R.D. 1, West Chicago, Illinois
The other factor is rain. Slowly and softly it steals over the slumberer. Its pattering on the ground for the first minute or so wafts them into a new scene in their dreams. The college student in his dreams enters the class room and in the absence of the professor plainly hears the click of chalk and erasers striking the wall. The separator man is on the machine. He hears the wheat go clattering through the blower and at once gets busy cleaning the riddles. The hobo thinks he is not in dreamland but in a box-car on a through freight. He plainly hears the cinders thrown out by the engine beat against the sides of the car. The country boy is giving his best girl a ride in his new red-wheeled buggy and as he glides along distinctly hears the wind flutter the sails on her merry-widow hat. A blinding streak of lightning, a terrible peal of thunder and the slumberer is brought from negative to positive reality. For a moment he stares into the inky blackness of the night, and then quickly picking up his quilt, guided by the lightning, he seeks shelter under a grain wagon. He hangs his quilt on the coupling pole of the wagon and, standing on all fours, waits for the rain to stop after which he resumes his night's rest.
In the morning he is not awakened by the corn sheller like racket of an alarm clock, but by the hammering of a woodpecker, the whistling of a bob-white, and the crowing and cackling that issues from the neighboring barnyard. For a minute he yawns and rubs his aching arms and shoulders and wonders if the sun did not take a short cut in getting back to the east. The scream of the engine whistle, however, soon tells him that breakfast is ready, and putting his quilt in a gunny sack, he heads for the cook-shack where he does justice to a plain but wholesome breakfast that is served in a set of dishes composed mostly of preserve cans.
Having eaten his breakfast he goes out to the machine where he finds the separator man already through oiling and inspecting the machine, and the engineer sitting on the right driver of the engine waiting for the signal. The farmer backs his wagon under the grain spout of the machine, the separator man gives the signal and in a few minutes the machine is howling for wheat. The pitchers - usually four to six in number- work hard trying to satisfy the machine.
The sun slowly rises higher and higher until about eleven o'clock when it apparently stands still. The pitchers, as a result of hard work and frequent visits to the water barrel, feel weak and tired, and long for a moment's rest. As they look around and see the water boy lying in the shade of the engine and the engineer sitting under the cab, apparently doing nothing except staring at the separator man on the machine, they make up their minds that they'll get at least a minute's rest. So while the engineer is entertaining some girls on horseback that are paying a visit to the machine, and the separator man is talking with the grain hauler, they give each other a hint and pile the feeder full of the wettest bundles they can find. One of them with his fork holds the governor of the feeder open.
The machine cries
The machine is slugged. The engineer jumps to the throttle but too late. The engine has jumped out of the belt. The separator man at once gets busy pulling out the big bite on which the machine had choked. To the pitchers this is like a good turn in a dream. The howling of the machine has died away and the heavy cloud of dust that hung over it has disappeared. The pitchers take bundles of wheat on their forks and, running the fork handle into the stack, sit down under the improvised umbrellas and wipe the sweat off their brows. Only two or three minutes are they permitted to enjoy the so-much-longed-for rest. The separator man soon has the machine in running order and gives the signal, the engineer backs his engine into the belt and the machine resumes its howl for more wheat.
Thus almost without variation one double day slowly follows another until the season is over; but long before the last bundle is thrown into the hungry jaws of the machine the pitchers make solemn resolutions to the effect that they will never again follow a threshing rig. However, when the next season opens, the mere sound of a traction engine whistle, 'like the call of the wild,' drives away what remains of these resolutions and sends them out once more into the boundless wheat fields for another season's run.