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The southern mountaineer woman is in no sense a ‘new
woman’, yet she posses a physical vigor and a skill at
men’s work which might justly qualify her for that title. For
instance, high up on the mountaintops where the small, old
fashioned horse-power threshing machines of the mountains cannot be
hauled, it is not unusual to see her threshing by hand. Moreover,
this vigorous, primitive helpmate considers it no hardship but
merely part of the year’s work.

She first makes a trip into the woods to make her flails. These
are hickory poles about as big around as a man’s wrist and
eight feet long. Three feet from the tapering end the pole is
beaten with the axe and twisted in the hands until a section of the
fibre is made limp. Thus the butt end will slap up and down on the
grain as the flail is whipped in threshing.

After these flails have been carried home comes the making of
the threshing floor. Four rails from the nearest fence are placed
on the ground in a hollow square. Across these a series of rails is
laid like the boards of a floor. The oats or wheat is thrown on
this, and as it is beaten with the hickory flails the seed and
chaff sift down between the rails while the stalks are held above.
Oatsis allowed to drop through to the bare ground, from which it is
swept up with a broom. Wheat, because it is to be ground into flour
for family use, is caught upon an old homespun sheet or bedquilt
spread out on the ground beneath the threshing floor.

Two people stand on opposite sides and ‘take a turn
about’, as they say in the mountains, striking down with the
flails with a rythmic motion. Two mountain women whacking away
vigorously at the grain have the same stimulating sense of rivalry
in the work that two women in the outside world feel over a game of
cards. Sometimes, of course, accidents will occur, but they are
taken good-naturedly and with stoic mountain fortitude.

Then follows the winnowing of the grain. For this a third helper
must be called in. The chaff and grain which have fallen together
through the cracks between the rails are swept up into a box or
‘riddle.’ While two persons vigorously shake and whip a
bedquilt to ‘make a wind’, a third lets the chaff and grain
fall slowly down before it from the riddle. The chaff is blown away
by the breeze from the sheet and the grain drops again to the
threshing floor.

Two mountain women can thresh ten bushels of wheat a day. They
will be ready for a hearty supper by the time it is finished; but
not too tired to enjoy the meal. This threshing by hand is a relic
of primitive days that is well worth watching.

This article is taken from the Threshermen’s Review,
December, 1912. Mr. Leon Olson, Salem, South Dakota gave us the
Review and we felt it would be of interest to all of you.

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