Gather 'Hound the Table

Charlie Thaxton throws bundles of wheat

Charlie Thaxton throws bundles of wheat into the 1934 McCormick Deering thresher.

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Route #1 Greenfield, Illinois 62044

A favorite memory from my childhood on a west-central Illinois farm is of summer days spent baling straw. Neighbor boys would come over to buck the bales. Being just a young girl, I had the privileged job of driving the tractor.

At noon, we'd wash up and go in to a lunch of Mom's fine country cooking. Sitting in the comfort of the air-conditioner, I could hardly wait for Dad to start telling of threshing days when he was a boy.

Charlie Thaxton (who was later to become my dad) remembers being the water boy when the threshing crews came to his home near green-field, Illinois. He and the other boys would be hanging from the picket fence when they heard the first sounds of the steel-wheeled tractors pulling the binder up the road. But they were out in the field when it came time to stack the bundles into shocks.

On threshing day, neighborhood men came in to help toss the bundles into the threshing machine. In the meantime, their wives were inside cooking up a country dinner big enough to feed an army. By the time the men answered the dinner bell, the saw-horse tables were so full of food they practically swayed in the middle. The only air-conditioner in the 'good ole days' was right next to the wash stand under the maple tree!

Dad's memories of those days are precious to him. He shares them with over 50 members of his Tri-County Antique Club (Greene, Jersey and Calhoun counties in west-central Illinois). Their organization specializes in the restoration of antique farm machinery, gas engines and a few vintage automobiles. Dad has everything from a 1918 Fordson to a 1939 McCormick Deering 20. All his tractors are authentically restored to running condition, right down to the color of the paint.

For the past few years, the Club has hosted threshing demonstrations at area celebrations Greenfield Home coming, etc. Planning must start a year in advance with the planting of a wheat field expressly for the purpose of binding and shocking. The shocks are hauled to town where, in front of several hundred interested spectators of all ages, wheat is threshed and baled with fifty-year-old equipment.

This year, our home town of Greenfield is celebrating its 150-year anniversary. At the Sesquicentennial, held August 2-4, the Club members displayed their many tractors, field equipment and a collection of antique toys.

The biggest attraction was the threshing. The wheat had been cut by Dad with his F20 pulling fellow-member Bill Johnson on his reaper.

In town, old and young men alike vied for the thrill of throwing wheat bundles into Johnson's 1934 McCormick Deering thresher. Providing the power to the thresher was a 1919 Nichols & Sheppard, 16-60 HP, steam engine owned by Russell Winters of Jacksonville, Illinois.

Following the threshing, men gathered around for a chance to stand at the throat of Dad's 30's vintage baler, pitching in the wheat straw.

There are many similarities between threshing then and now: the hot days of an Illinois summer, the smell of the wheat straw, neighbor helping neighbor, swapping tales around the dinner table. But oh, how things have changed!

Fixing up the old tractor used to be such a cussed chore. Breakdowns cost precious time in the field. Now, the members of the Tri-County Antique Club find it hard to get to the field because they so enjoy working in the shop on their old relics!

The retired farmers (and city slickers) who looked forward to reliving threshing days at the Greenfield Sesquicentennial have totally forgotten how hot and tired they were back in the 'good ole days!'