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.

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