The Day the Thresher Came

| July 2004

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    The threshing crew poses with the Cusack family circa 1912. Patrick's father, Charles
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    Patrick's grandfather Thomas Cusack built this house in 1880. Born in Cavan County, Ireland

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The children played in the farmyard on hot summer days. Their usual games were 'Hide and Seek' and 'Ho-Bo.' As they played on an especially warm day in July 1930, the children heard the faint 'puff-puff' of a smokestack in the far-off distance. They knew the magic day had finally arrived - threshing day was always the highlight of summer.

The familiar sound signaled that Jim Stevenson or Frank Wolfert, and their steam engine and crews were coming to thresh the wheat. When black smoke was first sighted, the big steam engine was still 2 miles away. Due to its weight, the engine moved at about 1 1/2 to 3 mph.

Naturally, all the children ran to the highest spot on the farm to snatch a first glance as it came over the hill. The cupola on top of the barn was the best spot for a first view. It was, however, the hardest to get to at this time of year because the barn was empty. To reach the cupola, the kids had to throw a rope over the track in the roof and pull themselves up on the rope.

As word that the thresher had arrived spread, the excitement eventually reached the kitchen. The house had been cleaned extra well by the girls. There had been days devoted to baking in anticipation of the big day. As no one knew for sure when the thresher would arrive, the engine noise and the huge, black billows of smoke signaled the day had finally come.

Harvest preparations

Dad and my older brothers had worked for days to guarantee the wheat bins were ready for the harvest. The bins needed repair each year, because rats gnawed holes in the floor in their attempt to glean the last bit of grain during the preceding winter. Dad patched the holes with sheet metal, and back then, the most available source of sheet metal was the Prince Albert tobacco tin.

Next, space in the barnyard was cleared to make way for the new straw stack. Straw was a by-product from the grain harvest. The straw was valuable for bedding the animals in the coming winter, covering vegetables to prevent freezing, and was even used in the farmhouse for filling ticks. An additional chore for the children involved preparing the straw ticks.