AMERICAN SCENE THAT’S VANISHING

Ridgetop, Tennessee

There is serenity in the Wheatfield, now that the harvest has
come. No more restlessness as it was when tall young wheat swayed
in the wind, waiting for maturity. I am thinking of this, as I
watch the combine pull away from the Wheatfield headed for the next
farm where it will be finished before dark, and I am thinking how
quick is the combine and regretfully ask why doesn’t it have a
whistle? Which reminds me of another harvest, and I go back in
memory to my childhood.

From the moment the lonely sound of the big steam engine’s
whistle was heard down the road, letting us know we were the next
farm on the list, to the time when it died away in the distance at
dusk, this was the most exciting day of the year for country
people. Not only that, but it was one of the social events that we
always looked forward to because this was a time when everyone came
to work and eat and visit.

We got up very early the day we knew the wheat thresher was due
at our house because there were eight or ten frying size chickens
to dress and the big country ham to be gotten from the smoke house,
and dozens of eggs to stuff and potato salad to make in the new
white enamel dish-pan.

We children were chased out of the kitchen, but we didn’t
mind since the excitement was outside the house, what with the big
steam engine puffing up the country road, its whistle sounding
throughout the country telling the people the wheat-thresher was
coming. Next was the trek into the Wheatfield, the big black engine
leading the way, puffing and snorting and the driver pulling the
whistle cord.

The thresher, that had previously looked to us like some
terrible animal, followed tame and obedient behind the engine now.
The wagon and mules came next with the farmers guiding them toward
the Wheatfield. We stood awed and silent as we watched the straw
flying from the hugh mouth of the thresher and the golden grain
sliding into the sacks placed for it. Finally, the noon hour came
and the men went to the cool shady back yard to freshen up under
the trees. The men had first place at the table. Platter after
platter of country ham, fried chicken and stuffed eggs disappeared.
Bowl after bowl of creamed potatoes, green peas, potato salad and
pickled beets faded away and the women were busy running back and
forth to the kitchen for more. Gallons of iced tea and lemonade
were consumed. Then Mama proudly brought out the dessert -fresh
blackberry cobbler made from wild blackberries picked by us the day
before on the hillside of our farm. Finally the last grain was
threshed and hauled to the grainery for safe keeping until the
wheat could be carried to market. We watched the big steam engine
pulling the thresher away from our house and down the road to the
next farm. After it had gone a short distance, the driver pulled
the whistle cord in farewell and the lonely sound echoed and
re-echoed throughout the country, and back into our hearts, and we
were sad because it had gone. Even then as we watched, it seemed
that we knew one day this and all it represented would slip away
from the American scene and be no more.

Credit is given to Nashville Tennessean for publishing this in
their good paper. Also to Mary Louise Dersewch, P.O. Box 64, Ridge
top, Tennessee.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment