(or, a city 'boy' should leave farming to the farmers)
Off the beat
Some gay philosopher-who probably didn't have anything to do but sit around and think up witty little sayings - once made the profound statement: 'You can learn something every day!'
Yesterday I did him one better.
I learned two things!
1. Farmers work hard for a living.
2. Stay away from a machine called the 'Advance Rumley.'
I learned both of these things after I had somewhat foolishly volunteered to help a Paint Creek neighbor turn what looks like ten thousand shocks full of oats into bins of grain.
And this morning, after maybe five hours on the business end of a hay fork. I feel as though I went through the thresher with the last bundle of oats.
It's been thirty years since I've been close enough to a farm to even smell the manure, and I guess I should have known better-but I figured that pitching bundles couldn't be any harder than punching a typewriter, so I gave it a try.
I shouldn't have to say it, but I will-there's a difference.
I SHOWED UP at Irv Dressins 80 acre operation about 5 yesterday afternoon-and right there I made my first mistake.
I should have turned around and gone back home:
Irv was just finishing up the milking and didn't appear too impressed by either my appearance or my arrival, probably wondering if I could handle the water boy's job.
At least that's the impression I got when he yelled for Mike, his seven year old son, and told him to take me down into the field and bring in a small load.
Mike apparently didn't think much of me, or my ability to build a load, as he passed up one wagon for another with high racks on each end.
MIKE HANDED me a fork, assigned me to a safe seat on the wagon, and without another backward glance started the tractor and bounced down the lane to the field.
He stopped between two rows of shocks and obviously expected me to do something, so I jumped off the wagon and began heaving bundles up onto the wagon. Mike didn't say anything, but as the load grew bigger and higher I noticed he had a funny look on his face.
Here is an old picture of my father's corn shredder. The picture was taken about 1899, 6 miles east of Vincennes, Indiana on the Henry Schuchman farm. It is a Stevens 10 roll corn shredder, pulled by my father's 16 HP Heilman traction engine (sorry not in picture!).
Left to right, my father, James R.Gilmore, Wm. Drieman, Sr., August Schuchman, Jr., August Schuchman, Sr., Chas. Wilson, John Drieman, Wm. Drieman, Jr., Henry Schuchman, Henry Brocksmith, Sr. and Wesley Waller. John Drieman is the only survivor.
Sweat was running down my back; a blister developed on my thumb; and every bundle was getting heavier and harder to keep on the load; and Mike finally reached down and with a disgusted look, shut off the tractor.
I looked at him questionly, and he muttered:
WE'RE wasting a lot of gas -you're supposed to take two bundles each time!'
Mike said just one more thing: 'We'll never get her back without losing half the load.'
He was right. Part way up the lane the wagon hit a rut and at least half the load slid off.
Irv didn't say anything. He came down with a fork and reloaded the wagon but as Mike pulled the load up along side the thresher he mumbled something about 'Maybe it would be better if I left the loading to someone else.'
Mike offered a suggestion: 'Maybe he can pitch bundles.'
About this time I was ready to pitch the whole thing and go back to mowing weeds along Paint Creek, but I climbed up on top of the load, dragging my fork behind me.
RIGHT there is where I started to learn about the 'Advance Rumely.'
I don't know what vintage that threshing machine carries, but it still wore its name proudly in big red letters on its side.
It was racketing and clanking; belts were spinning and flapping all over the place; chains were clacking; and the blower was blowing.
I looked down the endless feeder and figured that before I clogged up the Rumely with bundles I had better find out how fast I could pitch bundles into it.
'Hey Irv,' I yelled, 'how fast can I feed it?'
It was the first time Irv smiled all day-in fact, he laughed long and loud.
'Just keep it full,' he roared, as he walked away, shaking his head.
WELL, I tried. But that miserable machine ate up bundles like it was starved to death. I pitched and pitched, but after the first bundle disappeared into the churning maw of the 'Advance Rumley,' I never did catch up.
The wind was from the west and it carried the chaff and the dust from the blower back over the wagon. I was eating chaff, spitting chaff and cussing at chaff, all at the same time.
As soon as one wagon was unloaded, there was another one waiting, and that old 'Rumely' just kept on churning.
I hoped for a breakdown; wished fora breakdown; even prayed a little for a breakdown-but the 'Rumely' rumbled and grumbled, eating up the bundles faster than I could pitch them in.
FINALLY it slowed, then stopped Irv was on the tractor, and Mike was pulling off the belt.
It was dark and there were no more wagons waiting.
I don't quite know what went on after this-Mike condescended to let me help him roll up the big belt and pack it into the silo room.
I was too doggone weary to even take Irv up on his offer of a bottle of beer.
On the way home I passed another threshing operation, still going strong, under lights.
Up on the load there was a small, slightly-built woman.
I stopped and checked.
Yep! She was keeping that feeder full-and with no trouble at all.