As I sit in air conditioned comfort, I think back to those days growing up on the family farm in central North Dakota -- no air conditioning there.
Only once can I remember my dad saying it was too hot to work and to take the afternoon off. Where could you go? The house was just as hot as outside.
The real summer's work began with haying season, usually after the Fourth of July. It was my job as the youngest to pull up the overhead hay stacker. I did this with a team of horses and later on with a Ford Tractor. Haying was a five-man operation. My dad and uncle would push the hay onto the stacker with bull rakes -- these each used two horses with the wooden tines between them. They would pick up the hay, which had been raked into bunches and push it onto the stacker. My brother and cousin would be in the stack to level and pack down the hay. It was always hot and endless and continued until harvest. Later, my brother would do the work by himself using a farmhand on his tractor dumping the hay into a stacking frame.
Harvest would begin as soon as the grain was ripened and dry enough to be cut. Up until the mid-50s, we used bundles and threshing machine to harvest the grain. Cutting the grain was done with a grain binder, which bundled the grain and dumped them into rows. In the morning, until it was dry enough to begin cutting again, we would stack the bundles into what was called shocks. The threshing was done with with a threshing machine.
The threshing machine was a frightening monster, with its whirling belts, pulley chains and other noisemakers. The bundles were fed into the machine on a chain driven conveyor called a feeder. The bundles were then pulverized by a toothed cylinder and fed into a series of shakers to remove the grain. The straw was blown out a blower onto a straw stack. The grain was augered out into a grain wagon. You may see some of these machines parked in fields along highways, especially out in the Dakotas. They stand as a reminder of a bygone era.
Horse-drawn hay racks were used to haul the bundles to the machine, where they were pitched into the feeder. It was my good fortune to get in on this operation. I was called a spike pitcher, who helped the driver pitch bundles onto the feeder. It was considered the hardest job because I never got a break.
I was paid $1.10 an hour while everyone else got $1. It made me very proud.
A 12-hour day would net me $13, which was quite a princely sum for a 16-year-old living at home, considering gas was 31 cents per gallon and burger with fries, a quarter.
I have fond memories of those days on the farm. I am happy I grew up at that time when life was simpler, where I had my slingshot and cane fishing pole for entertainment.
Well, that takes care of some summer activities. Winter on the farm was another experience with many not-so-fond memories.
Glen Anderson is a Bemidji Senior Center member.