It’s the middle of July, and my mind goes back to life on the Scheckel 238-acre farm, in the heart of Crawford County, two miles northwest of Seneca.
No sooner was first crop hay “put up” and it was time to “shock grain”. We could see it coming, a sea of green oats slowly turning to a duller, lighter green, then toward a yellow hue. The oats were ripening. It was a beautiful sight to see, the undulating fields turning golden yellow.
Dad would walk out into the oat fields. He would reach down and pull a few grains from the stalks. Then he would shuck the grains in his hand and open up the husks, inspect the fullness of the pods, and shake a handful of oats for heft. Dad would announce at the supper table, “Tomorrow, we get the grain binder out.”
The McCormick-Deering 8-foot grain binder was stored in the east wing of the granary. The east wing held the tractor, grain binder, and oats fanning machine. The west wing stored the corn binder, drags, disk. Both provided good hiding places for hide-and-go-seek.
The next morning, Dad and his three sons, Phillip, Bob, and I would slowly pull the grain binder out of the shed and start getting it ready.
We could tell that Dad was excited about getting started. Most of the neighbors were combining oats by the time I was about 10 years old. The Scheckels did not have a combine. We had a grain binder and threshing machine. That meant “greasing her up”, unwrapping the canvas that moved the grain through the machine, and sharpening the sickle bar.
The 8-foot sickle bar was pulled out of the cutter bar and clamped in a vise. The triangular knife sections were sharpened with a file. Loose blades were repaired by shearing off the two soft rivets holding it to the bar. New rivets were installed. New blades replaced old and worn blades.
There were zerts to be greased, oil cups filled, and oil squirted in holes made for that purpose. Dad had a manual for the McC-D grain binder, but I suspect he did not pay much attention to it.