Last Updated: 17 June 2002
Grain Harvest In Canada
Blind Family In Canada
Some of Rose, nee Blind, Schweikert's family migrated to Canada. In this photograph are Blind family members working a grain field in Canada.
HARVESTING - FROM HORSES TO TRACTOR
by Lloyd Friedrick
|In 1946 on our Saskatchewan prairie farm, it was an almost perfect
growing season with lots of rain and sunshine. Although there had been a
McCormick Deering 15/30 tractor on our farm for quite a few years, Dad still
did most of the field work with his team of horses. But this year would be
very different. He had bought a new Massey Harris 101 Sr. rubber tired tractor
in late spring. My older brothers did some of the summer-fallowing with it,
but Dad just stood back and watched this from the farmyard. He wasn't quite
convinced that this was the course to follow. The old grain binder was worn
out and a dealer and my brothers convinced Dad that he should replace it
with a John Deere 10 foot PTO [Power Take Off] driven model. He had purchased
the binder un-assembled to save a few precious dollars. We all worked to
assemble the binder. There was great excitement on our part, however Dad
was be-wildered when he noted that there was no large "Bull wheel". We did
a few test drives with it in the pasture and before long we had figured out
how it should be operated. Harvest prospects looked good because of the heavy
crop that was ripening and we decided that the crop was ready to be
Gordon was almost 20 and beginning to take "charge" as the oldest son in a typical farm family. I was 14 and all insisted that I could drive the tractor, as this would enable Gordon to do the stooking. I was reluctant because this would mean I would have to miss a couple of weeks of school, which I really liked.
Gordon had given me lessons on how to set the PTO speed with the throttle and to match it with the forward speed by selecting the proper gear. Dad watched and listened to this but he didn't seem to understand all of the new procedures due to the function of the PTO. Horses and the "Bull Wheel" were fairly constant so he did not conceive that this year the whole crop cutting process would be different.
Okay! We were now ready to go. Did I hear the word "Giddyup" from Dad? Gordon sat on the fender for a "round" and then jumped off to get on with the stooking. It was a field of about 60 acres so a "round" took quite a while. Dad realized that all he had to do was to dump the sheaves in regular rows and occasionally change the table and reel heights. He expected me to stop at the end of each round but soon realized that there was no need to rest horses.
Dinnertime arrives. It still is breakfast, dinner and supper on a farm. The former routine was to un- hitch the horses; take them to the water trough and barn for water and feed. Mum would have a dinner of meat, potatoes and gravy and then Dad would have a short "nap" on the day couch while the horses digested their feed.
But this year, we un-hitch the tractor and drive to the farmhouse to eat. After dinner, Dad moves to the couch, but I am anxious to get this job done so I could get back to school. I say," Let's go, Dad, the tractor doesn't need a rest!" The afternoon passes quickly even though Dad occasionally calls a halt to "check things". He just cannot accept this new routine.
It is about six o'clock. Lots of daylight remains. Dad calls to me "Time to quit, Lloyd". "Oh no, we can go until dark", I reply. That evening, I mention to Mum that she could make a school lunch for us to-morrow so that we could work straight through the day. Un-hitching the tractor and driving to the farmhouse to eat seemed like a big waste of time to me. After all, disconnecting the PTO and dropping the drawbar to the ground was a tough job. Mum made a real nice lunch; I remember that she even put two Bartlett pears in mine. I usually got only one in my school lunch but I guess she felt that I was now doing real work.
The next day goes well. We eat our lunch "on the go". We cut a lot of wheat. Although my brother falls behind with the stooking, there are no real problems.
That evening, all is not normal in the kitchen, Mum and Dad are having a murmured discussion in German, which they always did when something serious was going on and they didn't think their modern children could understand German anymore. We could and we did. I move closer to the door of my room and realize that Dad is really upset; he tells my Mum that he feels he isn't doing anything. He says, "The kids have taken over. Imagine, a 14 year old decides what speed to drive, when to stop and when to start, I have to eat while I am sitting on the binder, I don't even have time to stop and pee. I have lost control!" Mum attempts to console him by saying, "Fred, times are changing, you have to accept that the harvest is getting done faster and you don't have to work so hard." Dad grumbles a reply, "Maybe we will beat the rain" We did complete the cutting in a week or so and I was happy to get back to school.
Because the fields were cut and stooked earlier this year, Dad has to rush to get the threshing machine tuned up and ready to go. Threshing day arrives; the Continental engine in the new tractor really makes the old thresher hum. Dad is rushing about with adjustments to the thresher and directing the stook teams. Gordon is the field pitcher. Dad is obviously content because he is the "straw boss", once again, running the whole show.
It was just like the old days..............
Little did he know, the new John Deere Clipper Combine and the Model 21 Massey Harris self propelled combines would be in the dealer's yards next summer.
It is harvest season: weather conditions may change quickly so every family member is pressed into service.
It is late August and as I had completed 10 years of school in our little one room country schoolhouse, I pleaded to my parents to attend high school in town to carry on with Grade Eleven. Father, of course, thought that this was a complete waste of time as he equated sons only as farm workers. Attending town school meant that I would have to board with someone and this would be cost that he wasn't prepared to pay. I pleaded with him again and finally he said he would consider it after the harvest was completed.
This year, my oldest brother is in charge of the threshing machine. We are still farming with horses and I am driving a stook team pulling a hayrack loaded with bundles of unthreshed grain. It is early afternoon and there is a lot of threshing to be done. As I approach the noisy threshing machine with my team, a young colt and an older mare, my brother signals that I should be approaching the machine with the colt on the outside as the young horse would shy away from the machine. I ignored my brother's signal and attempted to get the colt close to the machine. It didn't work and brother shouted for me to turn around and bring the team in with the mare next to the thresher. Of course, I ignored him and found that this time the team was farther away than the first try. My brother shouted," Do I have to come onto that hayrack and show you how to drive horses?" I replied, "You do that and I am leaving over the back of the rack!" In great anger he jumped onto the hayrack and I left it from the back end and walked to our farmhouse about a mile away. My brother shouted threats and retaliation but I ignored him.
Through the kitchen window, my mother saw me walking home and quickly determined what was going on. When I arrived at the kitchen door, my suitcase was packed and my Mother said," I have already called a neighbor and you can ride with them. You are going to town school!'
I never worked on a farm again!
Many, many years later, I drove with my family to visit the home farm. My brother was in the farm yard and as I pulled up to park on the double concrete garage driveway he waved and signaled me to park to one side so that it would not block his side.
Once again, I ignored him and parked right in the middle of both driveways.
I opened the car door and without offering to shake his hand, I tossed the car keys to him as if he were a hotel parking valet.
He got the message, nothing had changed!