Recalling trips on the Eagle

Recently, our good neighbor across the street brought over a book titled “Once Upon A Farm.” While we didn’t actually live on a farm, Dad rented some land and a barn and we farmed on a small scale. We did most things the hard way with pitch forks and shovels and not much farm equipment.

One piece of equipment I remember vividly is the old two-cylinder tractor Dad had acquired called an Eagle. It was a large tractor with a cab, and Dad used it to do township road work pulling the road grader. He also used it to thresh grain for a group of farmers in northern Trumbull and southern Ashtabula counties.

The Eagle had a big fly wheel on the side that was used to start it. It was made to start on gasoline and, when it got warm was switched over to kerosene. It had pet cocks on each cylinder filled with gasoline to start and run the engine until it got warm enough to change to kerosene.

When I got old enough, I would go with him to help out with the threshing operation. When we pulled into a farm yard, the first thing we had to do was get the threshing machine set up, wheels blocked, and the tractor lined up to put the big heavy drive belt from the tractor to the threshing machine.

One of my jobs was to unroll the drive belt from the threshing machine and put it on the drive pulley of the tractor. Dad had to make sure he had the tractor and threshing machine lined up so the belt would stay on. He wanted to do that because he knew he was being watched by some of the farmers who came to help. His reputation was at stake.

Neighbors shared work at threshing time so several of them had been out in the field loading up grain that had been cut and shocked earlier. Shocking oats or wheat was another job that wasn’t much fun. The prickly straw and heads of grain were hard on the arms of those doing the work.

As soon as the threshing machine was set up and the straw blower cranked to blow the straw to the area where the farm owner wanted it, we were ready to start threshing. Some farmers wanted the straw blown into a stack while others wanted it blown into the barn. Either way, handling the straw was a dusty, dirty job, one that was done by to the farm owner.

When the teams of horses started coming up to the threshing machine, we might have to shut it down because some horses where spooked by all the noise from the machine and tractor.

At times Dad would climb up the little ladder on the threshing machine to check the bushel counter on top that recorded the bushels of grain threshed. I would stay near the tractor to shut it down if something happened.

At noon it was always time for a big dinner. Neighboring farm wives would come to help. Meat, mashed potatoes, vegetables and all kinds of pie and cakes were served. Sometimes there was friendly competition among farm wives to see who would serve the best dinner.

Benches with wash basins and buckets of warm water and towels were ready for the dusty group to wash up before eating. The host farmer would usually say a prayer of thanksgiving before eating.

After the meal, we went back to work until the grain was threshed. If there was too much, we might need to stay another day.

When we were done, it was my job to help clean any grain that fell off the hopper. Then Dad would loosen the tension on the drive belt and I would roll it up on the threshing machine. If it was still daylight, we would move to the next farm.

Some days were long and as the putt-putt of the Eagle died down, we were ready to quit.

Parker is professor emeritus, The Ohio State University, and an independent writer for the Tribune Chronicle.


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