We’re getting the McCormick Deering grain binder ready to go on the Scheckel 238-acre farm, in the heart of Crawford County, two miles northwest of Seneca. The golden fields of oats
are ready for cutting.The next step needed to get the binder field-ready was to install the three canvases. Each canvas was stretched over two wooden rollers. Narrow hardwood strips were riveted about every ten inches on one side of the canvas. The canvas was hemmed on all four sides to keep it from tearing or ripping. The strong canvas was three feet wide, but varied from 10 feet to 20 feet in length. Each canvas had three or four canvas straps on one end and metal buckles on the other end.
The reel canvas was the long one and conveyed the cut grain stalks sideways to the end of the platform. The two elevated canvasses moved in opposite directions. They were at a slant and raised above the big bull wheel. The grain stalks from the horizontal reel platform were grappled by the two slanted elevator canvasses and carried up to the tying deck. The grain sheaves dropped off the canvas and were collected into a bundle for tying.
Those canvasses were a pain to install and they had to be put on correctly. The metal strap buckles must lead in the direction the canvas turned. Then the thick straps were threaded through the metal buckles and pulled tight. Not too tight and not too loose.
That canvas was heavy material and expensive. Farmers took good care of their grain binder canvas. At the end of the day, the canvas was taken off, especially if there was a threat of rain. Which meant, of course, that the canvas had to be restrung and tightened the next morning before cutting grain.
Mice and rats liked to chew on that canvas. Most farmers would roll up the canvas, bundle the canvas up with binder twine, and store them in gunny sacks. The gunny sacks were suspended from the rafters in mid-air with baling wire or binder twine. Mice could not get at the canvas.
One year my Dad did not get that done very well. Grain cutting time came around and down came the canvas bundles. The canvas was rolled out and inspected. Then came the swearing. The mice had a very good winter, gnawing away at the canvas and straps. We boys heard every ‘God Damn”, and “Son-Of-A-Bitch”. Dad would swear, but his boys were not allowed to. Dad was not a happy farmer for a few hours.
The thin hardware laths would wear and break. Canvas was attached to the wood slats by copper rivets. Under the stress and strain, the rivets would pop. Old rivets had to be removed and replaced by new ones.
The last step to getting the grain ready for action was to install bales of binder twine. Dad bought rolls of binder twine from Johnson’s in Seneca or in Prairie du Chien or Viroqua. The round bin on the grain binder held two spools. Each spool of twine came in a black paper wrapper.
We’re ready to take the binder to the field.