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 is another story about harvest time. If you haven’t read about Bonanza Farms before now, it’s a part of the Red River Valley history you really should know. The land was incredibly flat and productive. It was perfect for growing wheat. These were big operations, as you can infer from Lucy’s description of the houses on her Uncle’s farm.
The photo shows small grain harvesting, but it’s actually a picture from Jim’s photo album, probably in Massachusetts in the twenties.
Fall meant a trip to Uncle Stell’s. He lived on a very large farm (Bonanza). They could have as many as eight binders (grain cutters) each horse drawn. The binders cut the grain, tied a piece of twine around it and dumped it on the ground in rows.
In this letter Lucy talks about the excitement of harvest time when many hired men and neighbors came to the farm to help with threshing. My grandmother’s stories held similar excitement, but she tended to focus on her job as the adult farm wife. The one who had to feed twenty or thirty hungry men four meals per day. Yes, four. Lunch was early, and there’s mid afternoon treat, too. This was in the dog days of late August. Hot. Then let’s imagine baking a dozen loaves of bread in the kitchen, on a coal or wood stove. Then boiling up some coffee in the stove top percolator. How many gallons can a crew drink? Several.
Those times must have been pretty exciting, especially compared to the quiet loneliness of the deep winter.
To a ten year old nothing could be as exciting as harvest time.The Colwells shared a thresher, in return they helped each other with hauling grain and pitching bundles.
The most exciting time was when they were at our house. People came to help in the kitchen of course bringing the children with them. As I look back it seems to me, 20 men to cook for should have been enough for mother to do, but it was happy time for us.