Threshing Time

            It was the most exciting day of the whole year, with the possible exception of Christmas Day.  Frank Fradette came up the road from the Bernier farm. pulling the threshing machine with a big orange Minneapolis Moline tractor, and turned into the Scheckel farm yard.

           Threshing machineIt was the middle of the 1940s, and as little kids, 4, 5 and 6 years old, Phillip, Bob, and I were to “stay out of the way.” It was the days of the threshing circuit on Oak Grove Ridge in the middle of Crawford County near Seneca and 12 to 15 farmers moved from farm to farm threshing oats.

The sole purpose of a thresher was to separate the golden kernels of oats from their stalks. The stalks where sent out a big pipe by a powerful blower and the stalks built a straw stack. The oats kernels were hauled to a granary for storage.

That threshing machine was a behemoth of a beast. Threshing machines of that era were about 30 feet long, 8 to 10 feet tall, and about 5 feet wide. No other machine on the farm was that big and when you’re a kid, everything is big!

The thresher went pass the big tree near the house, pass the chicken coop, through the gate that lead to the “sand dunes” field, the thresher placed about 400 feet southeast of the house.

Much activity, we watched from afar. Frank Fradette maneuvered the thresher to the spot designated by my Dad. The direction of the wind determined the orientation of the thresher. Crews did not want the wind blowing the straw, chaff, and debris back onto the thresher. Unhooked the tongue from the tractor. The wheels were dug in, and blocked. The thresher had to be leveled and staked down.  One man went around the machine carrying the grease gun, filling all the zerks. Several other fellows got all the belts out of the cavernous rear compartment where the straw is blown out the pipe.

Frank Fradette drove the big Minneapolis Moline around to face the thresher and the hammer mill belt went on. Seems like it took about a half hour  to get that big contraption ready.

Teams of horses, pulling wagons, arrived, grizzled sun-burned men with old straw hats, bib overalls, and cigarette clinched between chapped lips. Larsen had a Norwegian accent, hard to understand. The bachelor “Ingham boys” Jack, Bob, and Tom brought 2 teams of horses and wagons. Their grandfather, James Ingham, was born in Lancashire, England, came to the United States and settled in the Seneca area in the 1850s. A long row of Ingham graves are in the back left side of St. Patrick’s Cemetery. Dad directed them to the field to start loading the oats bundles.

Other men, horses, tractors, and wagons arrived at the Scheckel farm;  Bernier, Kozelka, Sutton, Sales, Mahan, Rosenbaum, Payne, Aspenson, MacAvery. An early start meant a farmer’s grain could all be threshed in one day.

Phillip, Bob, and I took jars of cold water to the farm men. Jack Ingham walked up. “Boys, it’s goin’ be a hot one today.”

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