Friday, June 26, 2009


There are two main harvests for farmers in Kansas. In summer we have wheat and in the fall we have corn, milo and soybeans. Alfalfa all summer long.

The first harvest that I can remember was threshing oats. The folks lived south and west of Minneapolis before moving to where we live now. So dad had some ground rented over there. It was 16 miles from home. I would have to take the crawler tractor from home to the Barfind place which was the name of the owners of the ground dad rented. At four miles per hour it took a long time. He let me do it because it took so long and I didn't care. I was about seven years old.

Dad had planted oats there and he had bound it up into bundles with a 6 foot binder. He hired a man that owned a threshing machine and had a crew that helped him. He went all around threshing oats and wheat. They had teams of horses they used to pull hayracks to go out and pick up the bundles and bring them to the threshing machine.

The first combine I remember that we had was an IHC#8 that we pulled with a tractor. The combine had a four cylinder Waukesha engine that ran it. It had a 12 foot header. Someone would run the tractor and someone would run the combine. We pulled it with a 10-20 or a 15-30 steel wheeled tractor. The combine had a steel platform that you stood on--no seat, so you had to stand all day long. From there you would have to operate the engine and raise and lower the platform which was done with a long lever. Sometimes I would have to hang my full weight on the lever because I wasn't strong enough to operate it. When we were younger Dad or Mom would operate the combine and we kids would climb up into the combine bin and ride there. That was a lot of fun. We would let the wheat coming in the bin cover us to our waist then we'd work our way out of the wheat. The bin was high off the ground, about 10 feet, so that was exciting to us too. There was a canvas that fed the wheat into the combine and you had to take it off every night because the dew would stretch it then it wouldn't stay tight. It was a dirty job running the combine, but the dirtiest job was cleaning out the sieve and Dad would always say "You are smaller, you can crawl in there". The beards from the wheat would get stuck in it and you'd have to take a screw driver and clean them out or the grain couldn't fall through it and it would just go out the back of the combine on the ground and be lost.

One year a neighbor asked Dad if we could help him cut his wheat as we were done cutting. Dad told him that he was busy but if he didn't care Donna and I could come and help him. So we took the combine and tractor and helped him cut his wheat. Donna ran the tractor and I ran the combine. Harvest was a good time for eating. The women would serve up a feast. We usually had fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, homemade bread, pies and cakes and lemonade made with fresh lemons. All this food was homemade, homegrown and delicious. The first day we were helping the neighbor cut wheat he said "Come on. we'll go the house and eat dinner". He had a couple of other hired men and we all sat around this big table. His wife had all the food on the table except the fried chicken. She brought the platter of chicken and set it by one of the hired men. He took a couple of pieces and passed it on and when it got to her husband there were 4 or 5 pieces left on the platter. He took his fork and swiped them all off on his plate. She had to go get more chicken before Donna and I could eat. Donna and I talked about that often and thought it was odd that he did that, but funny too.

Harvest was hard work, especially scooping the wheat into the grain bin at home. It would be a hundred degrees and I thought I would surely die before I got the trailer unloaded. Older men could empty a 55 bu. trailer and never stop. They knew how to handle a scoop in a way I hadn't mastered yet. There weren't many trucks, mainly 4 wheel trailers that most people pulled behind their car to the elevator. Some had a pickup that held about 35 bu. that they hauled it with. Today (June 27th) they cut our wheat and hauled it out in semis that hold 900 bu. at a time.

Wheat planted on hill ground would yield approximately 5 to 10 bu. an acre. Better ground would yield 15 to 20 bu. an acre. Wheat today runs from 30 to 70 bu. an acre.

The first self propelled combine I ever saw was in the mid-40's. When I was in high school I went with a harvest crew cutting wheat from Hennessy, Okla. to Presho, S.D. He had a 12 ft. self propelled that we would load on a small straight truck. I did this for about 6 summers.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Dad ("In the water")

Sheldon fishing the Rockies & Darlene

Jeremiah fishing the Rockies
(in the rain)

Fishing is not one of my priorities in life. My dad was not a fisherman when we were growing up at home. It was always "we don't have time to go fishing now". I don't mean that we never went fishing, just that we didn't ever plan a fishing trip just for fun. When dad got older in life he started going fishing. We always kidded him the reason was that he got old enough he didn't have to buy a license. He became a great fishermen. He fished the creeks, pasture ponds, and rivers around home. One time he came home with two big cat fish and some one asked him where he caught them. His answer--"IN THE WATER". He never would tell where his favorite fishing holes were.

Sometimes in the evening we kids would go fishing on Pipe Creek which is just north of our house. We would find a willow tree and cut a five foot limb off of it because they made the best poles. Then we would tie a 6 to 8 foot string with a large hook on it to the willow limb, and then tie a nut off of a bolt for the sinker. If we needed a bobber we would take a small stick and tie it a foot above the sinker. We fished mainly for bullheads and sunfish. For fish bait we would dig worms and catch grasshoppers as we walked to the old wooden bridge where we fished often. To fish for sunfish we would have to go a mile and half south of home. There was a pasture pond called the Mill Pond. It had a large spring that ran into it and so it was always clear and clean and sunfish like that kind of water. Another place to catch sunfish was Lindsay Creek which is about 5 miles south of us. We had an uncle that lived close to it so whenever we visited our cousins we would go fishing there. There was a large family that lived near that creek, so sometimes as we were walking back to our uncle's place we would stop and visit them. One day we stopped and went inside the house and instead of having chairs around the table, they had 10 gallon cream cans that they used for chairs. They were heavy and I wondered what was in them, so I took the lid off and to my surprise they were full of whiskey bottles! He was a bootlegger and that is where he hid his whiskey.

One Sunday afternoon, the whole family went fishing at the creek north of home and it was really hot and steamy. About 4 o'clock, dad said we better go home because there was a real dark cloud coming from the west. Just as we got home, we saw a tornado touch the ground just one mile north of us. One of our neighbors lived in the path and he had just bought a new 1941 Chevy car. He didn't have a cave to get in so he and his wife drove to another neighbors just east of them that had a cave. The tornado completely destroyed the house and outbuildings and also his new car that sat in the neighbor's yard. His own house and property was left undamaged.

Another way we would fish was to make a trap and place it in ponds. We also made some trot lines with several hooks on them and laid them across the creek. We would leave them there and go check them the next day. When we would have a flood that raised the creeks, we would go gig carp because they would come up into the backwaters of the ravines. They were easy to spot because they do not like the dirty water at the bottom of the water and we would get several of them. We would clean them and mom would pressure cook them and they would be just like salmon.

Dad would always tell us to be quiet or we would scare the fish off, but one neighbor would always whistle and sing and still catch a lot of fish.

The neighbors built a pond in a old creek bed that was partly on out place and another farmer's place. The other neighbor was a good fisherman and he would always stock this pond. Once a year he would invite all the neighbors around to come and fish that day and in the evening he would use his homemade fryer to cook up the days catch for a fish fry to be enjoyed by all who came. There were several people from all directions there to enjoy the fun.

Things have changed since we were kids. The creek just had bullheads and some sunfish, but over the years, beavers started coming from the river and building beaver dams in our creeks.
This made large pools of water and allowed channel cats to come up from the river into the creek. So nowadays there are a lot of channel cats in the creeks that weren't there before.

One of the big attractions was the red steel creek bridge west of our house. People would come to fish off of that bridge and they still do today.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009


LaRoy Mom & Dad

LaRoy Midge & Mom

In the late '20's and early '30's tractors were replacing the work horse. Especially when the rubber tires came out. All of our tractors were steel wheeled except we had a crawler tractor. It was an IHC 10. In the late '30's dad bought a used IHC F 20 that had rubber tires. It had had steel wheels that had been replaced with rubber. When rubber tires came out for tractors some farmers said they would never put rubber on their tractor. Like any thing new, some are for it and some are not. I remember there would be two farmers challenge each other and they would hook the rubber and steel tractors together back to back to see how good they could pull.

We had two teams of work horses that we used for light work such as raking hay cultivating, mowing, and feeding cattle. In our neighborhood we were about the last ones to use horses. So we kids were about last ones to know how to harness a team of work horses. Dad had two four wheel rubber tired trailers They were made so you could pull them with a car, tractor or horses. I don't know where he got his idea. The front axle was made like a fifth wheel and it had a short tongue so you could turn short or you could put a gin pole in it so you could pull it with a team of horses.

We had a silo 1/2 mile from home and each day in the winter we would go pitch a load 0f silage to feed the cattle. It was work pitching it on then pitching it off. In 1941 my dad had a major operation on his stomach. They took 2/3 of his stomach out so he could not work for a long time. So it was up to Donna and I to do the chores. We would go get the silage after school so we could feed the cattle in the morning. That meant we would have to harness the team two times a day. One day we were going after silage and we were about halfway there when something spooked the team and we had a run away which was very exciting. We were lucky that we weren't hurt but we were both scared

We farmed another place 2 miles west of home and had sargo feed that we would bind in bundles then put them in shocks to protect the feed from the weather. We would wait until winter to go get the bundles so it was always cold. We would take the team and trailer there. We would start the trip in the trailer but before long we would start complaining how cold we were. Dad would say 'get out and walk with the horses, that will warm you up'. So we would walk on the south side because the wind was always blowing from the north, and the trailer kept the wind off of us. Some times it was so cold we would walk backwards so our face would have the sun shine on it. My brother LaRoy always like to hunt, so especially when it snowed he would take a rifle along to shoot rabbits. We had jack rabbits as well as cotton tails, and they would have a nest on the south side of a tree. They liked hedge trees because the limbs were lower to the ground, that made it a little harder to spot them.

My sister Donna probably worked horses more than us boys. La Roy was smaller than me and younger so he didn't get to work with them much. Dad had Donna rake prairie hay and alfalfa with an old dump rake that would put the hay in rows. She also cultivated feed. One day we were stacking hay and Donna was cultivating with a John Deer gp tractor and as she was turning around at the end of a row she killed the tractor. We noticed she couldn't get it started. She tried for along time so we walked over to help her start it. It didn't have a crank, it had a large wheel on the side of the tractor to start it with. We asked her if she had the two pitcocks open and she said yes. So I told let me try so I went and gave it a spin and it took of running. She said 'I forgot it turn that direction'. She was turning it backwards! We laughed about it many times because she had started it many times before.

We had a saddle horse that we would ride for pleasure or use her to work cattle. One time we three kids were riding her to school. It had rained and there were ruts in the road with water in them. It was cold weather and the water was frozen. All three of us kids were riding her. LaRoy was in front Donna was in the middle and I was in the back. Her back foot slipped on the ice and we all landed on the ground. I was on the bottom of the pile. She was a gentle horse but she had a bad habit. If a bird or rabbit would jump out in front of her she would flinch and if you weren't seated pretty tight you would lose your seat. She was a good cutting horse and she was the one dad would use to go coyote hunting with. In the '30's dad would go work for the township using his team to do dirt work. That way you didn't have to pay road tax.

One day the folks went shopping. I decided to ride the stud horse that we kept in the barn most of the time because he would cause all kinds of trouble when we would let him loose, especially if there was a mare in heat. I thought I would ride him down to the corner about 1/4 mile from the barn. I made it in good shape until on the way back. When he saw the barn he started bucking and off I went and woke up a couple hours later, I was out cold. I just let him stay in the barn after that.

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