| May/June 1977

Sandstone, Minnesota 55072

'Copyright 1976 by the Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana.'

'In my remote, remembered boyhood there was a time each year, soon after summer, soon before winter, when all the year's labor and hope culminated in one great united effort. Springtime, seed time, had been pleasant and busy; summertime, growth time, as lavish with promise as with long sun-filled days. But autumn was threshing time, and threshing time stood out a period unequaled then in its special quality, and, for me, un approached ever since. This golden season cast the same spell all over the vast agricultural plains of the northern states and Canada. It was, of course, the pay-off just as harvest with the combine is today. When the ripe wheat poured from the  threshing-machine grain spout, bright with the very color of the sun, the farmer knew where he stood, how well his family would eat, how warmly he could afford to clothe them. More than that, it was the one season when farm activities became a community activity, when neighbors stood together to challenge the swift shortening of northern days, the sure roughening of a savage and capricious climate. In that setting the season produced a sense of urgency, of total involvement, finally of accomplishment, that was largely lost when the combine made harvesting a one-stage, one-man job another routine, another chore.'

I. The machine itself

Usually it attained something like thirty feet of length with feeder and blower extended. It looked, in silhouette, something like one of the plant-eating dinosaurs of dim pre history but in reverse terms, the blower resembling the raised neck, and the feeder a wide tail lopped short seven feet from the trunk. The width of the cylinder, most often thirty-two inches, was the common measure of the rig's capacity; the phrase was 'a 32-inch separator,' not 'a 30-foot separator.' It was invariably powered by belt from a tractor. The owner was commonly the richest farmer, as farmers went, or at least one of the biggest owners of land.

The single great body of this behemoth housed five distinct mechanisms:

1.  the feeder, a wide slatted-canvas conveyor, received the bundles from the pitchers' forks and carried them into