Every summer, in the middle of August, the hottest and most allergy prone time of the year, our local History Center hosts a festival with threshing machines, grain shocking, antique tractors and more. We’ve always loved going to these events, and taking the grand children. The dusty fields, the smoke of those old tractors, the thumping of the engines, the whir of the huge belt between the tractor and the machine, everything makes a cacophony of noise and light that keeps me entertained for hours. Louie had to do the work, all day, for pennies.
Pennies bought a lot more in 1940 than they do today.
Each fall when I was growing up, the late 1930’s and early 1940’s there would be the big harvesting of the summer crops in North Dakota.
This would consist of cutting the grain by horse drawn cycles that would also tie the grain into bundles. Guess they called these thing binders (brilliant).
These bundles were scattered all over the field and had to be picked up and stacked. You would pick up two bundles, lean them together in an upside down “Y”, then stack about 8 or so around them. This was called “Schocking” (if you ever did it, it was shocking and hard work.
The bundles would remain in this state for a week or so, then would be picked up by horse drawn hay wagons. The bundles had to be pointed towards the outside of the wagon so you had to be good at thowing them on the wagon. This was usually done with a pitch fork.
The wagon was drawn up to a thrashing machine with was operated by a long belt (twisted once) connected to a tractor. Here the bundles were placed on a track (head facing the direction where they were going into the machine) in which a beater would knock out the grain, which dropped onto a belt which took it to a bin.
The rest of the stalk was ground up some and blown out a long tube into a stack, this was called straw.
This was hot and very dirty work but compensated by the delicious cold drinks and hearty meal the farmers would feed you. Of course the pay of $30 a month and board made up for it.
If you worked from sun-up to sunset, you made pennies an hour. I remember those paydays cause then I could take in a movie for 5 cents and enjoy a bag of candy which went with the price of the ticket.
Did I ever tell you about the milk separator?