Harold Jolliff remembers threshing grain with a Port Huron steam engine and threshing rig shortly after World War I.
After a long delay, winter at last struck us here in Wayne County with a bang. This weather puts me in mind of an experience I had in 1919 or 1920, soon after World War I. I was working for Mr. Alan Henning, in West Salem, Wayne County saw milling, threshing, and clover hulling. He operated on a rather large scale, several mills and threshers. One farmer, Mr. Warren Camp, did not thresh until January. At that time there was some field work, but mostly it was hauled into the barn and threshed at a later date. January 16 was Mr. Camp's time to thresh.
At this time I was staying with the Henning family. I was told I would be called early the next morning. It was early alright, two o'clock in the morning, and the temperature well near the zero mark. Mr. Henning already had the nineteen-horse Port Huron steamed up; coal and water loaded. We were soon on our way with the Port Huron thresher that was made ready the day before.
Old time roads had frozen hard with horse, buggy, and wagon tracks. 'Rough O Boy' wide steel wheels and no springs and miles to go. We arrived at the Camp home at seven o'clock. We had good speed, one mile per hour. There was a kerosene lantern on the front and no lights on the back. Today on the same road, now hard surfaced, we would go over Interstate 71, where they go seventy-nine miles per hour faster than we did that night. Five miles of this trip was in the direction of my home. I knew this was coming up, so I had the farmers wood ranks spotted along the way. Several times we stopped to replenish our fuel supply. At the creeks we stopped to renew the water supply. Mr. Rice Weaver brought the water tank with a team of horses, being a regular hauler and log skidder.
We enjoyed our breakfast very much that morning; buckwheat cakes, maple molasses, bread, butter, fresh coffee, and sausage. By 8:30 we had the thresher set in the large barn and ready to go. The neighbors came in and the grain began going into the bins and the straw into the large shed.
My main job was to tend the blower. I did not sweat much that day, as there was a good breeze and the thermometer no higher then twelve above. The water man took over for me sometimes. He was sure to come with a friendly smile when the water tank was nearly empty and the tank pump froze. I soon reminded him he was the hauler.
We thrashed till 4:30, when the neighbors and Mr. Camp had to leave to do chores. We stayed at the Camp home that night and were entertained with music, old pictures, stories, and pop corn. The next day, around three o'clock, the job was done. The grain being stored from July to January, many mice and rats had their paradises destroyed and many were killed. The men in the mow never saw so many. Some rats that were full grown were half as large as Tom cats. We had the outfit back to town by 7:30 that night.
Mrs. Jolliff and I are regular readers of the Iron Men Album and have enjoyed fairs, farm shows, and steam engine days in several states and Canada. Thank the Good Lord for giving us health and strength to enjoy life.