Threshing Oats Part 1

In 1945 Dad and Mom bought our 238-acre farm a few miles northwest of Seneca in the heart of Crawford County, Wisconsin. I was approaching 3 years old. It was known as the Maney farm going way back to the early 1900’s. Pat Maney sold the farm to Fred Becwar in 1936.

It was typical at the time, that if a farmer was selling his farm, he would plant as much corn as possible the last year he owned the farm. Corn was the money crop. Typical also was the practice of rotating crops: corn, oats, and finally, hay. Hay for perhaps 2 or 3 years, then plow it up and go with corn, oats, hay.

In 1945, Dad had to plant a lot of oats, simply because the previous year the land was heavily planted in corn. These were the days of the threshing crews. Our Oak Grove Ridge probably had about 12 or 15 farmers that were on the threshing circuit. Frank Fradette owned the threshing machine. 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.

Frank Fradette pulled the threshing machine with a big orange Minneapolis Moline tractor. His father, Louis Fradette, lived over on Shortcut Road pass the Payne farm.  We boys called his “old Louie Fradette”. He owned the blower (or elevator) that took the grain and put it in the granary.

The most exciting day of the whole year, with the possible exception of Christmas Day, was the day the threshing machine and crew came to the Scheckel farm. As little kids, 4 or 5 or 6 years old, our main job was to “stay out of the way”. Those were strict “you’ll be sorry if you don’t” orders from both Dad and Mom.

That threshing machine was a behemoth of a beast. Threshing machines of that era were about 25-30 feet long, 8 to 10 feet tall, and about 4-5 feet wide. No other machine on the farm was that big. When you’re a kid, everything is big!!

Phillip, Bob, and I watched it come up the road from the Bernier farm. It couldn’t have been moving faster than about 5 mph. Threshing machines had steel wheels, and the roadway was gravel. The feeder tray, where the grain bundles are fed, was hinged and tucked under so as to shorten its length.

I was three years old and this is one of my earliest memories of life on the farm. The belching yellow Minneapolis Moline tractor pulled the huge thresher, with my Dad walking along between the tractor and thresher talking to Frank Fradette, who was turned sideways in the tractor seat, alternately looking at my Dad and the pathway ahead.

Thresher and tractor passed the big tree near the house, close to the chicken coop, and through the gate that lead to the “sand dunes” field. The thresher was placed about 400 feet southeast of the house.

Excerpts from Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boy Remembers


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