8308 Roland Avenue Louisville, KY 40222
Like so many activities of my childhood on the farm and at the sawmill, whether crops to be harvested or custom sawing, so much is controlled by the seasons. The activities of steam engines and the spin off activities were big events in my childhood.
One particular activity that comes to mind had its place seasonally during the month of June. My uncle and grandpa would keep a watch on the wheat as it turned from green to golden yellow. When it was ready to cut, all other activities would cease, grandpa would shut down the sawmill, farm activities were altered, all to make way for the cutting and shocking of wheat.
Grandpa with the gesture of a lumberman's hand and a few stern words would silence all talk of getting a combine this year. And through his 87 years a combine never set its wheels on his farm. Grandpa would give the word to get the binder ready, repair and put binder canvas in place, thread binder twine, and ready the team to hitch-up. When the binder was pulled with a tractor my job would be to ride the binder. The biggest responsibility was to let the bundles add up on the bundle carrier and place them for shocks across the field.
While Uncle Meredith would make the necessary preparations to carry out the command that we would cut wheat again this year, Daddy and Grandpa would shut down the sawmill and ready themselves for the many trips around the wheat field, putting the bundles into shocks. Year after year in the 1950's and 60's this is the way we harvested wheat when Grandpa was here.
The dull times between cutting and threshing were interrupted several years. Earlier contact with Mr. Blaker at Alvordion, Ohio would reveal that the wheat would not be ready to thresh at the National Threshers Show, and he would ask for a truck load from Southern Ohio. A few moments of disappointment for me when I realized that a truck load of bundles would cut way into the 8 or 10 acres of wheat we would be threshing later in July. But when I realized suddenly it was going to Blaker's steam show, my disappointment quickly turned to excitement.
The log bed on the truck would be covered with boards, for a solid bed to load bundles on. As the bundles were pitched onto the truck each one was carefully placed to make the load solid and stable. The load was completed, tied down, and covered. All would retire for an early evening's rest. To a young boy, midnight, the time set to leave, seemed like a week away.
'Billy are you going to Blaker's with us?' would be the words I would hear from my dad hollering upstairs to wake me up. He warned me he would only wake me once, so I immediately readied myself. Without delay I would make my way out to the old pug nose cab over engine Ford truck, my dad getting in on the driver's side and my grandpa and I getting in on the one seat passenger side. And we were on our way northward to the big steam show. After five or six hours of travel in that truck and getting a little bored, my dad would sometimes try to interest me in watching traffic going our way for engines headed northward and watching truck stops for lowboys with engines on them.
After Blaker's Show, we would go back home to fire up the sawmill engine and saw a couple of weeks. The plans would be made to ready everything to thresh on a certain day. Neighbors would come in to help and steam friends would come to run the engines. Walter and Paul Raum of Hamilton, Ohio kept their Baker engine at our place. It was the usual thing to have their engine and one or two of our own to steam up and try their turn on the separator. This is the way wheat was harvested on Grandpa Raisch's farm.
Interest in threshing wheat has declined in recent years. There is an appalling lack of interest in threshing at shows and particularly the new ones. I helped plow five acres at the B. L. Leathermon farm with my 16 HP Advance this fall, which was sowed in wheat and will be cut to thresh. This five acres with the nine acres a neighbor wants to thresh I hope will do a little toward generating some new interest in threshing.
Putting straw or hay through a separator just for demonstration is not good enough for me. A few people might not know the difference, but most do, especially you and I. I have to hear the roar of the cylinder as it lashes the grain from the stalk, the whisp of the belts as they turn the pulleys, the governors opening up and the extra barks of the steam engine as a bundle is going through crossways and the whisps of the straw as it passes through the blower. The sounds of the thresher and the steam engine as they do their job is music to my ears. I hope a new interest in threshing is born at the shows and on the farms. Threshing and saw milling is an inseparable part of the steam engine.