THRESHING CREW COOK


| September/October 1978



Old Case steam engine

Kenneth Fiegel, Route 3, Box 14, Kingfisher, Oklahoma 73750. Reprinted with permission James N. Standard, Managing Editor, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

The grand finale of the parade was the old Case steam engine, driven down the paved street with Kenneth Fiegel at the helm. At intervals the whistle would be blown. As the shrill whistle pierced the air, jet planes on loan from Vance Air Base in Enid roared overhead. The old Case engine that had been retired in 1933 had been restored, and now it came rumbling down Main Street in Kingfisher, much to the delight of a generation that had never seen such a contraption.

Directly behind the steam engine came the cook shack better known to an earlier generation as the beanery. The cook shack was pulled with a team of mules, and all details were authentic, with the old horse collars shined and ancient fly nets covering the mules.

I watched the passing of the old cook shack with mixed emotions, for in the short minutes of this July parade, 34 days of my life were brought back to memory. It was the same old cook shack, now fully restored, that I had worked in one summer back in 1937 as a teen-ager. I was assistant cook for the threshing industry. I still remember how excited I was to have landed that job for the pay was fabulous$2.00 a day! It was a day that began at 4:30 a.m. and ended at 11:30 p.m.

What was it like then, back in the summer of 1937? Average wage for most farm work was $1 a day, less for domestic help. The rigors of the depression had eased somewhat, but the economy was still strained. In just a few short years this was all to change, as the nation was to be plunged into the horrors of World War II, and the migration to the defense plants would begin.

But, for then, in the summer of 1937 $2.00 a day was BIG money. I planned to use the money to finance my second year at Central State College. The job as head cook paid $4.00 a day, but that job required a woman with previous experience feeding a threshing crew, which generally numbered around 24 men.