We continue our story of threshing oats in the mid-1940s on the Scheckel farm near Seneca in the middle of Crawford County, Wisconsin. It is the era of the threshing ring, when farmers banded together to thresh grain, moving from farm to farm over a 2-week season.
On toward 10 o’clock, with the dew burned off by the blazing sun, the loads of bundles started arriving from the fields. There were 6 or 7 teams of wagons and horses. Some farmers brought a tractor and wagon. These were small tractors, typical for the time of the late 1940’s and 1950’s. Farmall H, Ford 8N, Allis Chalmers C. John Deere “Johnny Poppers”.
A half dozen wagons, with teams of horses, could keep the hungry threshing machine busy. Shutting it down was wasted time, and time was everything. That machine kept going, only to be stopped between loads for a quick greasing of all the zerts and at lunch time, which was usually around 12:30 PM.
Fradette opens the throttle of the big Minneapolis Moline, smoke belching out the 3-foot exhaust pipe atop the machine, wafting off into the clear blue Wisconsin sky. The thresher comes to life, the big claw teeth at the end of the grain bundle tray chute starting to move, as if it were gulping for bundles. The tray chain moves, all the belts and pulleys turning, as if this beast is arising from the dead and coming alive.
A farmer has already driven his team and wagon into position, just inches from the feed trough. The thresher is up to speed, and Fradette signals for the first bundles to start down the feeder.
Bundles are thrown in grain heads first, stalk end last, and lengthwise. There are feeder knives attached beneath the claws that cut the binder twine. Uncut twine is bad news, grain is not separated from the stalk, and it can clog the thresher, which means shutting the machine down, a waste of valuable time. Time is everything. In addition, twine can get wrapped around shaft bearing and needs to be cut out by hand with a jack knife.
Frank Fradette was paid by the bushel for threshing grain. A few cents a bushel was the rate. Threshed oats went up an elevator on the side of the big machine and the grains dumped in a receiver basket. The basket was counterbalanced by a weight and when full, the buckle opened and dumped the grain into an auger that took it to a waiting wagon or pick-up. At the same time, the dumping buckle operated a geared counter that kept track of the number of bushels threshed. Two dumping trips of the bucket was one bushel of oats. The counter had 3 “windows” and operated like the counters used to keep track of the amount of electricity one used.
Excerpts from Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boy Remembers