Harvesting in 1906 meant hiring a threshing crew to come to your homestead. Different crews traveled over the area, some coming to the same places each year. Farmers often worked on a threshing crew when done with their own place, to make extra money. The work was grueling and the conditions rough.
(Photograph from the Mountrail Historical Society book, The Tales of Mighty Mountrail. Unfortunately I don't know who these men are, or who took the picture.)
Before the early 1800's, harvesting was done by hand--beating the grain with a flail to separate the kernels from the straw--or by animals tramping over the grain. The results were scooped up and flung up into the wind to separate the chaff and straw from the heavier grain.
The first threshing machines were powered by horses or mules walking on a treadmill. By 1890, steam tractors replaced the "horse power." Massive belts wove a long figure-eight between the threshing machine and the tractor.
Bundles of grain were fed into the "feeder" or hopper. The "separator" was a series of rotating blades that cut the bundles and their twine apart, and knocked the kernels loose without crushing them. A series of screens separated the kernels from the straw and chaff (the covering around the kernel, plus other debris.) The cleaned kernels ran out a chute into bags or a wagon.
A view from the top of the stack.
There are still annual threshing bees all around the country. The sound of the machine bashing out the grain as the belts on the pulleys grind around and around is simply awesome. Makoti, Braddock, Crosby, and Lansford are some of the threshing shows in North Dakota. In our area, Toledo, Washington has one. If you've never been to a threshing (or "thrashing" as some call it) bee, I'd recommend it.
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