Sometimes I can still hear the "putt-putt-putt" of the big old Eagle tractor that Dad had when I was growing up. It had a two-cylinder engine and had to be started by spinning the big fly wheel. It was started on gasoline put in "pet cocks" on both sides of the engine. When it was going smoothly, Dad would switch it over to run on kerosene.
That tractor was used for many things around home and in the community. One of the jobs Dad did was thresh grain for a "ring" of farmers in northern Trumbull and southern Ashtabula counties. Belt power for the threshing machine was provided by the old Eagle tractor. This time of the year, Dad would start out to go to the first farm to thresh their wheat. Where he went first was usually decided by the farmers and depended on whose grain was most mature and dry to separate the grain from the straw.
At some farms, Dad had to back the threshing machine up so the straw blower could blow the straw into the barn. That wasn't always easy, but he knew how to back the machine. Other times, the straw was blown into a big stack beside the barn.
With four boys and one girl in our family, one of us usually went along to help out at the various farms. After it was in place, we would unhitch the threshing machine. When Dad had the tractor and machine lined up ready for the belt to go on the tractor flywheel, we would put the heavy, long belt on for him. Not always an easy job.
Farmers exchanged help to get the bundles of grain up to the threshing machine. Three or four wagons, pulled by teams of horses, were out in the fields with a couple of farmers throwing bundles on the wagon for the driver to load them. They had to be loaded just right so the slippery grain would not fall off.
Wagon loads of grain were then pulled up alongside the threshing machine, and usually two men would throw bundles of grain into the hopper to go on through the threshing process. Dad often stood up on the machine to make sure everything was working right, especially the scales that weighed the grain. Sometimes younger farmers would like to see who could throw bundles into the machine the fastest. They would make the tractor really "bark" to keep up with them. Dad would have to slow them down because they would plug the threshing machine with too much grain and straw.
One of the fun times of the day was always the noon meal. Farm wives enjoyed having the reputation of being good cooks. They would try to outdo each other with the variety and size of the wonderful meals. They would get together to help each other preparing, serving and cleaning up after the dinner.
Hot and dusty would usually describe a threshing day. The farmer where we were threshing had the very dusty job of mowing away or stacking the straw. It was the toughest job of the day.
When the last wagon was unloaded, we helped clean up any spilled grain below the hopper and rolled the belt up, ready for the next job. Since he was paid by the number of bushels threshed, Dad had to check the scales, record the number and reset them for the next job.
Usually it was early enough that we could chug up the road to the next farm before dark. Before starting the next day, the tractor and threshing machine had to be greased and refueled, an important part of any day.
Many of us have nostalgic memories of those days. They still exist on Amish farms. At the same time, they were hot, dusty, tiring days. They taught us the real meaning of hard work.
Parker grew up in Trumbull County, is retired from Ohio State University and is an independent writer for the Tribune.