Bringing in the Sheaves


| September/October 1989



Box 355 Arlington, South Dakota 57212

Each summer, Prairie Village at Madison, South Dakota, sponsors an old threshing machine in action. As I watched that separator gobble the grain bundles, my thoughts returned to my childhood days on the farm.

As a child growing up in the 1930's, I loved to watch the growing oats become a green carpet. When the oats matured, breezes bent the heads and made fields look like rippling bodies of water. In a week or two, as if by magic, the verdant hues became a crescendo of golden colors. Meanwhile, my father was repairing canvases, sharpening sickles, and buying twine at Ringsted, Iowa.

Dad harnessed Maude, Bess, Dolly, and Star and hitched them to the binder to cut the standing grain. With a clickety-clatter, the binder slashed the thick, hollow stems and placed them on the canvas conveyor. At just the right time, an iron arm would encircle this bunch of oat stems and, using a length of twine, would tie them into a bundle.

My father pulled a lever, and kerplunk, the bound sheaves dropped onto the stubble field in a windrow. Almost immediately, another bundle flopped into the carrier. Tails and manes of the horses streamed sideways in the wind. Their eyes reflected a sullen, weary look.

Mother worked side by side with Dad all during harvest. As my short legs trailed along to bring lunch and fresh water to my parents, I smelled the aroma of fresh oat juices. My bare feet felt the pricks of the sharp oat stubble. Penetrating heat caused perspiration to dampen our clothes. Chaff and dust from the air combined with our sweat to turn our shirts into a starchy grime.