The Girl Boss of a threshing crew


| January/February 1963



Belted up and ready to thresh

Belted up and ready to thresh at the 1962 Old Time Thresher Show.

(L. K. Wood Collections)

'Somehow I can't help but feel that in some way the Lord will provide for us, John,' murmured Mrs. Martin softly, smoothing the pillows beneath the invalid's head and allowing her hand to rest in loving pressure against his wan cheek ere she lifts the tea tray and turns to leave the room. 'I wish I had your faith, Mary', her husband returns, comforted despite his stubborn self. 'Now if Dorothy were only a boy' he begins musingly, then breaks off suddenly and turns his face to the window from where he can see the two smaller children gathering in the corn and melons. His brow knit together in a frown of distress and a deep sigh flutters over his lips. Mrs. Martin waits a minute, then as he makes no effort to conclude his half-spoken thought, she quietly leaves the room.

As a second long-drawn sigh breaks from her father's breast, Dorothy creeps nearer to him. 'If I were a boy, what then?' she asks gently. Mr. Martin starts restlessly, then turns his eyes gloomily upon her. 'Well, you're seventeen, aren't you? Now if we had a boy that age he could be a great help to us while I'm laid up with this broken leg.' Dorothy's lips quiver a little at the stress unconsciously placed upon the word 'help', but she tosses her brown braids defiantly. 'Humph! Guess I'm as much help as Dan Smith's eighteen year old son who finds it extremely helpful to run away from home about every other summer,' she retorts roguishly. Mr. Martin's face relaxes into a broad smile. 'Well, you've been quite a help this fall, Dot, and that's a fact I won't even try to deny. But, see here my girl! You've had Sim's strength at your command, remember. You've furnished the brains and he the muscle and between you the fall's work is fairly well done. But,' he glances anxiously toward the closed door, and the worried lines re-appear in his thin face, 'I've tried to keep it from your mother, but that mortgage is due the first of January and I had depended on this fall's threshing to pay it. I know old Raymond well enough not to expect any extended grace so the old home will go and I am powerless to prevent it and all on account of that confounded bridge' he ends dismally. Dorothy's mouth droops a moment in keen distress; then lifting her head with a glimmer of her mother's confidence shining from her clear brown eyes, she replies gratefully, 'I am so glad you escaped even as well as you did, papa dear. Very often in such accidents when a threshing rig crashed through a bridge one or more lives are lost, while great injury is done to the machine.'

'Very true, my girl! The engine is battered up some but the necessary repairs will  not cost such a lot as might have been, of course, and this leg crushed and broken as it is, is better than no leg at all, for it will mend in time no doubt. But we needed the thresh money so bad this year.  I've got about enough standing out to pay the note due on the engine. I suppose I could make a turn someway - trade in the rig toward paying off the mortgage but they would not allow more than half what it is worth and besides it is about all we can depend upon for money to live on anyway. I'm not able to farm it as I once was and have depended on the threshing rig so long that it's hard for me to turn my mind to anything else. It was a sorry day for me when I mortgaged the farm to buy a team; then one horse got killed in the lumber woods and that put me back. After a time things looked better, crops were good, our old house was tumbling down so I put another $500 on the old place and built this house. I was getting along fine and if I could have got in four or five more weeks like the two before that infernal bridge caved in on me, I would have come out this fall scoot free. Jim told me that bridge was unsafe, but it saved such a long pull around that I decided to chance it; luck was against me as you know, and I'm flat on my back in bed to pay for it.

'But you're alive and will soon be well again, his daughter chimes in bravely, pressing her warm cheek against his hand. 'Yes, I will be well again, but the season will be over and what else I can turn to I don't know, and the first of January isn't far off.' 'This is the third of October,' Dorothy replies absently. She sits for a moment with her chin resting in the palms of her hands and her thoughts in a brown study. 'Don't you suppose the men could go on with the work without you?' she ventures at last. 'They are accustomed to --.' 'Yes, yes,' interrupted Mr. Martin irritably, 'they are used to the work and all that, but would hardly make expenses without someone everlastingly after them to hustle them up. They are good men, but must have a boss, I tell you. Just as sure as I leave the machine even for a day everything all goes at sixes and sevens. No Sir! Some claim to make money without over-seeing their business themselves, but I never could and I doubt if much of a stake in that way.' 'Well then,' Dorothy continues with flushing cheeks,' you were wishing I was a boy just now perhaps I can help you in some way if I am a girl; I could try at least, I could -.' 'Nonsense!' breaks in her father sharply. 'Now how could you see after a threshing rig and crew and manage affairs I'd like to know! If you were a boy, though, I'd be tempted to try you anyway _ the need is so great, even if you didn't make so much.' Dorothy's eyes dance with the light of a fixed purpose, as smoothing the coverlet, she replies soothingly: 'There now, Mamma will be scolding me for allowing you to talk so much, so you must go to sleep while I play for you.' And seating herself before the organ she evokes such comforting melodies that the weary man, his mind a little relieved of its burden, soon sinks into a deep refreshing slumber.

The next day, after a long and spirited debate with her mother, Dorothy emerges from the house, prepared for a long drive. Sim, the feeble-minded chore-man, stands at the gate, holding by the bit a long legged horse of the Hamiltonian type. As the girl climbs into the light road-wagon, he tosses her the reins while his wide mouth expands in a cavernous grin. Dorothy looks back, waves her whip aloft in answer to her mother's anxious signal, then shaking the lines loose over the roans back, she is off. 'We must make haste, Jerry Boy,' she calls cheerfully to the horse, 'Its but a first venture, much depends on speed and diplomacy, for you know we have a reputation for ourselves to make, but we don't come of good stock for nothing, do we Jerry Boy?' and her laugh rings out with all the joyous hopefulness of youth. Her first stop is at the home of her father's old engineer, Jim Walters. There are many long drawn whistles to complete astonishment, a few dubious questions, then Jim slaps his knee with sudden energy. 'We'll do it, by Jingo. The engine is in the shop now and we will be already to pull it out next Monday. I was down to see her today. But who are you going to get for water-boy? Your Dad used to tend to the tank, you know, after he got so the dust hurt him to feed anymore.' 'Sim will do alright, don't you think. You know he is used to handling papa's team and will be delighted to go with the crew.' 'Just the thing! Well, you go and hunt up Joe and Tom and rustle them out and I'll run down to Brown's again and tell 'em we want that engine done sure right away.' So Dorothy speeds on. Joe Peters is found roosting on a dry-goods box in the village store and was well nigh thunder struck at the news the little gal bring me. 'Howsinever, if she's got the grit, here's a paw as will help her every time--but I'll be the totally charved up! Just think one will you?' and he breaks into an uproarious 'Haw, Haw' in which the whole store joins sympathetically.