Threshing Bee 1919


| July/August 1983



Pitching bundles

Pitching bundles on the left, machine tenders, center, and the grain bag tender on the right.

It was the year 1919 and the big day of the threshing bee. If you are old enough it could be a sentimental journey, but if you can't remember the days before television and radio why not come along just out of curiosity.

To the eight year old, that I were on that day in late summer when the threshers were to come, it promised to be as festive as celebrating the fourth of July. The preparations in the barnyard and the granary and in mothers' kitchen had started days before. There were grain sacks to get ready, fences had to be moved to make room for the big tractor and the threshing machine, and most of the live stock herded into pens to be out of the way of the men and machines and the horse drawn wagons that would swarm all over the farm. That must have been why it was called a threshing bee.

The first to arrive was my Uncle Frank Englehardt with his tractor pulling the Advance Rumley threshing machine. The double gates to the barnyard were flung open and the equipment moved in, chugging and snorting and rumbling like a monster, to the area where the straw stack would be. His oldest son, Wendell, followed along behind in a horse drawn buggy. He was in his teens and his fathers' right hand man, so he had to help run that big machine on wheels and the rest of the equipment, even hooking the belts on the pulleys. He had brought Aunt Ella along to help mother, and my older sister, Edna, in the kitchen, but best of all there was cousin Ivey, my age, and her younger brother Alonzo to share in the excitement.

The weather was ideal. The sun was shinning, the wind was just a soft breeze and the temperature was made to order. The place soon came alive with, activity as the men with horse drawn hayracks began to arrive. They were calling back and forth, greeting each other and urging their horses to get going as they headed for the fields where Dad had cut the ripe oats and barley with the binder just a few days before. He had set the bundles up in shocks in rows, just far enough apart for the wide wagons to move through. The men pitched the bundles of grain up into the hayracks as the horses responded to whoa and giddyap, stopping and going, between the rows until the wagons were loaded. They had to be ready to move in along side of the hopper of the threshing machine as soon as it was all ready to go.

There were a few waiting in line when, with a wave and a shout, Uncle Frank gave the signal to start tossing in the bundles. The tractor was running smoothly with the belts in place and every man at his station. It was a lot noisier than any bee hive. Men were shouting to each other above the roar of the tractor and the rumbling of the thresher. From our perch on the fence by the big barn we were watching eagerly for the straw to start coming out of the blower. First a few wisps, than it came faster like a dragon huffing and puffing. Sometimes little puffs and sometimes big ones so the man on the stack wasn't always visible. He was called the stacker and it was his job to mow and stomp the straw into place to build a sturdy, even stack.

The man standing on top of the machine kept turning the blower, that pivoted in a semicircle, to guide the flow of straw where the stacker would motion he wanted it. He had to elevate it higher and higher as the pile grew. The air filled with chaff that escaped as the straw came flying out of the blower creating a haze and then settling, like fine dust, over everything and everybody.