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.
Every farmer has pride, and wants to be well thought of by his neighbors. A farmer could not hide his operation from fellow farmers. The threshing crews walked his fields, witnessed the gullies, sand dunes, reddish or yellowish soil where the blackened topsoil had been washed away. Neighbor farmers observed the corn fields, with the corn about four feet high at threshing time, and observed how weedy his crops were. There was no Roundup Ready Corn in those days and weeds were the bane of farmers.
A farmer’s whole operation was open for casual inspection; his barns and silos, his cattle, horses, harnesses, machinery, the condition of his fences, buildings, the house, lawn, and gardens. Everyone knew who had good, strong, healthy teams of horses and who had the nags that could barely do a day’s work.
You could judge a man and his farm. Nobody ever said anything, at least not out in the open, certainly not around threshing time. Those conversations and remarks might be made over a beer at Sullivan’s tavern in Seneca, or Caya’s in Lynxville, or Slama’s in Eastman.
But everyone knew who the “good” farmers were, who took care of their cattle, machinery, farmstead, who were the hard workers and who were the slackers. One and all knew who supported their church and who didn’t, who didn’t even go to church, which of course, was unthinkable. How could you be a farmer, an American, a decent human being and not go to church? That was the thinking of the Scheckel boys.
There were no Porta Potties on farms. Threshing crew farmers were not about to go into the clean farmhouse in their dirty, sweaty, grease-smeared clothes and use the bathroom. Many farms, especially in the early years, did not have indoor plumbing. An outhouse was the “port of call.” The pages of last year’s Sears catalog served as toilet paper.
If a farm had indoor plumbing and no outhouse, thresher crew farmers took care of matters. There was always a nearby woods, or the barn, or the hog house. These matters are best left to the imagination.