Herald Journal Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 22, 2002

Threshing in the early 1900s

By Joe Kieser

Very long days were a necessity at this time of the year. Farmers arose at 3:30 a.m. to feed the horses. Canary, wire grass, Timothy, a pail of oats, and maybe a few cobs of corn were all that was necessary for the horses' long day ahead.

Cows were milked by hand, and the cream or milk was hauled to the local creamery. The hogs were slopped, and the chickens, geese, and ducks were fed.

Mother had been doing extra baking and cooking for several days. The hungry crew would soon be arriving, and she needed to be prepared. The long table, capable of seating 24 people, stretched from the kitchen into the dining room. A lot of pride was taken in getting everything to look just right.

See photos (PDF)

Steel wheels were removed from the wagons with a special axle nut wrench. A fresh coating of heavy black axle grease was applied with a shingle. Any general maintenance had to be completed.

By 6 a.m., the steam engine man was arriving to get the engine fired up. A head of steam was necessary for the whistle to blow. When the dew was about to come off the grass, the whistle was blown to alert the neighbors that in one hour they were to arrive.

From the east came the Moys and the Fieckes; from the south the Gueningsmans, Bairds, and Hoffmans; from the north and west the Diedricks, Webers, and Rohlings. Their timing was uncanny, as they arrived at the path that led to the Kieser homestead. Each drove their finest team and steel wheel wagon that screeched as it went along.

Everyone had known since early morning that today had the feel and look of a day of threshing.

The neatly shocked rows of wheat, oats, and barley were all ready to be loaded. The farmers knew where the fields were because they watched them being planted in the spring. The horses and wagons followed along the rows of shocks to be loaded.

No driver on the wagon was necessary. Simple commands of "giddy-up," "whoa." "gee," "haw," and "back" were all that were needed.

The bundles were stacked on the wagon as high as you could reach with a fork. Dropping just one bundle on the trip to the separator was looked down upon.

Pitching the bundles heads-first into the separator was easy, but it had to be done just right. Pitching too fast or too slow did not work right. The separator was designed to operate the best with the proper load.

Lunch was eaten out in the field, both mornings and afternoons. Fresh squeezed lemon-aid, plenty of water, sandwiches, and cake kept you going until the big meal. The whole operation was shut down at noon time for lunch.

You washed your hands and face with water pumped from the cistern. A sit-down meal of Mother's finest cooking was enjoyed by all.

Danger was a distinct part of machinery operation. Whirling belts and pulleys claimed many body parts, and even death. Steam engines could easily explode if not watched very closely.

A team of horses would run away if they got scared by the noise. While threshing on Diedrick Hill, the Kieser team ran away from the separator.

Jim Baird ran and caught the team, and the jerking on their bridles as they dragged him along got them to stop. The team and wagon were just a few feet from going over the cliff to certain destruction. This cliff does not exist today.

The days were long and hard, but a good harvest was really appreciated. After a good nights rest, the machinery was moved to the next member of the threshing route.


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