Halloween Holocaust

| September/October 1963

  • Frick engine and Birdsal huller
    Here is a picture of my grandfather, Mr. J.C. Gray, on his engine hulling clover on the Ed Lukens farm east of Harveysburg, Ohio in 1912. It was a Frick engine and Birdsal huller.
    Karl C. McManus

  • Frick engine and Birdsal huller

During my early years of life in the vicinity of Lima (now Howe) Indiana, in fact, even long before I can remember, there lived half a mile or so from town two brothers, one a batchelor. These men, seemingly a little past middle age were big farmers; and I do mean 'Big Farmers'. My father said, they owned more than 1300 acres of good, fertile, Northern Indiana farm and grazing land. In those days farming that much acreage required a lot of help, and so there were always a couple of year men, one or two by the month and some help hired by the day for special work during haying harvest and corn season.

None of the help stayed very long or completed the season, for these men were very hard task-masters and it was generally known that the pay wasn't big and that they extracted every ounce of energy from every man for his pittance; and there didn't ever seem to be enough hours of sunlight to complete the never ending routine of jobs laid out for them, rain or shine. In fact, the days started before dawn and the chores were completed only at bed-time. Sunday and holiday work and chores were considered gratis. A tribute for the privilege of working there. So they stayed only long enough until better conditions were found elsewhere.

So it was in all their transactions. Honest in their way but tight and grasping; and though professed Christians with regular church attendance, in the final analysis, it seemed that personal gain was their greatest ambition.

When it came to threshing which would have and should have been a real plum for the local thresherman, which, incidently, was my father, as their land laid largely within his territory, they expected a cut in the price. Theirs was an exceedingly large job, around ten to twelve thousand bushels of wheat, oats and barley and it would, of course, be cash. Besides, it would be mostly barn and stack work and could be done when the rush was over.

It was hard for my father to say no, which he always did, as they had an annual habit of asking him first. So they always imported another machine from outside, whose operator wasn't s o scrupulous about cutting prices away from his own territory. Although my dad always hulled their clover seed at the regular prices, which they accepted because there no other alternative, when it come to corn shredding, and they had a lot of it, they found it expedient and they presumed to be more profitable to them to rig up an outfit of their own. This they did by purchasing an old portable 10 H.P., J. I. Case engine and a 4 roll corn shredder, probably one of the original McCormick's, as the husking rolls were installed at right angle to the frame of the machine. This outfit was the basis for a true experience of long ago, which I remember well and am about to relate.

The year was somewhere around 1903 or four and the corn shredder was set up with the blower pointing through an opening to the mow of the sheep barn. In this connection, let me add; the farm yard consisted of 12 or 15 buildings of various shapes and capacities, reminding one of a small village. The sheep barn was the farthest one away down the road toward town and was six or seven hundred feet from the residence.


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