IN THE COOK CAR YEARS AGO

By Percy

Evidently Karl slipped on giving us the complete name and
address of the writer, or the writer did. It is an interesting
article anyway. Ed.

‘Here’s to the cooks God bless them, May Never ever
distress them’

THE BOSS HAD JUST brought a new cook from town and the next
morning at 2 A. M., he pounded on the side of the car to get her
awake. In a few minutes she came out the door with suitcase in
hand. The boss asked her ‘Where she was going?’ and she
replied ‘Someplace to stay all night.’ When asked if she
knew what steam was, Cookie replied ‘It’s water gone crazy
with the heat.’

Kook Kar Kicker Is this the apple pie you made last week?

Kook It’s the pie you’ll eat this week or you will get a
chance to eat it next week.

Back in the days of the cook car most of the threshers had two
girls for the cooking job. One was the cook at 4 or 5 dollars a day
and her helper got $2.50 to $3.00. Their day started at 3:45 A. M.,
and they hardly ever got through with the supper dishes until 9 P.
M., just about 18 hours each day. Breakfast at 5:30 A. M., lunch at
the machine at 9 A. M., dinner at noon, lunch at 4 P. M., and
supper at 7:30 P. M. Many of the cooks were members of the
boss’s family, perhaps his wife or daughter, but many were
neighbor women or out of the state girls who came back each year
for the cooking jobs. Many romances developed in the cook cars, and
some turned into marriages. The boys would pitch bundles during the
day and pitched some ‘Woo’ in the evening by moonlight and
no time was lost. When the threshing season was over they got their
license and a minister to tie the knot. In 1915 our spike pitchers
married our two cooks, Anna and Mary and both lived in
Minneapolis.

All supplies were brought to the cook car each day by the boss
or a ‘Flunky’ and it was their job to see that the cooks
had a supply of fresh clear water for cooking, as well as keep
drinking water to the crew. Some of the farmers would give the
cooks a room in their home, but otherwise the cooks had to bed down
on the folding bed set up in the car, at any rate they did not have
much time for sleeping.

I engineered for Ness Bros. for nine seasons and their cook car
was kept as clean as any good kitchen, but I have seen some cook
cars that you would hate to let your dog eat or sleep in. These
were the thresher men that had so much trouble with their crews.
They generally had three crews, one that they had just fired, one
working, and ready to quit, and one just hired. One thresher had a
cook car with no screens on either door or windows. Flies were
everywhere and food was of the cheapest quality and very poorly
prepared, and the hoboes had to really fight to get some of it away
from the flies. If someone complained the boss would ask, ‘If
he thought he was at the Waldorf?’ This particular thresher
never believed in taking lunch to the crews between regular meal
periods and imagined he could make money by feeding the men as
little food as possible. Believe me that coffee or lemonade and a
sandwich between meals always paid good dividends, I know as I have
worked for both types. Now that the cook car days are past and the
cooks are cooking in hotels or restaurants and the old cars made
into chicken coops or play houses for the girls, they are all a
part of the past. It is nice to think and dream of the old days and
I will never forget a minute of it and I hops the old timers and
our combining generation will enjoy my story.

Farm Collector Magazine
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