Our quiet little farm took on a carnival atmosphere when threshing time arrived. From the time the steam engine pulled the old threshing machine into the yard, we knew everything was going to be different for a day or two.The crop determined how long the threshing would last. There was at least a half a dozen neighbors all working together, a few men from each family. They all shared labor, equipment, everything, during threshing season. This was a very special time, of neighbor helping neighbor, many hands make light work.
The threshing machine was usually set up fairly close to the barn, so when a person needed straw for cattle bedding he didn’t have to haul it very far. This made for a lot of very fast traffic going in and out of the yard. Horse-drawn hay racks were trying to keep the threshing machine busy at all times, so the whole process went smoothly, without having to shut down the threshing machine. The old threshing machines were run with a long, huge, heavy drive belt that ran off a tractors pulley. The operator did not want to shut it down unless it was dinner time or quitting time for the night. Starting up again took some time, this gave the bundle haulers plenty of incentive to keep those hay racks moving.
There were no traffic lights or stop signs going in and out of our yard, those fellows hauling bundles with horse-drawn hay racks seemed to think it was the Daytona 500. They no doubt got some type of premium for whoever hauled the most bundles. I do recall one hay rack coming into the yard so fast it tipped over going around the corner. That made a lot of extra work for the two fellows on that rack, they had to pitch all those bundles four times.
When it comes to threshing memories, most people remember having dinner as the main event of the day, there was always plenty of good food and matching appetites. The kitchen was so busy, we kids were treated like Little Jimmy Dickens, “Take a cold tater and wait.” My brother and I were outside one time during dinner hour. Harlan crawled up in somebody’s hay rack and managed to get the reins loosened up, those horses took off, a runaway, Harlan was bouncing around in the back of that hay rack like a ping-pong ball. He ended up with a few black and blue marks before somebody got the horses stopped.
There was always a very quick nap and short break right after the huge (noon lunch) dinner was finished. That was a time when everyone swapped lies about each other. My dad often recalled one of those break periods were a daredevil climbed the windmill and got out into the wooden, wind vanes. He stood in there, had someone start the old windmill, then rode around a few revolutions, I think it was done on a bet. There were many young fellows who followed the threshing circuit to earn extra money, some left surprise gifts that went unseen for nine months. The windmill rider maybe made himself a small fortune during harvest time, just riding inside of windmills.
The threshing machine was usually pulled up into the farmers yard the night before it was going to be moved and they did all the greasing and oiling and sharpened the twine cutting knives, until they were razor sharp. We had strict orders DO NOT play around the threshing machine, There’s an old saying, “Parents should have eyes on both sides of the head.” This was one of those cases. The bundles are fed into the threshing machine with a chain driven feeder. At the end of that feeder are some large razor-sharp knives for cutting the twine’s off the bundles, so they won’t tangle up in the machine
Harlan and I climbed up on the threshing machine that evening, doing our exploring as we usually did and we discovered a little sliding door. So of course we opened that door, I told Harlan , ‘I don’t think we better go down in there,’ “He had to try it”. He put his legs right down into those twine cutters. A huge cut instantly opened about 6 inch long, on the fleshy part of his left leg, right below the knee. There was blood squirting everywhere! I screamed loud enough for the neighbors to hear. Our dad came running, grabbed Harlan and got him in the car, mom must have had a tourniquet on his leg for the ten mile ride to the hospital.