6583 Lower Macungie Rd.
Macungie, Pennsylvania 18062 I grew up during the early decades
of the twentieth century in a small farming town south of
Stuttgart, Germany, called Aich. In 1930 I immigrated to the United
States, following the example of several people from my village,
and settled in Allentown, Pa. I am a member of the Antique Engine,
Tractor, and Toy Club, Inc. of Kempton, Pa. The following are some
recollections of farming and threshing from my childhood in
Prior to World War I, farmers in southern Germany were
relatively prosperous. Most lived in villages, with their fields
scattered in the outlying areas. A farmer usually had many small
fields of one quarter to one acre in size. My father alone had over
twenty five fields in the vicinity of Aich. Crops included wheat,
oats, barley, as well as many varieties of vegetables. Plowing,
sowing, and cultivating were done with horses, cows, or oxen.
Harvesting was done by hand with scythe and cradles. Once cut, the
grain was bound into sheaves and brought on horse-drawn wagons to
barns for drying and storage.
Threshing was done in the late fall and winter. During the
pre-World War I period, farmers usually helped one another and
hired someone with a threshing machine and a steam powered engine
to do the threshing. The picture below was taken in Sielmingen
during just such an event. The engine was powered by a wood fire,
and had to be moved from place to place with horses. This
particular one was used in Sielmingen and a neighboring village of
Ecterdingen (the present site of the Stuttgart airport). The steam
engine and threshing machine made fast work of the threshing
World War I and the hyperinflation period following the war
brought many hardships for the German farmer. During the war, the
German government had drafted most of the country’s horses into
the army. After the war most farmers had only cows to use as draft
animals. Many farmers could no longer afford to have an outsider do
threshing. My father, Friedrich Rauscher, was no exception.
Threshing in this period, was done on the threshing floor in our
barns using hand flails. My father, mother, and five or six
neighbors worked from early morning till evening for five to six
weeks to thresh the grain that could have been done by machine in
several hours. My job was to turn the grain on the threshing floor,
then in turn each thresher hit the grain with his flail. At the end
of the day four to five bushels of wheat had been removed from the
straw. We then swept the grain and chaff together and separated it
with a hand cranked windmill. When our grain was finished my
parents moved on to help our neighbors with their threshing. The
whole process took all fall and winter to complete.
Although our village of Aich was small, because of the Aichtal
stream that flowed through it we had two grist mills in operation.
The Horning and the Reiner Mills, both run by water power,
attracted many farmers from miles around. Taking our wheat to the
mills to be ground into flour was one of my favorite jobs. My
mother used the flour from our own wheat to bake bread. Every week
she baked six to eight loaves. The bread, a dark whole wheat, was
begun in the evening by mixing flour, yeast, water, and a starter
sourdough from the previous week together and letting it rise. The
bread was baked in one of two communal bake ovens which were
located next to the town hall. Each family in Aich had a scheduled
time to use the ovens. On rare occasions my mother would bake
raised cakes with bought white flour.
As times became better, Emil Merkle and Erwin Schworer, two
enterprising young men in our village, purchased a small threshing
machine and electric motor to run it. They began to go around to
the farmers and do their threshing for them.
Although the threshing machine worked well enough, the electric
motor did not have enough horsepower to really run it. The wheat
had to be fed very slowly into the hopper. Despite the
shortcomings, Emil and Erwin worked hard and saved their money and
in 1928 they bought the first Lanz Bulldog diesel powered tractor
in the area. The men traveled from Aich forty-five miles to
Hielbronn to C.C. Storzbach the tractor distributor. When they
arrived, their tractor was waiting for them, but the brake assembly
had not been attached. Anxious as they were, they drove the tractor
home anyway. The picture above is of Emil and Erwin on their
arrival in Aich. Note the long wooden pole on top of the tractor.
This was used as a makeshift brake on the hilly ride home.
The arrival of the Lanz Bulldog marked the beginning of change
for Aich. Threshing could now be efficiently done in half a day per
farm, and the new proud owners were making a good living with their
tractor. One unusual note about the Lanz: when the tractor was
stopped and then restarted, it often ran backwards. If this
happened, it had to be stopped and then restarted again.
In the following years, Aich got many other tractors and
continued to modernize, but in my memory none made a greater impact
upon our lives than the arrival of the first Lanz Bulldog. In 1951
I made a return trip to Aich, and at that time many of the old Lanz
Bulldogs were still in use.