Fanning Oats part 2

Those gunny sacks full of oats were heavy. Gunny sacks are burlap bags woven from jute, hemp, or sisal fiber. Later in life, I encountered the same material in handbags. But for a kid on the farm, gunny sacks were for feed, seed, ear corn, or sack races at the school picnic. Some gunny sack or burlap material covered water canteens. When the water-filled canteen was soaked on the outside, the evaporation of water from the burlap material cooled the water inside.

The bad oats, light oats, chaff, bits of straw that didn’t make the cut, were fed to the hogs as part of their slop.

Fanning oats was a chore that had to get done before going to school. Usually, we spent a half hour after morning chores and before breakfast. Off to the granary we would go to fan oats. Turning the fanning machine was hard work. Trying to keep it at a steady speed was not easy. We bantered over our efforts.

“Lawrence, you’re not turning the handle at a steady speed,” Phillip would complain.

“Well, why don’t you do it.” I’d pause and wait for Phillip to take over.

“I just had my turn. Now turn it at the same speed, and a bit faster wouldn’t hurt at all.”

What hurt was big brother’s comments about my work ethic, which I must admit, needed some improvement.

Five minutes was enough for any of us, and another Scheckel boy or Dad would take over. I often wondered why it was not motor-driven. Our cream separator had a motor. Small electric motors didn’t cost much and could have saved lots of back-breaking labor. But our granary didn’t have electricity, so an extension cord would have had to run from the power pole to the granary. Looking back, I shouldn’t have expected an electric motor. Not when Dad had three able-bodied kids to do the work!


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