The big thrill of the year was the day the big steam engine would pull into the yard to thresh the stacks and blow the straw on the straw shed. I got to stay out of school that day (when I was still in school). [30.176-6]

One of the first years, we had I.K. Evavold's rig and Carl was the engineer. They came late in the day, so half the threshing was left for the next day. There were four pitchers along and Howard and Vernon Moseng were two of them. They only lived half a mile away then, but they stayed and slept here anyway. [30.176-7]

Ma had several thresher-men stay overnight at various times and furnished them with clean beds. At some places, and especially in the Dakotas, the threshers slept in the hay mow in the barn. [30.176-8]

We backed the wagon box up to the spout on the separator with the horses and stood in the wagon and caught the grain in sacks. It would come flying down the spout, half a bushel at a time, and they came pretty fast when it was oats, and running good. I was soon old enough to hold sacks, and it took two men, usually, to take one load to the granary and dump the sacks while two more stayed and sacked in the other wagon. [30.177-1]

If it was wheat to go to the Elevator, we could let it run loose in the wagon if the box was tight. I thought I really had it made when I got old enough (about 11) to take a load to the Elevator alone. [30.177-2]

The year I was 13, coming 14, Leonard Ellingson decided to "shock thresh" but wasn't in any exchange route, so whatever neighbors had time went over and hauled bundles. [30.177-3]

Pa rigged up a team for me with the pony, Bird, and the big homely gray horse, Snyder, hooked to a wagon and I had a rig of my own for the first time. [30.177-4]

I got a lot of ribbing about my team. Philip Arfstrom said they should work good on side-hills. They worked and pulled pretty good, though, and I never got stuck in the hills with them. [30.177-6]

I felt pretty big and got along real good and tried to haul as big a load as the men. I took that team along to Teisbergs' and Carl Peterson's, too, and hauled corn bundles for silo filling. In a couple more years I was a full-fledged man and had a full-sized team. [30.177-5]

I was jealous of Clifford and Roy Runningen because they were older than me and their dad owned the machine so they could go along all fall, from place to place. j Clifford "fired" the steamer by poking straw into the firebox steadily, all day. He started firing about 4 a.m. to have the steam up by 6 o'clock. Roy had a team and hauled water from the lake for the engine. [30.177- 7]

By the time I was 15 I went with Carl Evavold's rig and George Melby's rig and pitched from the stacks. Then, about 1929, Carl Evavold replaced the steam engine with a huge Rumley tractor, and that took all the romance out of threshing. [30.177-8]

Carl Evavold used to thresh a "shock route" six or seven miles west of Ashby. Six members furnished two teams apiece, but one of them (Freeman Briggs) was a bachelor. He furnished one team and hired one. Enoch Evavold usually took a team out there, but in 1928 he couldn't go, for some reason, and I got the job. [30.177-9]

Mr. Briggs would pay the farmers whose place the rig was on to keep my horses and I rode back and forth to town in Model T's with some of the other crew -- Earl Anderson, the water hauler; or Ralph Burns, the separator man; and Carl Evavold himself, etc. Earl also hauled the coal from town in an old car that had been converted into a sort of pick-up with no top. It was called a "Chalmers" and ran real good. (Too bad it hasn't been preserved as an antique.) [30.178-1]

We would be at the place at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast and in the field loading up between 6 and 6:30 a.m. on dry mornings. [30.178-2]

When we got to the Briggs farm, the board was notoriously poor. Freeman's old maid sister Olive was the housekeeper. For breakfast we had fried summer sausage (as tough as a rubber shoe heel) and fried potatoes and some black stuff that was supposed to be coffee, but didn't taste at all like coffee. [30.178-3]

The second morning, as we walked up the hill from the barn to the house for breakfast, I said, "Let's go over to the pump and fill up on water." The whole crew just roared, and I guess I was quoted many times afterward. [30.178-4]

"Dud" Burns said, "We had breakfast off from the same sausage last year."

The year after that, Dud said, "We had fried sausage off the same sausage again this year and it was tougher than ever." [30.178-5]

One morning one of us found an egg a hen had laid in our load that had stood overnight. Carl Evavold said, "Give it to me." He punched a hole in each end with his jack knife and sucked the shell empty. I thought, Ish! [30.178-7]

Not many years after that, Freeman Briggs shot himself and the story was that they found $30,000 in the house. (That was during the Depression, too.) The corner posts on his brass bed were full of gold pieces. There was a big "write-up" in the paper about it. [30.178-6]

We were to a sale there later and they sold a couple of horses that they had raised as pets. One was 15 years old and plenty big enough to work, but it was only halter broken. I guess they didn't want to hurt them by making them work. When he needed a horse, he would buy one that was already broken. [30.178-8]

I went from place to place with George Melby's steam rig the year I was 15. We would be at the place we were threshing at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast, sometimes before some of the more "lackadaisical" farmers were even up. We started pitching out of stacks at 6 a.m. and kept on till after dark. We drove Model T's and such home to sleep but ate all our meals where we threshed. [30.179-1]

At 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. the farm women would bring out a big dishpan of sandwiches and doughnuts and things and a big coffee boiler of boiling hot coffee. I was always in a hurry and would take a drink of that hot coffee without thinking. The skin would peel off the roof of my mouth so I could hardly eat or drink for days afterwards. I never learned; I did it at least once every year. [30.179-3]

I was so nervous, for fear I would be considered a kid, that I tried to do more than anyone else to prove I wasn't. I wasn't used to a diet of fried potatoes and coffee and such for breakfast. I was raised on oatmeal. [30.179-2]

Besides not being used to the threshers' diet, I was too nervous to sleep during the short night I was in bed. I was so nervous that I would get up in my sleep and move the lamp over on my dresser so the horses wouldn't step on it.

Before that threshing season was quite over, I "folded up." My stomach hurt so bad I had to go to Doc Randall and he diagnosed it as indigestion and overwork. He gave me some medicine that tasted like furniture polish. I don't think it did any good, either. It took all winter to get over my "nervous" stomach and gas under my ribs. [30.179-4]

Carl Evavold had a grain elevator that went along with the rig for the farmers to use. It was run by a three-horsepower, single-cylinder engine that was slow to start. Being an "eager beaver," when old Dud Burns got tired of cranking, I grabbed the crank and started cranking. The crank was just slipped onto the end of the shaft. It slipped off just as it went around and swung right into my face. Someone standing behind me caught me as I fell. I had to go to Doc Randall and have eight stitches over my cheek bone. That probably cost about $2, but Carl Evavold paid for it. [30.179-5]

Sometimes when it was hot we went swimming in the evening after threshing to get the dirt off and to cool off. There were some big trees with low branches along Pelican Lake just south of Walter Melby's driveway and the men went swimming there completely bare. That went on for many years and nobody thought anything of it. The road went right close to the lake then, too. [30.179-6]

The last years before the tractors took over and before the Depression started, the steam threshers quit burning straw and burned soft coal instead, which saved having to take one of the grain hauling or bundle hauling teams off to haul a load of straw back to the engine periodically. The fireman didn't have to work as hard (or as steadily), but it spoiled some of the fun for kids standing around and watching. [30.180-1]

According to a story told about Christ Stene's rig, in the early days. When the fireman ran low on water and the "water monkey" wasn't back yet with the tank, he would blow the steam whistle. That meant come right away, whether the tank was full or not, and the horses knew it. One day the water monkey had to relieve himself so he unhitched his team and put the lines over his shoulders. He squatted in the grass by the slough where he was filling the tank. Christ could see him from the rig, so he gave a good pull on the whistle rope and the horses took off for home in high, dumping the "tankee" on his nose and leaving him there. [30.180-2]

Click here for Donald's uncle Edward W. Miller's story on threshing one generation earlier.