MY STORY: THE WAY THINGS WERE – AND HOW THEY WERE DONE
(Continued from our last ACR)
BY BOB MARTENS
Corn shelling was another example of neighbors working together. The corn sheller was mounted on a truck. A drag was made up of sections of wood or metal like a trough, with a chain in it. The sections would be fastened together with bolts and the chain was made up of links with a cross bar that would drag the ears of corn to the sheller. This drag was either placed under the corncrib in a tunnel or along the side of the crib. Most of the ear corn would fall into the drag when boards were removed, but some had to be scooped into the drag. The cobs were elevated onto wagons or hayracks. The shelled corn went into wagons.
Our place had a good-sized cob house. We would put a snow fence around inside the rack, so it would hold more and also keep the cobs from falling through the cracks between the boards on the sides. The rack full of cobs was pulled up alongside the cob house and the cobs were scooped into a door. The dirt sloped away from the building, so the rack was not level. I, not being of a scientific mind yet, scooped cobs from the side of the rack next to the building, so, of course, the rack upset from the weight of the cobs on the downhill side. Then I had the job of putting the cobs into buckets and carrying them around to the other side of the cob house and dumping them into the cob house. This, of course, was a lot more work and took longer than scooping them off the rack. Live and learn!
Getting the hay in the barn was another big job, usually done three times during the summer. The five-foot sickle mower was pulled by a team of horses. When the hay was dry enough, it was raked into windrows with a side-delivery rake. After it dried enough to put in the barn, a team of horses would pull the hayrack with a hay loader hooked behind it. The windrows were straddled; the loader picked up the hay and dropped it onto the rack. One person drove the team, while another pitched the loose hay around to level it. When the hayrack was full, it was pulled up to the barn. A big hayfork was pulled out of the barn and down into the hay. The fork was set into this loose hay. A long, strong, rope was strung through pulleys to the other end of the barn and back down to the same side of the barn that the hayrack was on. A track ran the length of the top of the barn that the carrier ran on.
A singletree was attached to the rope and one horse would pull the fork full of hay up to the track; the carrier would engage the track and carry the hay into the barn. The person in the barn would yell, “Stop!” when the hay reached the spot where he wanted the hay to be dropped. The man on the rack would then pull the trip rope and the hay would drop into the barn. He would then pull the fork back out again and repeat the process until the rack was empty. The man in the barn would move the hay around to level it out.
If the hay was not dry enough, there were barns that burned down, the fire being started by spontaneous combustion. This was a great loss to the farmer, because he lost his feed for the winter. Usually grain was kept in the barn also, and the cows were milked in part of the barn. The harnesses were hung in the part where the horse stalls were.
One winter, as I was throwing hay down to the cow barn, I discovered a large hole in the hay that had smoldered, but did not burst into flames because of lack of oxygen. I was lucky I did not fall into that hole.
We got electricity on the farm in 1939 for a total cost of $300. The cookstove, wooden icebox, and wringer washing machine were hauled to the neighbor’s dump and new appliances were bought. The house and outbuildings were wired and we had a yard light!