Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
The chaff-laden dust floated across the roadway like a heavy mist as I ran down the hill from school that cool fall afternoon. It was the time of year when Les Daws pulled his threshing rig, billowing smoke and steam, into our driveway and on out to the barn and for a couple of days, all energy was focused on separating the kernels of grain from the puffy grain heads bundled in shocks in the fields and then later Daddy and neighbor men had so carefully piled into stacks in the field just north of our barn. I breathed in the dust-laden air and the smell of grain was fresh and new in my nose and on my tongue. I ran on down the road and into our yard hearing all the time the roar of the threshing machine going full blast out by the barn. I ran to put my lunch pail in the house. Then catching a ride on one of the grain wagons rode out to where the huge dark beast was gulping great mouthfuls of dried grain stalks, moaning and groaning in its dark belly, and finally spewing streams of oats or wheat or barley into waiting wagons and out another huge pipe blowing shining yellow straw onto a pile growing ever higher and higher. It was the wonderful glorious time of the year when it was threshing time on the farm and I was 10 years old, eager to slide on the pile of fresh straw, hitch a ride on the grain wagons taking the hulled grain to the granary up by our car garage, and best of all, get to eat some of the extra special food that Muddy and neighbor women cooked when the threshers came to our farm. Muddy said, "I need you here." But I was gone before the words were out of her mouth, out where the action was. If I didn't hear, I couldn't stay, I figured.
Some of the grain was still in the field, standing in brown tepee-shaped shocks. I rode out to the field to watch the men pitch the bundles up on the hayrack and when it was piled high, I climbed up the front frame swork to ride in high style back to the threshing machine. From my seat high on the bundles of grain, I could see the square, a wooded area in the middle of the fields left uncultivated, and where brown and green jack-in-the-pulpits grew in June, to the dried fields of corn on the next forty, and finally over to the thick woods on the east where the swimming hole now lay hidden, cold and deserted. On one trip to the granary, I climbed up into the bin of grain just as a tiny gray mouse nibbling at the edge of the grain, his beady eyes showing his fright when he saw me, burrowed into the pile of grain trying to hide. But its long tail was still sticking out. I grabbed the tail and yanked him out, holding him at arm's length; ready to throw him out the door. Quick as a flash, he curled his little body up and bites me on the finger. I jumped and dropped him and he scampered back into the grain. "You darned little dickens!" I said as I sucked my finger free of blood and jumped back out the door.
When it was five o-clock, the threshing machine let out its last puff of smoke and blew its shrill whistle. It was quitting time. The men scrambled up to the front yard to splash their faces and necks with cold water and wet back their hair at the wash basin placed on a bench under a tree. I stood by, handing out second best clean towels. Muddy prided herself on using good towels, not old rags like some threshers had to put up with at other farms. The dining room table was set out on the grass in the shady front yard with all its leaves in and now the men crowded around. Women waited on the tables and kids had to wait to eat. But we didn't worry; there was always plenty of food when threshers came to work. Some women provided several meat dishes for threshers, but my mother concentrated on one meat dish and that one was special. Fried chicken and dumplings with rich yellow gravy, fluffy hot biscuits, creamy mashed potatoes, dill pickles and pickled beets, the last of the tomatoes sliced, freshly made apple sauce, hunks of squash baked in the shell sprinkled with brown sugar, mounds of rich yellow butter and real cream, thick and rich, for the coffee. For dessert it was either raisin spice cake or sour cream cookies, sometimes both. Old Chris Flint always drank hot water seasoned with milk and a little sugar. Boston Tea some people called it. Mr. Flint was very old with white hair and very little of that. He wore long woolen underwear year around, "kept him warm in winter and cool in summer" he said. I could see the underwear now, yellowish and worn thin, where he had rolled back his red and black plaid flannel work shirt sleeves. He didn't like fresh baked bread either but I noticed he ate my mother's biscuits. As the men sat around the table eating, Daddy always tried to liven things up with his jokes and stories, but mostly the men shoveled the food in, anxious to go home and get at their evening milking. When Daddy got up from the table, he said, "You kids can play in the straw tonight and tomorrow, that's it. The straw has to settle. No more playing after tomorrow." As soon as I wiped a few dishes, I escaped, running for the straw stack with the other kids. Climb up, slide down. Climb up, slide down. Over and over until dark was settling in we climbed and slid down the fresh slippery straw, sometimes burying ourselves over our heads and coming up gasping for air.
It was the end to a perfect day. ********** Anyone who missed the Oct. 28 Historical Society meeting, missed an amazing journey back 146 years to the "Uprising" with author, history teacher and state representative Dean Urdahl. His own great-grandfather supervised the first Forest City stockade. His current book "Uprising" is a must-read, if you like 19th century history. ********** Put these November events on your calendar: "Food for Thought", Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the city hall. Annual Holiday potluck gathering is our only purely social event. Everyone is invited; bring your friends. Just bring a dish to pass; beverages and eating utensils will be provided. This is the final reminder. Rave reviews are still heard from last year's. Won't you join us? Friday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m., Kimball's Generations Ballroom, Highway 55 (former Playland Ballroom), "Dinner With An Author." Creating Minnesota from the inside out as Annette Atkins presents "Christmas Oranges." Historic theme includes author presentation, chicken dinner and our own Kimball Historical Society's Christmas display. Get your tickets at the Kimball Library before Nov. 14 (a library event). ********** Fall is definitely upon us and imagination abounds as we journey into the Holiday and winter months. Want a great gift idea? Consider a new or renewed membership in the Kimball Area Historical Society, for yourself or someone else, or a memorial gift towards the Kimball City Hall project, or a donation to the society's general account. All these are fully tax deductible for the year of your donation. Keep these in mind as you begin that Christmas gift list. ********** While Historical Society meetings with great programs and speakers will resume early in 2009, this "History Matters" column continues every other week, all year long. So keep watching this column for great history and happenings updates. Another gift idea could be a subscription to the Tri-County News, so as not to miss any of these stories selected just for you. ********** For more information, column stories, photos, comments or membership, please contact The Kimball Area Historical Society, P.O. Box 100, Kimball MN 55355; telephone (320) 398-5743, (320) 398-5250 or (800) 252-2521, if out of the area. ********** "Snapshots in time."