first memories of threshing were watching
Grandpa, Dad and Uncle Harlan with Grandpa’s
24” Huber threshing machine. They threshed for
Carl Zimmerman, Chester Moore, Hubert Frohn, and
Grandpa’s and our family.
First, the wheat and oats, and sometimes barley,
was cut with a binder. It cut it and tied it
into bundles. Then the binder carried the
bundles and dumped them in windrows where they
were ‘shocked’ — set up by hand —to get
the grain off the ground to dry out so it
wouldn’t spoil. During the drought years it
was sometimes so dry we didn’t need to. Then
with a team and hayrack you picked up the
shocks, hauled them to the thresher, and pitched
them in with a pitchfork. The thresher separated
the grain from the straw. That’s why thresh
machines were sometimes called ‘separators’.
The grain went into trucks or wagons and the
straw into a big straw pile.
BIG FOR MY AGE AND WORKED LIKE A MAN
I was nine when I started running the binder and
11 when I started hauling bundles, jobs I had
until we quit threshing. Before then, our binder
was pulled by four horses and Dad ran it. When
we used a tractor Mom ran it for the first
couple of years until 1934 when I took over the
job. It was a McCormick-Deering 7 foot binder. I
ran it until ‘36 when I also started running
the bundle wagon.
We’d started threshing ourselves that year and
they needed an extra rack. Dad looked at me and
said “I guess you’re going to have to take
over.” Uncle Harlan had a team of neat old
horses that would never hurt you so I hitched
them up to his hayrack. Harlan and Dad ran the
thresher and hauled the grain - most of the time
with Grandpa’s ‘29 Ford truck — and horses
We stored it in our bins and granaries. Didn’t
have time to haul it to market. We ran four
racks — Chester Moore ran one, Carl Zimmerman,
Hubert Frohn’s hired man Gus Schmutte and me.
Gus was a character. He wore a denim jacket
buttoned to the neck which was always drenched
in sweat. Said it kept him cool.
THE LAST YEARS OF THRESHING
1938 was the last year we threshed with our own
machinery. In 1939 we joined Ed Willman’s crew
with Ralph Drake, Ernie Freye, Ted Quathamer and
Bill Kurtzer. I ran our rack with our broncs,
Jim and Dan. Dad hauled the grain in trucks. We
did our first combining in 1940 along with some
threshing. 1943 was the first year we harvested
entirely with a combine.
Some of the threshing crews around were Obed
Sittler’s, Carl Brandt’s, Ed Willman’s and
Bill Miller’s. I don’t remember who Harlan
and Hubert Frohn ended up threshing with.
Probably with neighbors who lived closer than we
and WORKING FOR MELVIN
Melvin Sittler bought a 1939 five foot Allis
combine. You had to go like hell to cut 20 acres
a day. He hired me, at age 13, to run the
combine while he hauled and did his other work.
I combined my folks’ fields, Art Reddish’s
and Fred Miller’s, along with Melvin’s.
Worked for him until ’41 when we bought our
own combine — a used six foot IHC which always
broke down. It had a motor, not a power
The Two John Deere’s
We decided to buy two combines since we were
farming a lot of ground — the Reeder Place,
Lou’s, Grandpa Fischer’s and some of John
Sullivan’s as well as our own We thought the I
2A John Deere was simple to run and pulled easy.
So Mom and Dad went to Kansas to scout around
— machinery was hard to find. It was after the
war and they hadn’t tooled up for Ag yet.
They found two 12A John Deere’s somewhere in
central Kansas, a ‘42 and a ‘43, and bought
them both. We went back with our pickup and my
1934 Ford V8 to bring them home. My car didn’t
have a hitch. We didn’t know how we were going
to pull it. But the dealer made a hitch and
welded and bolted it to the bumper. Kind of
funny, seeing a car going down the road pulling
a combine. I had more guts in those days than 1
do now. It was a two lane road — some places
even gravel. We got those John Deere’s home.
But we never used them.
WALT BECKER’S DEALS
Walt Becker, the IHC dealer in Emerald, got hold
of Melvin and us and said “I’ll make you a
deal. I’ll sell you this combine with the
stipulation that when you’re done with it
I’ll buy it back and send it to South
It was a 1947 self-propelled 12 foot IHC Model
123. It was a good deal. We ran the hell out of
it. Cut all over and sold it back to Walt. (We
sold the John Deere's to Lloyd Zimmerman and Ed
The next year Walt had another deal for us.
“I’ll sell you a truck and combine both.
After you’re done with them I’ll load the
combine on the truck and send them to South
So we got to use another brand new 12 foot
combine, a 1948 model 123 and a brand new IHC
We combined for Art Reddish and others, not as
many as the year before because there were more
combines around (including those two John
Deere’s). But we really used the truck.
Whenever it rained and we couldn’t combine we
hauled grain from the Martell Elevator to
Gooch’s Mill in Lincoln and the Crete Mills.
TILE END OF THE DEAL
The next year, 1949, the deal was off because
almost everybody had their own combines and Walt
had no place to resell them. So Dad, Melvin and
I bought another 12 footer, a ‘49 self
propelled 125 IHC and Melvin bought himself a
new IHC truck. (We’d bought a ‘48 IHC K3 the
year before.) We continued to combine with
Melvin until 1953 when we bought his share of
the combine out. Dad and I used that combine
until 1959 when we traded it in at Wielage’s
of Crete for a new 12 foot IHC model 101.
We added another combine in 1970— a used 303
13 footer at Beckler's in Lincoln. Dad ran the
101 while I ran the 303. My boys, Craig and
Marc, ran both of them. I ran the 303 until I
quit farming. The last time I ran it was to
combine milo north of the dairy barn in 1987.
Sold it to the Pester brothers for $400 and the
101 to a farmer from Unadilla for $200.