Roadside Revelations

| November 2004

A traveler in the Canadian prairie lands is likely to see dozens of modern combines working alongside the highways as farmers harvest their fall crops. The process of harvesting grain before World War II, however, was a much different process. Crews of men with threshing machines did the work of separating the wheat from the chaff.

Today, those old threshers have all been retired with the exception of the special few that perform at threshing days in rural areas. These lucky threshing machines demonstrate the mechanical methods of processing grain crops to those too young to have witnessed that kind of event first-hand, or they remind those of us old enough to remember how things used to be. Still other threshing machines have found their way into museum collections.

Surprisingly enough, some of those old machines are still parked just out of sight around remote prairie farms. Others are even prominently displayed beside front gates to farmyards. A few have even taken on a new job.

Some of those threshers still sit along the Trans-Canada Highway just outside Virden, Manitoba. One such thresher, accompanied by a McCormick-Deering tractor, is parked prominently on display by a retired farmer. The tractor and thresher are lined up, and the long drive belt is squarely connected between them. The wheels of the tractor are blocked, and as motorists quickly fly by along the highway, it appears as though the unit is simply waiting for a wagonload of grain to thresh.

On closer inspection, however, a few repairs are in order before any such work could proceed.

The threshing rig's owner has now passed away, and the display remains in place awaiting a new caretaker. A neighbor recalls that the tractor had been in the retired farmer's family for many years, but finding anymore information about the thresher's past is close to impossible. No model number is attached to the tractor, and even less information is found on the thresher.