Published On: Thu, Jul 20th, 2017

Huwaldt oats harvest will be used for Threshing Bee

Brian Oestreich, Ed Huwaldt and Dave Lubke stop the binder to fix a jam before continuing to harvest the rest of Keith Huwaldt’s field on July 13th.

RANDOLPH — Threshing time, which included neighbors helping neighbors, brings back memories of a simpler time of life. Threshing Bees have since become a popular event at several locations across the Midwest.
An antique binder moved across an oats field two miles southwest of Randolph last week cutting oats and binding the stalks into bundles to be used at the Pierce Old Time Threshing Bee in September.
Volunteers from the group that sponsor the Pierce Old Time Threshing Bee were ready to go to work when they arrived at the oats field on Keith and Virginia Huwaldt’s farm around 6 p.m. July 13.
Ed Huwaldt, who farms the ground, was driving the tractor as the binder cut the oats and formed the stalks into bundles before being tied together with string.
His father, Keith Huwaldt, who will be 91 in August, was perched on the seat above the bed of the binder. His job was to adjust the level of the cycle bar and reel on the binder, while watching to make sure oat stalks moved through the bed and into the bundling mechanism.
He would also trip the lever to allow the basket to release a group of bundles onto the ground. Several other men took turns riding the binder while oats were being cut.
The hard work of the evening began when the shockers, who wore leather gloves to keep their hands from becoming sore, gathered up groups of bundles and jammed them stem-ends down into the stubble (cut-off stalks) which would help keep the bundles from toppling over in windy weather. The head-ends of the bundles were pointed up to allow good circulation for the grain to dry.
Dave Lubke, a member of the group who is from Foster, explained the process.
“The grain to the top and the stems down,” Lubke said. “That is how they used to do it years ago.”
It takes between six to eight bundles that are placed upright to make up a shock. Usually one or two are fanned out on the top as a cap to shed rain.
Rows of shocks were left sitting in the field to allow time for the grain to dry.
A number of Keith and Virginia Huwaldt family members were along with the other shockers as they made their way across the field behind the binder.
The Huwaldts, who have been married close to 70 years, had kids, grandkids and great grandkids who were on hand for the historic event in the oats field.
The great-grand kids, who were quite young, loved pulling on their gloves and “helping” with the shocking.
Virginia drove a side-by-side and gave people a ride across the field as the work was underway. She was excited to be part of the event.
“The shocks are very pretty setting out in the field,” Virginia said.
The men who helped cut the oats and do the shocking gathered at the Huwaldt house for something to eat when the work was done. The food was prepared by the wives of the workers.
The workers will be back at the Huwaldts in a week or so, to load the shocks. The men will use pitch forks to put the shocks on the hay rack that will be moved to the Pierce County Fairgrounds.
“The shocks will be hauled to the fairgrounds where they will be stored in the barn until the Threshing Bee is held in September,” Keith said.
Keith donated the threshing machine, hayrack and binder, which are used during the Threshing Bee, to the Pierce County Historical Society in the early 1980s.
Keith has lots of memories of the threshing crews from his younger years.
“We would put the shocks in a stack and keep them until the thresher could get to our place. Sometimes it could take months before the thresher could get there,” he said. “In my day, we even had a steam engine for the thresher.”
Threshing machines or threshers are used to separate the kernels of oats from the stalks.
The threshing machine was a huge piece of farm equipment approximately 30 feet long and eight to ten feet tall. Threshing machines would be moved from farm to farm. The day the threshing machine arrived on the farms was an exciting time for the community. Neighbors would come and help. Farms wives would feed the workers a good, home cooked meal which often included meat, mashed potatoes, gravy, a vegetable and home-made pie.
Before the threshing machine was developed, threshing was done by hand by using flails to beat the stalks until the seeds fell out. The work was very laborious and time-consuming. The use of threshing machines and binders became widespread during the late 1800’s. Horses and steam powered engines were used to power the early threshing machines.
Combines, which do both functions, replaced the binders and the threshers.