THE OLD FARMER AND ‘OLD BETSY’ CONVERSE

By Staff

Living Again the Days of Long Ago – Early-Day Threshing

The Dakota Farmer way back in 1937 had this article which we
thought you will enjoy. When we asked the Dakota Farmer for
permission to use this article and we had promised to give credit,
the Editor replied, ‘Credit or no credit use it if you
wish.’ If you knew how persnipperty these editors are about the
material they coddle as well as I do you would enjoy this
refreshing statement as much as I. The Editor.

That was not the first time that summer that Mother and I had
talked about threshing. Only a few days before, we were on our way
to town driving a span of ponies hitched to a light wagon. All the
fields along the road had shocks standing so thick that off at a
distance it looked like there wasn’t room to drive a team and
wagon in among them. ‘What a wonderful crop!’ Mother said:
‘How in the world will they ever get it all threshed?’ It
was then I told her I intended buying a new steam threshing
machine. ‘Land sakes! No, Johnnie, not a steamer. It will blow
you to Kingdom Come.’ I told her ‘No, I learned much about
a steam engine the fall I fired for uncle Jack down in
Minnesota,’ and that I felt sure I could handle it all
right.

Starting Up the New Outfit

It was on a Friday we pulled the rig out from town. Monday
morning had been set for starting the shock run, and we planned on
trying the rig out Saturday afternoon, threshing feed for anyone
who cared to bring in a load. Old Mr. Johnson, who had promised to
help me feed and tend separator that fall, came over early Saturday
morning to help get ready. I wanted very much to thresh before
anyone came, but there was work yet to do when Mother called us in
to dinner.

Soon after that, neighbors came driving in with loads of oat
bundles to be threshed, not only men and boys, but women and girls
came along; they, too, wanted to see the new rig start. Each family
brought a basket of good things to eat, planning on a big supper at
our place that night after the threshing was done.

About 2:00 o’clock, Mr. Johnson said, ‘Well Johnnie, as
far as I can see she is ready to go; line up your engine and
let’s see what she will do.’ I thought a great deal of our
old neighbor, Mr. Johnson; he had helped me many times, and given
me much good advice since my father had died. He came up close to
me and said: ‘Johnnie, my boy, don’t let this bunch of men
and women bother you; drive in slow and straight.’ As good luck
would have it, I have never made a truer lineup since.

We put on the belt and were ready to go; the horses were all
very much afraid of the machine and it took much coaxing and
petting to get them up near enough to unload the bundles. At last
we were threshing; straw was coming out over the carrier, and nice
plump oats into the bags.

‘Not a Thing Going Over’

Those days, the farmers didn’t wait until winter, when they
were hauling straw, to find out what kind of a job the thresher had
done; every now and then the separator man or someone went back to
the strawpile to make sure there was no grain going over. Now,
there were half a dozen men and boys back there looking in the
straw for oats. Jerry, a young man of the neighborhood who nearly
always worked in the strawpile, came back with a handful of chaff
that had in it a few oats. After a few slight adjustments, someone
called back, ‘She is doing fine now, not a thing going
over.’

We finished the last load late in the afternoon, pulled the
separator out away from the strawpile and, after washing up, we
were all ready for the big feed. What a jolly time we had! So many
talking and laughing at the same time. When they were ready to go
home, Ben said, ‘Folks, if I have good luck, you will hear that
whistle tooting at half past three Monday morning.’

A Long Bun of Threshing

That was a nice dry fall for threshing. We put in long days,
worked early and late-and, tell about long runs: our shock
threshing lasted from the middle of August up into October, and we
finished the last setting of stacks way after dark only two days
before Christmas.

That night, at the supper table, we talked it over and decided
rather than to fire up again the next morning we would pull home as
soon as we could get ready. Mr. Olson, the man we had threshed for,
said: ‘Yes John, unless you want the old rattletrap snowed in,
you better be making tracks for home.’ Someone spoke up
laughing, ‘I guess he will have plenty of time, we haven’t
seen a cloud for weeks.’

Then we hurried around, packed the tender with straw and were
soon on our way. We had moved after dark many times that fall, but
this trip was different; it was one of those kind of night like we
have only now and then, when one can hear everything so plain; the
exhaust of the engine was unusually loud; we boys were happy to
know that the threshing was done, and the engine puffing and
snorting up the little hills that winter night made us all glad we
were alive.

Tooted the Horn

When we got home, Ben, whose fingers were always itching to get
hold of the whistle string, wanted to know, ‘Shall I blow the
horn?’ I told him, ‘Go to it, Boy, the threshing is
done!’ He sure did wake the echo’s back in the hills with
that whistle; I guess everyone in the neighborhood heard it and
knew we were through threshing. We seldom used the whistle, only
when necessary, like calling for water or empty bags, and a good
long whistle at quitting time to let the women folks know we were
coming. Ben always wasted more or less steam with that whistle
every morning before daylight; he said that was to wake up the late
sleepers. Ben was learning to be an engineer and was a rattling
good fireman; unless the straw was real damp, we never had to wait
for steam.

(Continued next issue)

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