Broomcorn Harvesting, Thrashing and Broom Making


| August/September 1995



Don Colwell feeding broomcorn into the seeder.

Don Colwell feeding broomcorn into the seeder.

Superintendent Cache Public Schools 201 West H Avenue Cache, Oklahoma 73527

Yes, broomcorn, which is used to make straw brooms, does give off a powder that does itch and chap some people when mixed with sweat and sunburn. I have seen one or two person simply break out in large red welts. Maybe this is why I have never seen or heard of any display of broomcorn harvesting in the past 10-12 years since I have been reading magazines and going to exhibits. I can learn about harvesting beets, potatoes, wheat or grain of any type, wool and who knows what else, but I am here to stand up for those marvelous people who made it possible for us to clean our houses before Mr. Kirby's sweeper or WalMart and their plastic brooms.

But first, please allow me to digress and tell you about my son's 1938 John Deere Model B. It all started about 1950 when I was six years old, in our first new vehicle, a '49 Chevrolet pickup. We drove from our home in Elmore City, Oklahoma, to Boswell, Oklahoma, to visit my dad's grandmother, aunt, uncles and cousins. We finally got to the old home place northwest of Boswell, and for the first time, I saw their great big tractor with steel wheels. Back then, we still used horses (Buck and Dan) on our place. The excitement was almost more than a boy could stand. My older brother DeWayne and I were all over that tractor. It was a John Deere B not nearly so big now, since I have grown up.

L. M. (Luke) Colwell, my great grandfather, bought the John Deere B and some equipment in July of 1938 at Bokchito. I have the original Bill of Sale. Luke died in September of the same year, while he was in the field watching his grandson, Marion Huf-ford, plowing with the tractor. Marion carried him on the back of the tractor to the house where he later died with a heart attack. Marion used the tractor for years before he parked it. Marion, his sister Gertrude, and his mother, Opal lived with her parents after her husband died in Shamut, Arkansas, of the fever.

In the early '80s, my dad, Hugh E. Colwell, and I got interested in our genealogy. My family in 1982 went to Boswell to visit Marion and his wife, who still lived at the old home place in the same house that Luke had built in 1919. He used lumber cut off his land at Shamut, Arkansas, to build with. Luke said it was good Arkansas pine.

Marion and Opal showed us a lot of pictures and other information for our family search. But when I saw the old tractor left out in the field in the bushes, my heart just about stopped. I was already interested in old iron and this would be a great piece. I did not say anything about it for almost four months and then I couldn't stand it any longer. I asked my dad if he thought it would be permissible to ask about the tractor. So, I wrote a letter and called Marion about the 'B.' He was more than happy to let me have it to restore. My only regret was that I did not take a. camera with me, and they did not have one, to take a picture of the trees, bushes and vines I had to cut with a chain saw to be able to move it. But the one picture I would love to have now was of Marion guiding the tractor as I pulled it to the loading spot through their yard.

rod smith
9/24/2012 1:44:54 AM

I can tell by reading this you have worked broomcorn,I have read post that you could tell the story teller had never work broomcorn enjoyed reading your story my Dad sold our last broomcorn baler about 10 years ago we still have a couple of threshers, nothing like drinking water that came from a wooden barrel with 50 lbs blocks of ice in it to cool the water, water so cold you could hardly drink from the tin cup!!