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"Threshing: There Was Always a Lot of Clowning Around"


Fri, Jul 20th, 2001
Posted in

Monday, July 23, 2001

The Art of Farming is a project of the Collaborative for Watershed Sustainability to gather stories about farm life in southeastern Minnesota before World War II. Stories have been gathered from individuals near Harmony, Lake City and Wells Creek near Red Wing.

Threshing time was probably one of the most fun times that ever was. I think for everybody. We had probably ten families that lived nearby. Everybody’d bring their wagon. It was kind of funny. They turned us kids loose with all the wagons. My dad ran the threshing machine and the blower and stuff with the other men. But there was always a lot of clowning around, always people chasing other guys with snakes. It was a fun thing. And at dinnertime it was just a feast, I mean you had a meal you could never buy anywhere! They had food… And they sat there for hours, ate for an hour and had fun and then went back to the threshing.

We used to race. The kids would race to see who could make the biggest load. I can remember my brothers and I (my dad had a bigger wagon) two of us would grab a whole shock at one time, and throw it up there and we had another one up at the top stacking them and making them big. He’d go bundle over bundle. We used to get some really big loads. We had these big steep hills and all we had were those little Ferguson tractors pulling the wagons. And we’d get a big load and come up those hills. You just knew what was coming. Everybody had to jump on the draw bar because that’s the only way you could make it. You definitely had to have a guy driving that knew how to speed shift, because you couldn’t miss a gear. If you missed a gear you were gonna be done. And you had one guy ready-- if the front end started to lift up, he’d climb over the hood. It was fun and a challenge. We did it all the time, and we didn’t get hurt.

We worked like men when we were ten years old. I think we learned how to work. I shocked oats when I was ten years old. The oats were taller than I was, and I was shocking all day. If you did that now, it’d be work, but we made it fun. We’d race. It was a blast. We helped our dad always.

The threshing machine? All those belts! We’d put all those belts on. And the threshing machine was really neat. We could go up there because my dad owned it so we’d go up to the top and the thing was a shakin’. It reminded me of a polka band. You know, everybody’s dancing and the parts going different ways. Everything’s defying the law of gravity. It’s got rhythm. And the guy that’s running the thing, he doesn’t have to see anything, he can tell by the way it sounds.

I can do that with my equipment. You can tell by the way it sounds. Threshing—I’d like to do that again.

We felt so proud because my dad would even allow us to do certain things at our age. My dad would just turn us loose and we’d do it ourselves. We learned how to fix equipment just by doing it. I remember when I was a teenager my dad got a bunch of oak flooring at a sale, and even though he never helped us, we put the whole oak floor in the house by ourselves. And it’s still at my folk’s house. We learned by watching. My dad was a good carpenter. I remember once when I was just little and I could hardly carry a beam up a ladder but I got it up to the top and laid it down like this, and we nailed it all and I started going back down the ladder and suddenly saw I had my shirt nailed in there. And there was no getting it back, so I just kinda ripped it off at the bottom.

I think kids on farms who learn like that are just head and shoulders above the rest.

These stories where gathered from Lake City natives on December 14, 1999 at the kitchen table of Ralph Lentz with help from Ralph Lentz, Art Thicke, Dennis Rabe, Larry Gates, and Gary Holthaus. They are edited by Beth Waterhouse. She can be reached at 952-401-0591.

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