R.R. #3 Shawville, Quebec J0X 2Y0
Well folks, another year has rolled around and it sure is great
to look back on 1995. We had a good summer, and the fall was not
too bad either. The grain was a fair crop.
We had set the 19th of August as the day to thresh, and the day
was great, not a cloud in the sky. Some of the boys from Ontario
came over to help set up the machinery the day before we were to
thresh. We had it all set to go for the next morning. It takes time
to set up three complete steam threshing outfits, as you all know,
getting water and wood all lined up. I had gotten wood out of a
bush that had been cut out the year before. It was a pine bush and
the limbs of the big pine were dry, with the bark hardly left on
them. They sure made a hot fire for the engines. The grain had been
cut ten days before and was in very good shape. We loaded some of
the grain three or four days before we were going to thresh, and
had the loads in the shed. Well, the boys started to show up at
six-thirty a.m. to fire up. Ken Barber had smoke rolling out of all
the engines by seven a.m. Ken looked after the Case engine. Ken, of
course, is a Case man all the way.
Tom Quinell from Huntingdon, Quebec, was supposed to be at their
Fair that day, but he sneaked away and landed up here in the
morning to help. He’s a real Case man, too. When they got
going, they had the Case belted to the 28-48′ International
threshing mill. I saw three men pitching bundles into that outfit.
Sure made that old Case snort! Tom, Ken and Bill Barie from
Almonte, Ontario, were pouring the wood into that old Case. The
smoke was something to behold. There were times I thought they had
a chimney fire!
One lady came along with a little dog. It looked like a mop
without a handle, so thought the three guys running that Case
engine. They thought it should be put in a bird cage.
They were sure smoking up the place. Then Bill Barie from
Almonte started helping David Strong from Perth, Ontario, to run
the wooden-wheeled Sawyer-Massey portable engine. They had a real
ball doing that. Sawyer-Massey engines are so easy to look after
that they had nothing to do at all. Next year, I think we will set
up a cot for each of them. The rest will do them good, I’m
sure. David Strong has run the little Sawyer-Massey for four or
five years now, and he does a real nice job of that, too.
Keith Miller from Eganville, Ontario, looks after the
Sawyer-Massey traction engine, and he is one of the younger crew.
Keith likes steam engines very much. I think Keith would like to
get the Sawyer-Massey on the sawmill for a day. Keith always brings
some wooden shims from the railroad. They have creosote in them and
they sure make a smoke for the people taking pictures. Sometimes
you can see the boys and sometimes you can’t! But in all, these
boys are a careful bunch and help make this threshing such a great
success each year when they show up.
Getting back to the grain, this was an unusual year with big
rains. Sometimes three inches of rain fell at once, making it hard
to dry stooks, but we made it okay. We had a fellow from Ottawa,
Ontario, Brian Farr, making a video of the day. He was there at
seven a.m. and did a great job of the video. Now we have a history
of threshing for years to come! I think the old threshing that we
did should never be forgotten. It is something that is part of our
past. It’s where that loaf of bread came from, all the grain
for our cows and horses, also the seed for next year’s crop. It
feeds a hungry nation of people, a definite part of our life.
Threshing should always be part of our shows and fairs, anywhere
there is old equipment on display. I can’t think of a better
way of showing our young generation how it all came to pass.
Just this year I had a fellow from Montreal. He was a lawyer and
a notary. He didn’t know anything about threshing. Anyhow, he
knew what a farmer should look like. So, he went and bought a new
pair of coveralls, new straw hat and a new pair of boots. He asked
my daughter, ‘What can I do?’ She said, ‘I’ll get
you a fork and you can pitch sheaves.’ So, she sent him up on
the wagon and he got a hands-on chance at threshing right then and
there. I am sure he will never forget that day!
We had a great crowd at the threshing. We served 400 meals and
had music all afternoon and evening until 12:00 p.m. We had people
from British Columbia, Canada, also from down east in New
Brunswick, and nearly all of the provinces of Canada. We made a lot
of new friends and saw a lot of old friends as well. What better
way is there to have a holiday? Work and play do go together after
all! I had set up the sawmill for the day and I was running it with
my 55 Massey-Harris gas tractor. I didn’t have time to put on a
steam engine for power, but it made a nice showing. We had lots of
help with the sawing. I had the tops out of that bush that was cut
out the year before and we sawed some nice boards out of the stuff
too. Maybe someone will want to build a picket fence or something.
Too bad to let the logs rot in the bush. Next year maybe I will get
a steam engine on the sawmill. I will send some pictures of all
this. As the saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand
Here goes with some old stories as told to me many years ago. A
neighbor who lived beside me for many years told me about the old
Sawyer-Massey traction engine that I have. It came to Alex
McLaed’s at Bristol, Quebec, in about 1904. He did custom
threshing and barn threshing at that time. That means all the grain
was drawn in with horses and wagons, put in the barn in the
summertime until some date in the fall, when your turn would come
up to thresh. Maybe it would be in October or November, or even as
late as a few days before Christmas. This neighbor, Mr. Harry
Wilson, who lived a mile or so from me, said that if Alex McLaed
came to thresh for him, it would be a four mile trip to Harry’s
from Bristol. Harry said it snowed about one foot of new snow and
Alex had a hard trip with the engine and mill. Steel wheels and
snow don’t mix too well. This was very late in the fall, maybe
in December. Harry said they had quite a time getting the mill
placed in the barn.
I can remember my mother talking about threshing in her area 80
years or more ago, barn threshing, too. She said they would come to
thresh in the morning and would come for breakfast. And all the men
walked there across fields or through the bush to get there, always
before daylight. They all came with lanterns. They would thresh
from daylight until dark. She said the women served breakfast.
After the men went out to work, the women would get the dishes
washed by hand. Then they would have to clean each man’s
lantern for him to use to go home. The men would thresh until dark,
have supper and they would chat for a while in the evening. Then
they headed for home. Quite a difference from stook-threshing,
One must remember that these women had only wood stoves to cook
on, no ‘fridges’, and had to go outdoors to pump water from
a well, all by hand. And we think that times are hard now!