Writing conversation: Threshing time in the ‘Thirties

Writing conversation

Find something to write about, was the advice given to Neil McKenty by a wise mentor.

What advice would you give in answer to the question put to me by a 15-year old student from Northern Ireland, “What I want to know”, she said, “is how do you get what is in your head down on paper?”

What is your experience, good or bad, did you have a helpful mentor in school? Or a parent? Did you read a lot?

Here is  a piece by Everett Fleming of Toronto, writing from his own experience as a boy:

Threshing Time in the ‘Thirties.

Only those who lived on a farm in the first half of the twentieth century can have any understanding of threshing time, particularly in the eyes of a ten year old boy. It was by far the most exciting event of the year.

To set the stage, it was not economical for every farmer to own his own threshing machine, and some enterprising farmer would invest in a machine and rent it out to his neighbours. This led to threshing gangs in which all farmers would rotate their services, usually with a team of horses and wagon or a hired hand, and meet at whichever farm was scheduled for the threshing machine. Of course, the grain in the field had been cut and bound into sheaves by the ‘binder’, and then stooked into standing bunches for good draining and ease of loading by pitchfork onto the wagons.

For me the day began watching for Frank Puckrin coming along the highway in his huge Rumley Oil Pull tractor, pulling the massive threshing machine, and behind it a wagon with extra straw blowing pipes, fuel, etc. This was no ordinary tractor. It was huge, with the driver encased in a wooden shed, massive cleats on the wheels twice my height, and a great flywheel. It sounded and looked a lot like a steam engine coming up the lane, and on up the hill, where the threshing machine would be carefully positioned to blow the straw right up into the loft of the barn. Needless to say, every last detail of preparation was observed by me. Perhaps the most sensitive task was to properly line up the tractor some fifty feet from the threshing machine, so the belt providing power from the tractor would be perfectly in line. By night time everything would  be ready for the big day ahead.

[to be continued]

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