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Harvest Tales

Northeast Kansas

Atchison County

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

Meta Bechtold

"This is hilly country . . . But we did raise wheat"

I live 5 miles south of Atchison and am 85 years old. This is hilly country with not many acres in each field, but we did raise wheat. Not as much as the farmers with the big fields farther west, 50 or 60 acres at most. But we had to go through all the motions.

We had the threshing crew in the mid to late 40's. It was a big event for the whole family. The first thing was cutting the wheat with a binder. I usually got the job of riding the binder. Then it all had to be shocked by hand. . . . If we had much rain [the shocks] would sprout on the outside.

Then the big day when the separator and the crew came. Neighbor men came with their teams of horses pulling a hay rack wagon. They picked up the bundles and hauled them to the separator and tossed them into it with a pitchfork. . . . Really hot dirty work for the men. The children were kept busy carrying drinking water or lemonade to the men, and other errands. As we didn't have electricity yet, I only had a ice box. I got up at 4 o'clock and killed and dressed 4 or 5 frying chickens. Then I helped with the milking and other chores. I made 3 or 4 pies, about 5 gallons of lemonade, and prepared vegetables. I didn't have any help as my nearest neighbors didn't raise wheat. The wives usually traded help also. We would have to go to town to get ice for the day and also if I didn't fix chicken, buy a 5 or 6 pound roast for that day.

The threshing usually lasted around 3 days. The crew didn't stay for supper as they did some places. I was thankful for that. My mother-in-law and I cooked for someone else's threshers in 1936 and didn't even have an ice box then. It's amazing to see the huge self propelled combines today, and then women don't have to cook for all those men although they have many more conveniences to do so. What an improvement!

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

Contact us at KansasMuseum@kshs.org