Rt. 4, Morrison, Illinois 61270
I was very interested in the account by LeRoy Blaker in the Nov-Dec. 67 issue about the boy who was tossed into the threshing machine. The first I heard this story was from one of my uncles who was telling about his first day at cutting bands as a very small boy who was let out by his parents to work for his keep. On this particular morning, the main subject of conversation was the incident mentioned in Mr. Blakers' story and of course it made a terrific impression on a small homesick lad among strangers, especially so when the big good-natured Irishman who was feeding, jokingly told of how many boys he had done likewise with.
My uncle spoke of this day as the most horrible experience of his life. He was afraid of the cylinder, afraid of the big man who was feeding and afraid to ask for a drink of water as he stood in the hot sun, the noise and the dust, crying to himself most of the time. His throat became so dry and sore that he was a very sick boy for a few days.
The next I heard about the occurrence was from one of our neighbors who with his family went to South Dakota on a visit several years back. He told of being in the town of Mitchell, S. D. one evening with his friends and while in the John Deere agency, where quite a few farmers had gathered, the subject of murder somehow came up. After listening quietly for some time a very old appearing man spoke up and informed the crowd that as a boy he had seen two murders in one day and that was enough for him.
Of course, some wanted to know the particulars and he told much the same story as the one sent in by Mr. Blaker. As nearly as my neighbor now remembers the story, it took place further west than Mitchell. The man who was feeding the separator or threshing machine was one who required quite a bit of 'something to cut the dust' and had been much under the influence of his remedy most of the day.
The mans' hand had already been cut and was very sore and he was heard to say that if it happened again it would be the last cut that boy ever made. When the thing actually happened, the machine was quickly brought to a stop. The men gathered in a group in the barnyard and sent the message out to the field. The men on the job were so shocked and angered that it was only a short time before one found a rope which was thrown over the stacker and the man was hanged.
After the hanging a man rode horseback to the county seat and informed the sheriff, who came out and looked things over, asked a few questions, loaded the body in his spring wagon and headed back to town. The old man spoke of watching the wagon drive away with the mans boots hanging out the back of the box.
I talked to a man a few years ago who told of his work many years ago as an engineer in the Dakotas and Nebraska and this story came to my mind, so I asked if he had ever heard of it on his travels. He answered without any hesitation that he had, many, many times and had been shown the machine that was reportedly used that day when it all happened. I wish now I would have asked him just where this machine was located. If my uncle were living now, he would be close to 95 years old and it seems to me as I remember that he was only eleven or twelve when he heard the story which would bring it close to 1885. So, it looks as though we can believe this as a true happening even after making plenty of allowance for disagreements on certain details since that sad day so long ago.