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Harvest Tales

North Central Kansas

Clay County

Harvest stories submitted by Kansans for the online exhibit, Wheat People.
Submit your own at KansasMuseum@kshs.org.

David Smith

Time Was Reckoned as Before or After Havest

My home is in Wakefield in southeast Clay County. This is an important farming area. We raised corn, wheat, oats, cattle and hogs. I grew up in the 1930's and the war years of the 40's. I remember wheat harvest very well. It started in late June or early July.

Even with its brief duration Harvest Time dominated the summer. Time was reckoned as before or after harvest. Most all other activities were put aside for harvest. Softball was very popular in Wakefield . . . however all games were stopped for harvest. The local pool hall became an employment center for men seeking work.

Some wheat and oats was cut by a binder pulled by three horses or mules. This machine cut the stalks of grain, tied them in bundles and dropped them on the ground. Then two or three of us would follow the binder and stand them up in shocks of a dozen or so bundles. The grain would mature in the shock.

Occasionally the binder would not tie a bundle right and the straw would be loose. I remember my grandfather picking up several straws in each hand, twisting them around the loose bundle and tying it securely. Try as I might I never learned to tie a bundle right. The straw just went flying!

Three weeks or so later, after the grain had finished maturing, the bundles were hauled by horse drawn wagons to the threshing machine. This large machine had no power of its own. A tractor faced it and power was delivered to the thresher by a long belt. This machine separated the straw and the grain. The grain was taken to market, the straw was blown into a large stack. Later, these two were combined into a single operation and the combine was born. The grain was taken to market - the straw was scattered in the field.

There was nothing glamorous or romantic about harvest time. It was hard dirty work; it was long hours and often dangerous. But it was eagerly looked forward to as many families depended on the wheat harvest for an important part of their yearly income.

"Harvest Tales" is part of the online exhibit, Wheat People:  Celebrating Kansas Harvest.