Threshing and Harvest in 1930s
Iowa Public Television
In July farmyards bustled with preparation for the threshing run. It was a time of hope-the first harvest of the season. The White brothers still speak with fondness and excitement as they describe the threshing crew and the 20-ton steam engine creeping up the gravel road to their farm.
Leonard White: That’s what I remember is the sound of the engine coming down the road coming to our place. It was an exciting time at that time, because you lived out there in the country and you didn’t see a lot of traffic on the road. You could always tell when the steam engine was coming, the threshing crew as coming. The black smoke coming out of the pipe on the steam engine and the sound of the engine.
Kenny White: They always had a whistle on them. It was like a train engine, a steam train engine. The blow of that whistle when they got close to your house. They knew you were coming.
In this photograph, Kenny White rides his pony, named Dolly to deliver water to the threshing crew. The water boy was a welcome sight to the thirsty men working in the fields.
Kenny White: What they called “the binder” that would cut the grain and put it in bundles and then after the bundles they would pick up the bundles and put them in shocks. And those would have to cure, or dry out, and they had the wagons go out and pitch the bundles on the wagons, put them into the trashing machine.
Threshing time was especially exciting for young boys, who’s responsibilities grew with each passing year. Like pencil marks on the wall, harvest time roles were the measure of approaching manhood.
John Vermazen: And I imagine maybe by 14 I was allowed to take a team and haul bundles and pitch them into the threshing machine. It was a big step up the ladder in the respect of my peers when I was allowed to do that.
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