THE BULL STORY

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Courtesy of Wm. Strayer, R. D. 1, Dillsburg, Pa. 17019.
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Eddie Yeager and Mother, Wellsville, Pennsylvania, cutting grain for 1961 Williams Grove Steam Show. Courtesy of Wm. Strayer, R. D. 1, Dillsburg, Pa. 17019.
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Courtesy of Wm. Strayer, R.D. 1, Dillsburg, Pa. 17019.

R. 1, Dillsburg, Pa.

In the early 1920’s farming was quite different from today,
and as a young man of 17, yours truly thought the threshing trade
was an ideal occupation. After an entire year’s persuasion, my
Dad decided, against his better judgment, to help me purchase an
outfit.

By scouting around and attending all public sales where a
thresher or heavy gas tractor was sold, a contact was made with a
farmer who had a Case steamer and a 24′ X 42′ thresher for
sale. The thresher had a short bagger, a Kinzer telescoping
stacker, and was hand fed. The thresher was finally bought and
pulled home, about 12 miles with 4 mules, losing the bagger along
the way, but was later found.

Now anyone having experience with this type of stacker will
agree that for our Pennsylvania barn threshing, they were hard to
beat if plenty of help was available.

At that time all the grain was placed in the barn after being
cut and tied into sheaves. Most of the barns were filled to
capacity and a straw stack in front of the barn had to be built
first in order to get an open space in the barn for straw.

This was followed by taking one block of sheaves out at a time,
then replacing it with straw from the next block.

It so happened that the only thresher-man in our territory had a
very large run often lasting until Christmas, and farmers were
complaining of hauling coal and water for his steam engine, also
for the delay caused by his large run.

Another reason for complaint was the fact that the farmers
always filled their barns with corn fodder, then stacked the
surplus as close to the barn as possible. This work could not be
completed until the threshing was completed.

The gas tractor was the coming power so a new 15-30 McCormick
Deering was selected for my rig. The rig proved to be very popular
and Yours Truly was the new thresherman, although very
inexperienced.

It was customary for the farmers to exchange help in each group
or ring as they were called, consisting of about 8 to 12
farmers.

Now these straw stacks were something to behold, even called
works of art, and were the farmers trade mark as each one tried to
out-stack his neighbor. A large beautiful stack meant a good crop
and hence a good farmer, which was beneficial when a farmer went
shopping for a better farm and landlord for the next year.

Here is where the old Kinzer stacker was in its glory. By
placing the thresher as near as possible to the front doors of the
barn, the stacker would reach about 20 feet or near the center of
the stack and while finishing the stack, it could reach the same
distance above the floor. This added to the height of the stable
floor, gave about 30 feet to the end of stacker, and by very little
effort a stack of 35 to 40 feet in height was possible.

We were threshing among one of these rings or groups about 4
miles from my home and had moved to this particular farm. About
noon we began threshing on the stack. Most of the rings had one man
who was designated as the stacker for the entire group.

This man was proud of his ability to build a nice stack and
judge the size needed to hold a given block of sheaves. He also
would pick his helpers (2 to 4 men) from the men available,
although he himself always laid out the dimensions of the stack and
worked the outside edge of the stack as well as topped it out.

This ring had such a man as chief stacker weighing over 200 lbs.
and all muscle. During the afternoon the farmer made several
inspection trips around the barn to look at the stack, and after
one trip he looked at the remaining sheaves in the block, shaking
his head.

It now became apparent the stacker had misjudged somewhat and
had to build a very straight-sided tall stack. At the proper time
we were told to stop and let the men down off the stack by climbing
down over the Kinzer stackers. They all came down to the thresher
floor including the stack boss, and after a round of water for each
man, the stack builder proceeded to give the feeder instructions
(in no uncertain language) concerning feeding while he was on the
stack himself topping it out. This did not go down too well with
the feeder, but no one became cross and what happened later seemed
to square things.

Every farmer at that time had a small dairy herd including a
bull, which after several years was hard to keep in a pasture
because these animals were large and strong. They were usually kept
tied in the barn with feed and water carried to them, and if in
some way they became loose, they were hard to handle, especially if
there were strangers present. This farmer had a real large animal
like this tied in the barn which would weigh over one ton, also was
reputed to be a mean one.

While we were stopped a girl and boy of about 14 came home from
school and went directly to the house. After the stack boss had
climbed to the top of the stack, we were threshing along slowly
when the boy came out to the barn to attend his evening chores
which included carrying water to the bull.

A few minutes later the belt driving the old stacker jumped off
and looking up the stacker, I saw it was swinging like a tree top
in a storm with the top of the stack swinging with it.

The stack boss had lost his book and was hanging to the end of
the stacker yelling something about a boy and bull, as well as
other language not suitable for Sunday school lessons.

After we stopped to let the stack boss down, both he and the
farmer went around the barn looking for the boy. It took quite a
lot of persuasion to convince the boy’s dad and the stacker
that he did not let the bull loose on purpose, but that the bull
was already loose, and when he opened the door, he came charging
out into the stack with the idea of upsetting it.

Knowing the boy as I did, later I sometimes wonder. I will never
forget this little event because you see the boy worked for me 21
years driving a truck and operating a rig until my retirement. He
is my brother-in-law and one of his older sisters has been my good
wife for over 40 years.

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