When I went in the house, Mother had been to bed a long time. She called to me: 'If you are hungry, Johnnie, 1 will get up and get something for you to eat.' 'Gosh, no, Ma; when we finished threshing about 8:00 o'clock, Mrs. Olson and the girls had a supper ready fit for a king and we all ate so much we could hardly get away from the table.' Then she wanted to know where was Ben and Charley. They, after helping me take care of the tank team, had walked on home. 'Well', Mother was saying 'I am so glad the threshing is done; now you can be at home again, and I kind of feel it in my bones a storm's coming.
Sure enough, next morning it was snowing hard with three or four inches already on the ground. How good it seemed with the fall work all done, the rig pulled home and the snow coming down so thick and fast. Now there would be plenty of time to rest and attend parties and the many gatherings during the long winter. Folks, those days, didn't dread the winter the way they seem to now; everyone worked hard all summer and when winter came it was more like a holiday or vacation. There were no telephones, radios or cars but everyone, young and old, visited back and forth and went to parties, spelling matches, singing schools, and so on.
If a neighbor had hard luck, such as sickness or a fire, everyone was ready and willing to help him out. We never heard anyone cussing Uncle Sam, wondering why he didn't do this or why he didn't do that; in fact, we seldom heard anyone speak of Uncle Sam unless it was that he had granted some soldier or soldier's widow a pension, or that by going farther west he still had homesteads free to anyone that would live on and improve one for five years.
We put in many falls threshing after that, some were good and some not so good, with plenty of fun and many hard knocks.
Then, the old engine seemed to murmur again: 'Do you remember the time Jerry bet you his hat that he, with his big barley fork, could stack more straw than you or any other man could put through the machine? That, John, was the only time I ever saw you do a real careless thing. When Jerry wasn't looking, you screwed the safety valve down a couple of turns, told Ben, your fireman, 'Boy, I want some steam and then some more steam.' Then you pulled off your old greasy jacket and went back to the separator and started feeding?' Yes, I have thought of that a great many times; that was a thoughtless thing to do, but how eager all the boys were to get into the fun that was coming. And how the bundles did fly. Boy, Oh, Boy. did the straw go through that machine?
Jerry, like many other young men, sometimes bragged of what he could do; but he was a real manno one else on the job could have cared for the straw he did that afternoon. But when the stack got so high he could care for it no longer, he shoved a big forkful down, under the carrier, stopping the whole works and, with his shirt wringing wet, came sliding down; then, he handed me his old straw hat, saying, 'It will soon be too cold to wear it anyway.'
I remember too, the time a railroad spike went through the machine. We never did find out where that old spike came from, but we do know that after it went through, all of the conclaves were so smashed to pieces, and many of the cylinder teeth were bent or broken. I drove that little team more than 80 miles that afternoon and night, put in the new conclaves, repaired the cylinder and Ben had steam up all ready to go at daylight the next morning.
Then, from far away, as it seemed to the old man, he could hear someone softly calling, 'Gran'pa, Gran'pa supper's ready.' His little granddaughter, Betty, who seemed to understand him better than anyone else came running to him saying, 'Oh, grandpa, I just knew I would find you out here; you have been having another one of your nice dreams. Tell me all about it, please.' Yes, Betty, the best of them all. Why, everything was so real and plain it is hard yet for me to believe it was only a dream.'
Then, with a long-drawn sigh, he said, 'Betty, my girl, I am getting old; I should not be telling you all of my foolish dreams'. The little girl threw her arms around the old man's neck, hugged him up tight and said, 'Grandpa, they are not foolish dreams; you are living again the days of long ago.'