Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Threshing days

You never hear about threshing anymore. 

According to my husband, who grew up on a southern Minnesota farm, modern machinery and equipment ended the need for this laborious process.

But in my grandparents' farming days in White Lake, South Dakota, threshing season rolled around in the fall of the year, after the grain was harvested.  The men on the farm would begin the threshing process, which separated the grain (edible) from the chaff (inedible).

Because it is a huge, labor-intensive job, farmers would get together and help each other, first completing the work on one farm and then moving on to another.

The farmer who owned a threshing machine would harvest other farmers' grain. A machine called a combine later replaced the old threshing machines. The combine had a chute that loaded the grain into a wagon, or directly into a grain bin.

It was hard work for the men-folk, but perhaps equally as hard for the women.

The women got together as well, moving from one farm's kitchen to another, pooling their culinary resources by cooking and baking in large quantities together. Many calorie- and carbohydrate-laden meals were needed to keep the men supplied with ample energy to do their work.

In some communities, I'm told, threshing bees were held, involving flea markets, dances, and other community events.  I don't know if that was the case in White Lake, in my grandparents' threshing days, but I have never heard any stories to that effect.

Whatever the practice in various locales, threshing season was part of Americana for many years.

And one thing was common to all: celebrating the end of threshing season.

When the work was done, the grain bins full, the hay bundled neatly in rows, farmers glowed in the satisfaction of bringing in another year's harvest, and looked at their fields with pride.

And celebrated.....as evidenced by this great photo. 

(L to R): Leonard Steffen, Harvey Steffen,
Carl Markhardt, Herbert Steffen,
Wilmer Steffen, Charlie Steffen (kneeling),
 Art Ketelhut, Otto Steffen (sitting), Emil Steffen
For the benefit of my Steffen cousins, I've identified the men in the photo by name.

You might know, it would be my own grandfather, kneeling with the bottle tipped to his lips.  It looks to me like the bottles were mostly empty.

So, hmmm, I wonder.  How did the women celebrate?

My imagination knows no bounds in that respect.