Gas Engine Magazine

Experiences Of A French Threshing Show

By Staff

6914 Valley Drive, Bettendorf, Iowa, 52722

Last July, while in France on business, a small group of us
decided to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening touring a chateau
and attending an outdoor pageant in a small town approximately 120
miles south of Paris. Since I do not speak French, 1 was not sure
how much I would enjoy the pageant, however I was very interested
in seeing as many different things in France as possible. As it
turned out, the Chateau of Saint Fargeau was being restored and the
local people put on the pageant to raise money. I did not gain much
from the French tour guide, but it was interesting to see how the
chateau was constructed, especially the unusual arrangement of
beams in the large round roof.

The pageant was called ‘Spectacle Historique’ and it was
indeed spectacular. Six hundred actors, 50 on horseback, along with
a number of sheep, goats, geese, hogs and cattle reenacted events
from French history, from ‘day one’ to the present. Even
without understanding the words, it was easy to pick out Joan of
Arc, the French Revolution, and the Nazi occupation. The two hours
of action spread out across several acres with the chateau
integrated into the plot. It was fast paced, exciting, and ended
with the American liberation complete with several jeeps and other
WWII military vehicles. (I learned later that there are clubs all
over France devoted to the restoration of American WWII
vehicles.)

While in St. Fargeau, we noticed a sign with a picture of a
steam engine. It turned out that a threshing show was being held
that weekend in the near-by town of Champillon. Reed Turner and I
decided that we would try to go. Reed, who is also interested in
this sort of thing, had the advantage of being able to speak some
French. The next day we drove some 80 miles back to Campillon. Reed
asked directions to the show located in a hilltop field outside of
town.

We found an enthusiastic crowd ranging in age from toddlers to
grandparents and from those who appeared to be lifetime farmers to
townfolk all out to experience the friendly country atmosphere.
Booths were set to sell various types of cheese, grilled meat, beer
and wine. Other booths displayed crafts including a cooper, flour
making with a grist mill, a toy model maker, and a man hewing a
tongue and groove beam from a log. Kids were being given rides in a
one horse, high wheel cart. Three women in period costume were
washing clothes on stones by a small pond that had been dug for the
purpose. (The plastic that lined the pond detracted only slightly.)
A group of folk dancers also in costume including wooden shoes
performed on a portable stage. The demonstration that got everyones
attention was when volunteer firemen, also dressed for the time
period, used a hand pumper to spray water into the air and out over
the crowd.

The show centered around four threshing machines of different
sizes. All were wooden, and appeared to be of the same make. The
largest was powered by a SFV tractor, the second by a small
portable steam engine, the third by a small one-cylinder diesel
engine, and the smallest by a built-in one-horse treadmill. The
largest machine also had an attached straw baler and the second a
low density ‘bundler’. Straw has always been of high value
in Europe.

In the adjoining field, they were binding wheat with both a
tractor drawn binder and one pulled by three horses. The one horse
cart was now being used to pick up bundles as well as a very old
four wheel wagon pulled by a yoke of oxen. As the bundles were
brought in from the field, each threshing rig was demonstrated.
There seemed to be plenty of people willing to help pitch bundles,
sack and tie the bags of grain, and stack the bales or bundles of
straw. All went well until they got to the thresher powered by the
horse treadmill. The horse was not large and obviously had spent
very little time on a treadmill. The horse could get the machine
going, but no matter how slowly they fed the bundles it would
plug.

There were also a half dozen older tractors with names like
Renault, Kramer, Austin, SFV, and Deering. The latter was a diesel
and looked very much like a McCormick-Deering 1020, complete with
pneumatic rubber tires, headlights, and license plates. The Kramer
was a one-cylinder diesel with a large flywheel on each side. The
Renault was very nicely restored and the only one on steel. The
brass nameplate on the SFVs was inscribed with ‘Societe
Francaise de Materiel Agricole et Industriel Vierzon’. One had
a three point hitch and hydraulics. A few pieces of horse equipment
completed the display. The latter included one horse mower and a
small reaper.

Reed and I left just before dark after a very delightful
afternoon. If any of you ever find yourselves with a similar
opportunity, do not let a language problem keep you from going. You
do not need words to get the feeling of friendship and pride from
the people who restore and display antique farm equipment.

  • Published on Aug 1, 1988
© Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved - Ogden Publications, Inc.