This story is about the shocking part of threshing grain in the late twenties or early thirties. The real shocking part is the amount of labor involved, to harvest a crop of grain. Today, one person with a modern combine can harvest a field of grain in a few hours. Today’s farmer takes pride in the amount of speed they have. In the days of the horse drawn binder, I believe speed was very important too.
The farmer took pride in getting those bundles gathered together into a picturesque display of shocks, as fast as possible. It just didn’t look right having bundles of grain scattered on the ground where the weather had a chance to destroy them. There were many times when those beautiful, in line, shocks of grain did get rained on. The shockers had to go back and open up shocks or try to rearrange or situate the bundles so they could get dried out in time for threshing.
The picture shows some of our family cousins at grain shocking time, after their lunch break. The way it looks, they are getting ready to go back out to the grain field. From left to right is my grandpa Andrew Olson, his daughter Alice, Winton Johnston, Fred Wirta, Frank Olson, Edna Johnston and Elma Olson.
My dad Frank, born in 1913, is holding the old brown Redwing crock water jug, that always went out to the field. It was no doubt just filled with cold water at the windmill well. When it was really hot, a wet burlap bag was wrapped around the jug to keep it cooler. This was about 10 years before I was born but they were still shocking grain and using threshing machines in my younger days. I got to drink water out of that same old brown jug, when I attempted to handle bundles of grain.
There was a drinking water bucket in the pantry with a dipper in it. We all drank from that dipper, a real sharing family. I also recall if you had a drink shortly after grandpa there was always a very slight, yet unmistakable essence of Copenhagen, that was okay with me.
The grain was cut and bundled with a horse drawn grain binder, the bundles came out of that binder fast. The shockers job was to pick up a bundle in each hand and stand them up on end together, another person stood up two more, until there was about five pairs standing teepee fashion. One or two bundles were laid across the top to help keep the rain off. The shocks had to be constructed for strength to withstand wind and rain. It could be many days before a threshing machine was going to be in the neighborhood to thresh the grain from the straw.
If grain shocks got left in the field for a long period of time, wild small animals wanted to move in and use them for their living quarters. I bet more than one bundle pitcher had to eat his dinner out on the porch, after waking up a skunk with the end of his pitchfork.