Threshing In North Dakota In The Early Twenties With The I. W. W. ‘s

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E. R. Dugan
Courtesy of E. R. Dugan, 436 N, Library, Waterloo, III. 62298 (see story) Threshing in North Dakota in the early twenties with the I.W.W.'s.

Sr. 436 N. Library, Waterloo, Illinois

Northwest of Jamestown, North Dakota, I got a job running a 25
H.P. Reeves straw burning engine and a 44′ Avery Yellow Fellow.
Oh, how this separator would swallow up the bundles! The boss told
me and the separator man to get the outfit out of the shed and get
it ready, as we had a big crop to thresh that year. I had a little
Russian fellow for a fireman; he was a good one! He always kept the
steam gauge on the peg and a gallon of white whiskey in the straw
rack. The separator man had one in the tool box of the separator.
You could get oiled up at either end. Well, we had our outfit ready
to go. This was on Friday morning and the boss said to me,
‘Drive the Ford truck. I will take the car and we will go to
Carrington to get a crew of men.’ We needed fourteen men to
drive the bundle wagons. There was an employment agency there where
all the I.W.W.’s, harvest hands and hoboes registered for work.
We went to this employment agency, told the agent we needed
fourteen men, and he gave us a list of names. He told us we would
find them jingled up out in the park, so we went out and had roll
call. One by one, as we called their names and looked them over,
the boss asked them if they were I.W.W.’s. They all swore they
didn’t belong to them. When we had fourteen men picked, they
all needed something before leaving town some tobacco, some gloves,
and so forth. When we got home with them, I could see they
didn’t like the big separator, for they knew it could eat too
much straw. Since this was Friday afternoon, they ate with us until
Monday morning. We started threshing at 7 o’clock and
everything was going good. The boss and I both thought they were
pretty good workers. At 10 o’clock they all drove their wagons
to the machine, got off their wagons, and got in a huddle, (like
you see in the picture.) Then they took out their little red song
books and started to sing. The boss asked, ‘What’s the
matter, boys?’ Then they all showed their red cards as members
of the I.W.W.’s and said they wanted fifty cents an hour raise
or they would quit. The boss said, ‘You will have to quit, for
I am paying the top wages now in this area.’ The boss took his
Model-T, drove home, got his checkbook and ten gauge shot gun, and
came back. He said to me, ‘Here, take care of my gun while I
pay the ones who have money coming.’ When the pay roll was
over, down the road they started on foot. It was eleven miles to
the closest point to the railroad where they could get on a freight
train. Well, we were laid up the rest of the day. The boss and
separator man went back to Carrington to hire another crew. The
little Russian and I stayed with the threshing outfit to guard it
just in case one of the discharged workers might try to slip back
and burn the thresher. This often happened in that country. We also
took care of the teams and the whiskey. When the boss and separator
man returned with another crew, they only had two I.W.W’s in
the bunch, which wasn’t bad. These two finally quit, as they
were out- numbered. They griped about every thing sleeping in the
straw piles, too many beards, cold wash water (they seldom washed),
or the fork handle didn’t fit their hands. Anyway, we finished
the run by the middle of September. I left then for Moose Jaw,
Canada, and got a job running a straw burner up there. That was a
great wheat country as far as your eyes could carry. That year I
almost got snowed in up there. I left for my home in Illinois to
run Dad’s Gaar Scott on the saw mill until the next spring.

Little did I think in those days I carried a steam engineers
license that later I would hold a pilots license and fly my own
plane. There are some of my buddies at Mt. Pleasant that like to
kid me because I am a Flying Farmer Member. Here’s to all my
old steam buddies! If you want to rid yourself of all your aches
and pains and feel a little younger, come to Mt. Pleasant to the
Old Threshers Reunion where hospitality can’t be matched.
Listen to stories, I am sure you have never heard before by such
fellows from Meadville, Pennsylvania, Kansas City, McLouth, Kansas,
and you name it.

If the Good Lord willet and Skunk River doesn’t rise, I will
see you at Mt. Pleasant next September.

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