitched into the machine by several people at a time

Heritage Harvest: Community effort comes together to produce old-time threshing bee

Many things have changed in the past century, but not this: If you're going to put on a threshing bee, you're going to need a lot of help.

As Dean and Bonita Davison worked with their Percheron teams and got acquainted with other draft horse enthusiasts in their area, they began to consider the idea of organizing a threshing bee near their home southeast of Le Mars, Iowa.

Today that's evolved into an event held in conjunction with Pioneer Days in Merrill, Iowa, about 15 miles north of Sioux City - and purchase of an antique thresher.

'We started planting corn with our team and just loved doing that,' Bonita says. 'Seven or eight years ago, we used machinery owned by a local club to set up a threshing demonstration during our county fair. We had difficulty coordinating everything when we didn't own the equipment, so we decided to start looking for our own thresher.'



Tracking down a thresher

The Davisons' search led them to Minnesota, where they found a John Deere 28x46 thresher that had been parked in a machine shed for 10 years. 'The man who owned it used it once since he bought it,' Dean says. 'It was in real good condition and all the belts were good. I brought it home, power washed it and used it that afternoon for threshing at our neighbor's field.'

As he searched for a threshing machine, Dean found that machines with wooden parts were often in very poor condition. If the threshing machine hadn't been stored under a roof and protected from wildlife, it deteriorated quickly.



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