Operation Barnstorm


| July/August 1959



Tom Tronson outfit

Tom Tronson outfit threshing on the Ole Borgen farm east of Amherst, Wisconsin, August 1914. Engine is a 16 hp. Reeves. Separator 36x54 Huber. Ole Moen, separator man, on top of separator. The Engineer in black shirt is myself and Adolph Borgen, water mon

207 So. Edison Avenue, Tampa 6, Florida

IN MANY SECTIONS THERE seems to be the impression that most of the threshing in the east and mid west was done in the barnyard, a typical example being the caption under the picture on page 7, Nov. - Dec. IRON-MEN ALBUM which states in part: 'Threshing operations are not confined to the barnyard alone.'

Well, just to set the record straight and in thresherman's language, 'taint so, at least in Indiana where as an engine-struck kid I watched every threshing I could possibly get to, worked in it until 1918 and I have yet to see my first 'barn threshing.' But perhaps in places where they had only a shirt tailful it was the practice to store it in the barn loft where and do the threshing in the barn lot, probably running straw in the haymow. Evidently the idea was largely a carry over from the old flail days when it was necessary to store it in the barn and use the winter days in the long process of beating out the grain by hand, the crop being necessarily small for a number of reasons. In the old days a custom was hard to change, only time would do the trick. In the 'farm belt' there was plenty of clover, timothy, and redtop hay and straw was not considered very valuable, in fact often looked upon as a necessary evil in the way of other things, and used as feed only for the animals pick at the stack during the winter months.

Before the turn of the century in the eastern half of the country where grain was grown to any extent stacking in the field was general practice, usually in ricks with foundations 10x20 feet made from fence rails placed about a foot apart, borrowed from the nearest fence that could be left open until the threshing was done, at which time the fence would be replaced. The ricks were placed side by side in pairs spaced to admit the separator between them and then end to end if there were more than two ricks which necessitated resetting the machine for the second pair. Sometimes there were double rows which required an extra bundle pitcher to pass them to the stack next to the separator when it was about half threshed down, the man on it passing them on to the machine. In pulling between the big ricks 'easy did it' with all draft dampers closed. I never knew of but one stack being set on fire and it did not burn, though no doubt some may have.

The ricks were brought up to a gradual apex, topped out from a long ladder with 'cap bundles' saved back along toward the last. An old neighbor once said that my father could put up a stack that could not rot off to the bands and still be sound and dry at the heads. I never saw one that had taken water, no matter how much rain, and that goes for the other old stackers as well.

The average crew back in the 'ok1 stackin' days' consisted of the engineer, water monkey, separator man, two feeders and before the advent of the wind stacker usually a straw stacker. The farmers furnished fuel' for the engine and also the pitchers, baggers and band cutters, on a swap work basis. I very well remember cutting bands when I wore knee breeches, as all boys did then, like Dr. Shafer's picture on the Huber May-June, '52) and a feeder named Parrish who fed so fast he almost threw me through the machine along with the grain. We used special knives with wide offset blade with serrated edge. Many machines then in use did not have self-feeders, weighers and baggers or wind stackers. The rack stackers on the separators were not sufficient for a large crop so most outfits had a separate long, oscillating stacker on its own wheels, belted to the back of the separator when in use. At that time it was the universal opinion that the grain had to 'cure' and to accomplish this it had to go through a 'sweat' in the stack. Most of the threshing was done in August and September.