MILTON, Ind. (AP) — In an age of high technology and mechanization on farms, people are very interested in how farmers did it a generation or two ago.
Not deterred by heat in the high 90s, a large crowd including a few men aged 90-plus, turned out Saturday to watch wheat harvest from beginning to end, cutting and binding, threshing and then baling the wheat straw.
Adam Jones hosted the event on the Daniels farm that is adjacent to his house along Indiana 1.
Two weeks ago, Chase Bertsch brought his reaper to cut wheat along the road with most of the shocks stored on wagons. Since then, a modern John Deere combine harvested all but a strip of wheat.
Bertsch brought the reaper again to finish the final bit of standing wheat.
A steam engine powered the thresher as men volunteered to fork the shocks into it where the grain is separated from the straw and chaff. The thresher blew the straw and chaff into a large pile as the grain went to a truck.
“I followed those things (reaper) all day long,” said 92-year-old Carl Nutty. “They would take that last shock and break it to put a roof on it to shed the rain.”
He said at that time he would have been too young to do anything like drive the horses or ride the binder.
“When (Cyrus) McCormick invented that, it revolutionized farming. They called it a reaper in those days,” he said. “The hard job was catching the grain in bags. You had to keep up with the separator. I was too little for that.”
When Nutty was a freshman at Alquina High School, ag teacher Walter Gronning took the class to Union County to see the first one-row corn picker in the area.
He recalled several years ago asking an older farmer what had been the biggest advancement in farming for him. The man replied, “power steering.”
After returning from service in World War II, farming had changed and he did not have the money to start farming, so he became a printer, Nutty said.
Roy McGuire said when he grew up, his father did not have a thresher but did have a big combine. Every year it would break. He still has the building that once housed his farm machinery business and he uses it to play with his old tractors.
“This brings back memories,” said 93-year-old Richard Pea. “We’d hear the steam engine whistle and we’d take off and follow them out to east of town. We’d work all day and they’d give us a $1.”
Mark Sterwerf remembers threshing rings but after entering the military service, he remained there for many years. After his father died, he came back to the farm. By then, farmers used combines. His dad bought his first combine, a 3-foot model.
Saturday went better than anticipated, Jones said.
Several people from the Amish community attended and pitched in to help as people of all ages watched intently, taking breaks in the shade. The community came together to help put it on with sponsorships from Tyree Realty and Auction, 1st Choice Seeds and AgriFinance Services. Central Cardinals 4-H Club.
“One older gentleman back there that I’ve known since I moved here 15 years ago talked how it used to be in Lancaster, Pa.,” Jones said. “He said we’re doing it almost to a tee but you’re moving too slowly. He said ‘You need to move faster.'”
Those of the older generation came for the memories of how it had been done and how they may have helped, Jones said. The old machinery is just neat to watch and it is simple.
“The steam engine is the big attention getter,” he said. “I think there is just a camaraderie of working together. I was tickled because I didn’t know if anybody would show up.”
That many people watching and 26 people helping is just amazing, he said.
“People keep asking what we’re going to do next year,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Let’s get through this one first.’ What really would have been neat is if June Pflum, who lived in this house, had been able to be here.”
Pflum passed away in March at age 94.
With the work completed, those who helped had a meal of a turkey, ham, a roast, potatoes and carrots cooked in the steam engine, and sweet corn cooked in a metal trash can with steam from the engine.