Thrashing wheat near Cranfills Gap,
photo Violet Christenson c1949
At one time thrashing wheat or sorgum was done like a "thrashing bee". Groups of farmers would come together to bring in the grain after it had been cut and bundled into shocks. The shocks would be picked up by wagons, in earlier years drawn by horses, but by the 1940's by gasoline powered tractors. These tractors also took the place of the steam engines that ran the thrashing machines by a 20 foot in diameter belt. The grain shocks would be off-loaded into the thrashing machines. The grain would be separated from the chaf by vibration and settle into a conveying system that could be caught in gunny sacks for later transportation to the barn and later sale for grinding into wheat flour.
My Dad on wagon tossing shocks of wheat into the thrasher.
photo Violet Christenson c1949
The chaf would be blown out a large tube at the other end of the machine into a huge hay stack for cattle feed. The cows would eventually make tunnels into the stack where they could keep cool and eat to their hearts content. As kids we would play in these tunnels. They would eventually collapse as they ate away more and more material.
Even though my grandfather, Pete Christenson, had owned a couple
thrashing machines during the 1920s they eventually became used up
also joined the cooperative spirit of the times. The farmer
would rent the machine and a few hands but most of the help was
by friends, neighbors and relatives. Frequently there would be 20
men and about 5 to 7 women at these "thrashing bees".
would range in age from 12 to 70 years of age. It
on the person's own health and physical strength but the
urged to join in and do what they could. They knew that next
the young men would be stronger. The men would work the
the women would cook the food. The day would start before
and a break would be taken during the heat of the day about 2 to 3
Work would stop at dusk or when dampness made the grain too tough
Late afternoon snack under a cedar tree. photo Violet Christenson c1949
Meals were served five times a day during the thrashing season so the women were kept very busy providing food for the hungry workers. Some of the women would be hired to follow the crews from one farm to another. My aunts Cora and Edith Johnson did this when they were younger but later only got involved when the thrasher went to one of the family members farms. All the associated kin would pitch in and help to get the crops in before the rains fell. One other thing they had to watch for was sleeping rattlesnakes in the shocks of wheat. If they weren't careful one could be picked up and thrown onto the wagon with a unsuspecting stacker. This could spell disaster.
Grandpa Christenson and my cousin, Darrel Reesing, sacking.
Egeberg/Johnson lineage map || Johnson Family Index
Elroy's Family Index || Ancestor Chart #1
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