We continue our narrative of threshing oats on the Scheckel farm in the 1940s outside of Seneca, in the middle of Crawford Country, Wisconsin. It is early August, 1946 and I am 4 years old.
Much activity, my brothers Phillip age 6 and Bob, almost 3, watched from afar. Admonitions of “stay out of the way”. Frank Fradette maneuvered the thresher to the spot designated by my Dad. The direction of the wind determined the orientation of the threshed. Crews did not want the wind blowing the straw, chaff, and debris back onto the thresher. A farmer 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.
The McCormack Deering manufacturer made steps along the side of the thresher, built into one of the side elevators, so a person could climb atop the machine. A person or two could be on top of the thresher. The big straw pipe is stored and transported lying lengthwise across the top of thresher and the end is nestled in a cradle. A strap holds it in place. Gears with handles operated the long straw chute. That always reminded me of those pictures and movies we saw of gunners abroad ships that would steer the guns back and forth and up and down.
The big one-foot diameter pipe was swung around, Another gear would extend the pipe, make it longer. Fradette’s machine could be set, so that during operation, the big chute pipe would slowly oscillate back and forth to provide a semicircular pile of straw, rather than a single mound.
A smaller pipe, about 4 inches in diameter was used to carry the threshed grain to a wagon or pick-up truck. Oats could be loaded from thresher to truck from either side of the machine. The side was dictated by the wind. The grain wagon was placed upwind, of course, so chaff would not blow back onto the wagon.
The grain bundle feeder chute, tucked in during transport from farm to farm, was unlatched, hinged up and fastened into place. The feed chain was inspected, making sure the chain was firmly around the cog gears that drove it.
Frank Fradette drove the big Minneapolis Moline around to face the thresher. The big drive belt from tractor to thresher was installed. Seems like it took over a half hour to get that big contraption ready.
Other men, horses, tractors, wagons arrived at the farm. An early start meant a farmer’s grain could all be threshed in one day. Some farmers got their instructions from Dad who directed them out to a field to start loading the shocks onto the wagons.
I remember the men and names; Berneir, Kozelka, Ingham, Sutton, Larsen, Sales, Mahan, Rosenbaum, Payne, Aspenson, MacAvery, Stovey. Bib overalls, straw hats, some smoking, some a pipe clenched in teeth, German and Norwegian and English ancestry.
Excerpts from Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boy Remembers