Christmas Chimes

Twilight was softly gathering on a late autumn evening. The
harvest moon was slowly rising above the Wasatch range to mingle
its gorgeous colors with the crimson sky which indicated days of
summer were over and an early winter was about to be ushered in. My
anxious father stood gazing in the distance and listened as he sat
the pail of fresh milk down on the back step where mother appeared
in the open door and the fumes from a wholesome cooked supper
filled the night air with an appetizing odor. It was no small task
to cook for a hungry lot of threshers and the spirit of rivalry
prevailing in the neighborhood. So each woman tried to outdo the
neighbor woman in cooking.

Consequently the meals for the hungry and dusty lot were almost
banquets and mother was obliged to call in a neighbor girl to
assist with the supper which had been so carefully prepared for the
expectant crew that were due an hour previous. ‘I wonder what
is keeping them so late,’ mother said, and a worried look shown
over her face as she feared the meal would be cold and spoiled
after their big task of preparing the same.

Our threshing job was the last on the route and that old machine
had been grinding since August 1st. and it was now late in
November. We had to wait our turn. The hands were all engaged as
well as paid for as no money was in circulation. It was necessary
to exchange work and the thresher took up toll. The good board they
received and the common hospitality made it an easy matter to get
plenty of men to work. In fact, a job on a thresher was coveted and
engaged many months ahead. While we youngsters looked forward from
one year to the next for the happy event and the chance to watch a
threshing job generally came by invitation and especially to be
permitted to push the wheat back in the bin and eat at second table
after all the big men were through. To run around the track the
horses had made with the sweep power after the machine had gone was
also quite a privilege. So naturally my youthful heart was filled
with rapture at the thought of threshers coming. My father and
mother were no more anxious that I was as we waited for the
approach of the coming machine.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the rumbling of wide iron
tires over the frozen ground. ‘That’s them,’ father
said, ‘better open the big gate,’ which command I eagerly
obeyed and watched the big red monster drawn inside the lot with
two span horses, followed by the horse-power trap wagon and the
toll wagon and the men all in a jolly mood, laughing and shouting
and to me it was the crowning feature of the day. Father designated
the way to set and assisted with horses and the jumbling of
tumbling rods, equalizers and chains was all music to me, and I
felt honored to walk up to the house with the real boss. A fresh
tub of warm water was waiting outside and soon it was surrounded by
the dusty and hungry threshing crew, laughing and cutting their
little pranks. Around the table that was heavily laden with
wholesome food they all sat. While Grace was being said I was
praying in my own heart that Mother wouldn’t ask me to wait.
And sure enough, there was a vacant place right next to the boss
feeder and share holder and I was allowed to occupy it. I felt
honored and somewhat embarrassed among all the big men which were
heroes in my young eyes and I marveled that they could operate such
a great machine and hoped that someday I might be one like them.
The usual jest and jovial humor continued during the meal. Hey! You
straw-monkey, someone over here wants potatoes too. The old man
referred to followed the machine to stack straw for a bushel of
wheat a day and, of course, felt entitled to his board and there
was nothing dainty about him after bucking straw all day.
Happenings of the day and plans for the morrow were talked over and
finally the last man had filed out after leaving instructions for
breakfast next morning at six.

I didn’t sleep much that night and before the first man was
on the job next morning, I was out looking over that machine. I got
a liberal supply of dust on me to look and smell like a real
thresherman. At seven o’clock breakfast was all over with and
horses were all hitched. The crack of the whip and shout the cogs
on the power began to rumble, the face wheel on the separator began
its familiar grind and soon the hum of the cylinder sent out
strains of music through the keen morning air. Pitchers were
dropping bundles in all shapes from top of stacks until an old
experienced feeder let out a yell at a red faced husky who was
fresh on the job. The clean wheat began to pour out in the half
bushel measure with father, my uncle, and even a third party was
called to assist to carry the bags on their shoulders to the
granary.

Everything was running nicely and seemed assured our grain would
be threshed in good shape before winter, even though we were the
last on the string. Suddenly the driver shouted, ‘Whoa,’ as
he saw the green hand drop a fork headed straight for the cylinder
and just missing the band cutters head. But too late. Crash in the
cylinder and before the horses could be stopped a concave was
broken, a casting that held the cam, with a number of cylinder
teeth being bent. We’re done for now (the main boss said),
unless they’ve got extras in town. Soon the best driving horse
was hitched to a buggy and a share holder was on his way to Logan
(seven miles away) for new repairs while the rest of the men
straightened and replaced broken teeth. By eleven o’clock the
man came driving back, but all to no avail. Not an extra this side
of Racine, Wisconsin. Well, what does that mean? It means
she’ll sit right there until we get one from the east. And
there she sat. Stacks half threshed. The order was telegraphed in
but even at that, day after day we waited and several weeks before
the treasured part would arrive. Winter was approaching. The first
snow had already covered the open stacks and a disabled threshing
rig. It was the day before Christmas when the main boss came and
announced he had a Christmas gift for us and no better gift could
it be. The part for the machine had come and was soon replaced and
the snow shoveled off the stacks. Soon the good old familiar hum
was piercing the winter air and no better music or Christmas chimes
were ever sounded. When the last bundle was put through and the
idling machine seemed to ring out clearer and louder.

A Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year.

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