There was a shortage of manpower towards the end of World War II. Most young men were in the military. For this reason, a couple of my friends Bill “Ruff” Locke, Eugene “Ole” Oleson and I were recruited to work on the threshing machine crew. We did our best in between play sessions.
The first step of the process was to cut and bind the bundles of grain with binder twine by the binder machine. The next step was to stack the bundles into shocks for curing and drying. Of course the grain in stocks attracted the rodents and the rodents attracted the snakes and raptors that preyed on the rodents. The snakes were prey for the raptors as well.
We slept in bed rolls and sleeping bags in the hay loft of the barns. The most attractive feature of the job was the great food. The ladies were magicians with those old wood cook stoves. They had the advantage of home grown meat, dairy and garden vegetables. The food was always good and there was plenty of it.
The three of us were provided with a steel-wheeled wagon pulled by a team of horses. Our job was to pitch with a pitchfork the bundles of grain out of the shock on to the wagon. When loaded, we drove the team to the threshing machine for unloading and processing.
While pitching the bundles out of the shocks and on to the wagon, you had to watch for snakes. There were the harmless bull snakes and occasionally a rattlesnake. We tried to kill the rattlesnakes.
After getting to the threshing machine, you had to pitch the bundle into the threshing machine. The thresher separated the grain from the straw. The grain went into a hopper and the straw was blown into a nearby pile. The thresher was powered by a McCormick Deering tractor that had steel wheels with steel lugs. There was a belt that ran from the tractor’s power pulley wheel to the thresher’s power pulley wheel to power the threshing machine.
During World War II almost all manufacturing went towards the war effort. After the end of the war, there was a rapid development of the pull type and the self propelled combines which more or less ended the days of the old threshing machines. The new combines did all of the previously mentioned steps in one operation and they were much more efficient with a lot less manpower.
Guest columnist Bob Huff grew up in Upton. He is a driver for the mini-bus managed by the Senior Center. Center Stage is written by friends of the Senior Center for the Sheridan Community.