168 Wall St., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
THRESHING, a word that will bring back memories to an old
thresher man that he would not part with for anything in the world.
If he came from Ontario, he probably worked on a hand-fed thresher
in a barn driven by horse power. In those days, there were two men
standing on a platform in front of the thresher, one the feeder and
the other a band cutter and woe betide the band cutter if he had to
make a second stab to cut the twine (or straw tie) he would be
liable to stab his partners hand.
Very few, if any, threshers were operated in western Canada by
horse power. The steam age had set in, and to an old time thresher
man, there was no music to compare with the chugging of a steam
tractor. No fuss, a quiet soothing noise and ever dependable power.
Those were the days. A good thresher man naturally had a good
outfit and his neighbors had to depend on his ability to get their
The size of the threshing machine (or separator) depended on the
volume of threshing the owner intended to do. If he was going out
on ‘custom’ threshing at a fixed charge per bushel, he
naturally needed a larger sized separator than if only a few jobs
were contemplated. The size of a custom separator in early days was
usually a 36′ up to a 44′ cylinder. A new unit for a
separator came into existence called a band cutter and self feeder.
This done away with the necessity of a feeder and band cutter
referred to above. Also, the old type straw carrier was replaced
with a blower for the opposite end of the separator. Weighers also
came into existence. They not only delivered the grain from the
machine but also measured out the number of bushels threshed.
If a farmer wanted a machine to do his own threshing only, or
possibly one or two neighbors crops, he might purchase a separator
anywhere from 20′ to 28′. Power to drive all threshers had
to suit the size of the thresher to be driven. Too little power was
bad. A little extra power was good.
Now, just what memories would an old thresher man have? He will
remember the days of toil and sweat, happiness and disappointments,
long hours, friendly neighbors and some possibly not so easy to get
along with, but over all, he took pride in his work and pleasure in
a job well done. Moving from one farm to another sometimes
presented a problem. Small bridges, none too safe, had to be
crossed at times and the outfit did not always get safely over.
Soft fields or roads sometimes let a steamer down and that
presented a real problem. It is not hard to picture some old
thresher man right now saying to his friend, ‘do you remember
Luckily, in those days, thresher man did not have to depend on
hired help. He might hire a man to run the engine or separator, but
outside of that, farmers supplied the help which included horses
and bundle wagons, etc. Threshing was a community project as far as
the farmers were concerned. They would exchange help with their
And we must not forget the women. A normal threshing crew would
be about 20 men and these men had to be fed, four, maybe five times
a day, for if the grain was dry, they worked from before daylight
until after dark. (No forty hour week for those boys.) Again the
cooking was a community project and do not think for a minute that
they considered the work drudgery. Tables were loaded with food,
the men hungry and happy, the women sweaty, but also happy, a good
time being had by all. Those were the days when farmers worked hard
and were happy.
However, the romance of the threshing crew has passed. Steamers
have been replaced by gas and diesel tractors. The separator has
largely been replaced by the combine, and sorry to say, farmer
neighborliness has also declined. What say you, Mr. Thresher man,
of the early 1900’s? Would you not like to be able to live over
again your threshing experiences?