Harvest Tales - Thomas County 02
Glenn M. Busset
Harvests in Thomas County
I had found work on Foster Farms [in 1940], because the job I had with the Soil Conservation Service ended abruptly and school back at KSC did not resume until in September. Foster Farms still cut their wheat with binders and threshed in order to save the straw as bedding for their large herd of Hereford show cattle. When we went to work, it meant looking at an entire 160 acres of bundles of wheat on the ground. Others handled the bundle wagons at that time, and four of us worked as "spike pitchers." We walked along beside the wagons, learning how to carefully place the bundles head first on the wagons. It must be done so the loader had only to set the bundles easily in place, working with two pitchers at the same time. What I remember best is that all I could see in every direction, was huge fields of wheat, with irregular rows of bundles waiting for our forks.
Two other things stand out as unusual although hardly worth remembering. The first was opening up a field and working the boundaries where the bundles had fallen into rather deep wheat grass several days earlier. The surprise came in lifting up bundles in a draw and finding that several small (foot long) rattlesnakes had taken up residence under the bundles. Although I heard an unfamiliar buzz, it was not until the bundles hit the rack and the loader departed rapidly off the far side that I realized what was happening. The other pitcher, a hobo off the Rock Island, stuck his pitchfork in the ground and walked across the field toward the railroad, not even staying to collect his day's pay.
About eight of us, transient workers and some of the ranch crew, lived in a long, narrow bunkhouse above the granary. It was my first experience in living in such confining quarters, but the worst was the horrendous snoring of some of the old men. Two of us "broke the rules" of the system by taking our bed rolls and sleeping in the truck load of wheat in the driveway below. The other was getting a bath to wash off the accumulated grime of a day especially when the wind did not blow and we were covered with nettle dust and broken wheat awns. We did this by spraying each other from the windmill hose--but the water came from 165 ft. down and felt like ice. Not only that, we had to wait until after dark because the widow who cooked for the crew had two young daughters who liked to sit on the porch overlooking the windmill.
It was a long time ago, and nothing like this is likely to happen again--and maybe not very interesting to younger people but it was all part of having a job and learning how to make do with what you had.
Glenn Busset also submitted Harvests in Coffey County.