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Harvest Tales - Atchison County 02

Harvest stories submitted by Kansans for the online exhibit, Wheat People.
Submit your own at kshs.kansasmuseum@ks.gov.

John Junior Armstrong

Threshing Wheat

My father owned the only threshing machine in the community. Our threshing crew consisted of 6 to 8 men with 6 to 8 men bundle wagons, 3 to 4 bundle pitchers, 2 men with grain wagons, 2 men with the thresher and a water boy. This was the youngest member of the family. The jug was usually wrapped with old gunny sacks held on with twine to help keep the water cool. If you were lucky enough to have a pony or a horse not being used, the job was a little easier!

It was an exciting time! The neighbors all worked together in exchanging work at harvest. Along with hard work was good visiting.

Harvest time was not a busy time just for the men; women were required to work just as hard. Meals had to be prepared for crews of men. Those were not the days of microwaves or electric stoves. The wood cook stove was the sole source for heat. Sometimes it took two seatings of men to accommodate them at the table, and sometimes part of the crews were there for the evening meal too.

The homemaker had to rise early just as their husbands did. As soon as breakfast was cleared, the pies had to be baked. Mountains of potatoes were peeled and whatever garden vegetables were available were gathered from the gardens. Chickens were plucked, cut-up and fried.

It always seemed harvest crews were the biggest consumers of food. One story often told in later years was of the neighbor lady who was a bit stingy with her cooking. All the food on the table had been eaten when she entered the room. Seeing nothing to eat she said, "Oh look, I cooked just enough. . . ."

In my life, I have seen the wheat harvest go from the shock, to the bundle wagon and thresher, to the single self-propelled machine, to a 30 foot header combine that is computerized, air-conditioned, and can harvest over 100 acres a day.

"Harvest Tales" is part of the online exhibit, Wheat People:  Celebrating Kansas Harvest.