I like to listen to Howard’s dad tell about the good old
days, when farming included the comradeship of threshing crews –
and when it also in-eluded the bountiful meals which the farm wife
set before them. The straw stacker may have had a dusty job, the
water boy may have wished the steam engine would get over its
thirst and the bundle pitchers may have reached for the horse
liniment, but from the stories Art tells the fun and feasting more
than made up for the hard work.
For some strange reason, many of the things he likes to tell
about happened around the table. His stories go like this: Once,
when Wilbur Eckerson came to the table a little late, the man next
to him generously asked, ‘Wouldn’t you like my cherry
pie?’ ‘Don’t mind if I do,’! Howard’s uncle
replied. ‘Here, have mine,’ offered another man, and
another, and another. Wilbur thought they were all being very
generous – until, that is, he took his first bite of pie – and
found that the maker had neglected to remove any of the pits!
Another ‘pie’ story is about the uncut pie which went up
one side of the table and down the other, with no one wishing the
job of cutting the first piece. When it finally got to Art’s
father, Frank Stringham, sr., he drawled, ‘Well, if no one
wants any, I’ll just cut myself a piece.’ And he promptly
cut a quarter of the pie and slid the wedge onto his plate. The
next thresher cut himself a quarter, and when the next two did the
same, the pie was gone! … The farm wife quickly brought another
pie to the table -this one neatly cut into eight pieces!
Then there’s the one about the thresher who passed the sugar
bowl to his neighbor and didn’t let go of the handle. They both
pulled, and the bowl split in half, the sugar cascading down into a
bowl of cabbage salad!
The farmer of today may take great pride in the efficiency of
his combine, but I wonder if on his lonely rounds of the field, he
sometimes wishes for the friendly fellowship of the old time