A LOOK AT THE PAST
Reprinted by permission of author William P. Schramm, Rt #2, Box
1H, Barnum, MN 55707. Also, permission is granted by The Farmer
Magazine, 1999 Shepard Road, Saint Paul, MN, 55116 in which the
article first appeared.
I was born at the right time. When I reached my boyhood,
threshing by steam had attained its prime. The horse-powered
separator era had ended, when a 12, 16 or even 18 man crew was
needed to do a farmer's threshing.
In those earlier days a 'bagger' was needed to sack
grain as it came from the separator. Six to eight strong-backed men
carried the filled sacks into the granary, where they emptied them
into a bin.
The farmer who first backed a wagon to a separator with a team
of horses was probably something of a hero. Even then, grain was
still sacked. But the filled sacks were hauled to the granary by
wagon. Soon after, grain was run directly into the wagon box.
Straw-burning steam engines were still going in my younger days.
The rig's owner would have a fireman, who would be kept busy
pushing straw into the engine to keep up steam. Unthreshed bundles
made a hotter fire, and the grain kept it hot longer.
I remember one time when Dad was in the granary scooping back
grain. One of his grain haulers drove up with a load to tell Dad:
'It's a shame the way your oats bundles are being carried
to the engine and fired with!'
Father set down his scoop and ran out to the machine. The minute
the rig's owner saw Dad coming, he dropped the oats bundles and
his face turned red. Dad shook his fist in the thresher's face
and called him a name. The thresher ran for the separator and
climbed atop it. Dad followed and, before the oral fracas ended,
the rig owner begged: 'I'll pay for your grain, Mr.
Schramm. How much y' want?' 'Five dollars!' When
the time came to pay, the thresher threw off $5.
By the time I got to the age when I would go with the rig's
crew, coal-burning engines had replaced straw burners. At 16, my
first job was hauling water. In two seasons as a 'water
monkey,' I learned to run a steam engine which I discovered to
be simple enough until something went wrong with its mechanism.
Then, even a good engine man had to call in someone who knew more
than he did.
In the early days of threshing, there were bad threshermen among
the good ones. There were instances when some rascal, out of envy
or rank mischief, would 'do in' a rival rig operating in
the same neighborhood. The favorite weapon was a horseshoe, shoved
into a bundle in a grain stack. When it reached the cylinder, Hades
broke loose. Usually, the damage brought a week's lay-up while
the rig's owner waited for repairs to arrive. I recall seeing
stack pitchers shaking out all the outer bundles before tossing
them into the machine's feeder, to make sure they didn't
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