Threshing Rings and the Family Farm

Illinois woman recalls the goings-on during threshing time at her family farm

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Threshing was an interesting time. Dad owned a threshing machine and threshed for six or seven neighbors as well as himself. Those in Dad's threshing ring helped each other. The day they threshed at our house, we girls sat in an old wagon seat beside the backyard gate and watched the wagons come. The rack wagons came first. Younger farmers handled the racks, drove to the field and loaded the wagons with bundles of oats. Grandpa was one of the older farmers, and drove one of the box wagons.

The bundles of oats were pitched into the feeder of the threshing machine. The box wagon had to be in position to catch the grain. Dad thought the man on the box wagon had the heavier duty because he had to scoop the oats into the empty bin in the granary. After the grain bin was filled, oats were hauled to the elevator in White Heath to be sold.

Corn harvest started around October 20th. I remember hearing horses trotting down the lane at daylight, the empty wagon rattling, and Dad whistling a merry tune as he drove to the field. We noticed farmers shucking corn in fields all around as we walked to school. We heard ears of corn, clean of shucks, make a "bang" when the farmers tossed corn into the wagon and the ears hit the bump board. The bump board prevented the corn from going over the wagon. When the wagon was full, the men drove to the crib to dump; farm scales were used to weigh the load. Wagons were pulled into place beside the corn crib, and chains were fastened to the front wheel axles in order to lift the wagon high enough to force the corn to roll out. A motor moved the elevator chains that carried corn up and into the top of the crib. After dinner, the men went back to the field. The hired man was anxious to shuck 100 bushels a day. Dad paid 5 cents per bushel.

Farmers were tired each evening after a day of shucking corn. Their gloves would get wet on frosty mornings, and their hands would get chapped and sore. Their backs would ache from reaching to the ground to get corn from broken stalks.

We girls had more chores to do in autumn. All three lamps had to be filled with kerosene. Lamp flues had to be washed. More coal and corncobs had to be carried to the house to be used in the heating stove and the cookstove.

Mother enjoyed autumn. The long busy summer days were over, and the cellar was stocked with the fruits of her labor: canned food, late cabbage, turnips, onions, apples, pears, potatoes and pumpkins.

Spring was a glorious season for us children. We picked pur¬ple violets from along the roadside on our walk home from school and knelt in the lily bed in the front yard to breathe the fragrance of hyacinths blooming there. We climbed to the haymow and caught baby pigeons to pet. We caught the baby calves and tried to tame them. We pulled fish worms from the ground and fed the worms to the baby chickens. It was funny to watch two little chickens, one at each end of the fish worm, pulling on the worm, like tug-of-war.

One morning in May, after the corn was planted, Dad noticed a long circus train on the railroad tracks north of the farm. He came to the house and said, "If I can get the automobile started, we are all going to the circus in Champaign." He worked on the car all morning and got it running good, and we went to the circus. It was about 25 miles from home. The trapeze performers were beautiful and daring; the clowns were funny. I didn't like to see the wild animals loose in a ring and doing tricks. I thought I'd rather see lions, tigers and elephants in our picture books at home. Dad bought each of us a box of Cracker Jacks.

Special entertainment was not a priority in those days. There was peace and harmony in our home, and a restful night at the close of a busy day.

Mrs. Guyneth Walker
Atwood, Illinois


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.