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Harvest Tales - McPherson County 01

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

Stephen Stover

Custom Threshing

None of our neighbors had separators, so they would arrange for a custom thresher to do their work. Custom outfits were usually bigger than ours, and the power plant especially impressive. A huge, lumbering tractor with rear wheels (steel, perhaps eight feet in diameter) with angled cleats that left a neat herringbone pattern in the soft earth. Creeping along the road between jobs, the tractor drew the separator and the detached feeder extension (plus, sometimes, a grain wagon) hooked on behind.

The sound was unmistakable, and my little brother and I, recognizing what was coming long before we could see it, would race out to the road to await its passing. Road speed must have been less than two miles per hour, and the slow chugging of the engine was augmented by the crunch of gravel under the great steel wheels. As the monster grew closer, we could see the primitive front axle, center-pivoted, and inclined to wander. Two heavy chains, attached near the axle-ends, led to the steering wheel and ultimately to that most enviable of all people, the driver, standing or even sitting high atop the machine. He was the overall captain of the mighty juggernaut. He would have had time to compose a poem or ponder the mysteries of the stars as the lumbering giant crept along the road.

By the time the 1930's arrived I was big enough to take a more active part, so the coming of harvest meant driving the tractor-first, the Hart-Parr and later, the Oliver--to pull the combine. (That wonderful machine was rapidly replacing the binder). In short, I had achieved my childhood ambition. Before the end of the decade harvest meant a job away from home, driving a tractor or a grain truck, shoveling wheat and generally working harder than I ever had at home. But it was more exciting. Furthermore, now I was on my own and earning cash! World War II and a four-year stint in the military closed the chapter on regular active participation in wheat harvesting, but even after six decades, as the season approaches each year, a trace of the old excitement still puts a small spike in my pulse rate.

Stephen Stover also submitted Binding and Threshing wheat.


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