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
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.