Threshing Manure

by meganpruFridays Brings Changes in Two Pan….

When one of the Woolsey children came banging on our door, Bricker was out seining for gold, as usual. The boy had been sent by his papa asking for Bricker’s help getting in his wheat.  I sent our oldest, McAllister, in his father’s place. He’s 14. I hoped he would do.

Mr. Woolsey watched McAllister swing a scythe, then put him on the threshing floor, saying it would be better if no one died harvesting his grain.

I don’t know what the man was thinking. It’s just as dangerous being around McAllister swinging a flail. Why, one night on the Oregon trail, the boy about killed one of the oxen, pretending to be a knight and jousting with the animal. But Mr. Woolsey gave him a flail and told him to have at it. At first McAllister thought it was great fun to whale away on the wheat stooks. He soon learned wheat berries don’t easily separate from the chaff like it does in those convenient Bible stories. The grain has to be beaten loose over and over until your arms fall out of their sockets. Took the sass right out of him.

Whole grains are full of fiber.

There’s no steam thresher in the valley. They haven’t figured out how to successfully double-team something that size over Smith Mountain. They’d need to lock wagon wheels, sledding it down the other side and floating it across the river.  So Mr. Woolsey started manual gleaning with a horse and a skid, but his oh-so-delicate wife, Patricia Woolsey, saw the horse plop a load of droppings as it tromped the grain out of the stooks. Let me tell you, the operation came to a screeching halt. That’s when they scoured the valley for men to help hand thresh. I admit she’s right, the grain is impossible to clean, when it’s been crapped on and stomped in, but I wonder if she knows that’s what she’s been eating most of her life?

Poor McAllister was so sore he could hardly walk home from the Woolseys. I rubbed his skinny arms with horse liniment, and he went back the next day and thereafter until he’d worked the whole harvest.  They paid him two bushels of wheat per day, valued at 25cents a bushel.

The adults got three bushel and McAllister says he worked harder old Mr. Virgil who spent most of his time spitting tobacco into the pile and laughing, “Let her bake that into bread.” Nonetheless, McAllister gleaned enough grain to last us a year, so I suppose I cannot think of him as a child anymore. Even if he still plays pirates and accidentally leaves a few lumps on the other children.

The Woolseys will haul McAllister’s sacks of grain along with theirs to the mill. It’s an 18 mile trip one-way to Enterprise, but of the five gristmills on the other side of the mountain, they make the better flour.

McAllister is proud and bossing the rest of the children. Maggie, 10 months younger, will tolerate none of his guff. He calls her the Chicken Queen since she’s takes care of the hens. She calls him an Indian word meaning full of skunk scat. I don’t know where they pick up these things.

This is hard country. The children have traded their years of tomfoolery for work and the opportunity to eat. I believe every loaf of bread I bake in the mud oven this winter will make me ask. Is it right to trade their childhood for our dream to own land? Bricker says when he strikes it rich we’ll buy their childhood back.

I’ve got to learn that word for “full of skunk skat.”

Advertisements

About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in Humor, Pioneer Friday in Two Pan, Satire and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Threshing Manure

  1. xtremeenglish says:

    Still laughing….wot a great post!

    Like

  2. Pingback: 1870s: Christmas Gifts in the Wind | Before Morning Breaks

  3. Lisa Nowak says:

    I’ve really been enjoying these stories.

    Like

  4. There’s pride and joy in working hard and seeing the fruits of our labor. I always admire those who used their hands to do things and relied on what they can do. My dad used to make fertilizers out of manure and dried husks, I thought it was grossed as a kid but now I realized how amazing the whole process is and how my dad uses his resources wisely, not to mention being kind to the environment. Wonderful post. Happy Holidays.

    Like

  5. curm says:

    I hated bucking hay. I can’t imagine threshing wheat. I really hated horses and cows in the winter. I just can’t imagine that life then. Bet not many people lived to see forty. Child mortality had to be tremendous. A mom would just about have to bear a dozen kids to run a family farm and keep up with attrition . If you find out what the word for skunk scat I’d like to know. I have a great time telling people Pog ma thuin while smiling (kiss my patootie in Gaelic.)

    Like

  6. Poor delicate Patricia. I wonder if I could get her to eat my fruit-fly-maggot-infested blackberry pies. The secret is in the not telling.

    Like

    • Barb says:

      As with most interesting creations by talented cooks…if you don’t ask what it is…then it tastes delicious. That just means you’re a good cook, Murr. Besides..don’t those fruit fly larvae have lots of protein?

      Like

  7. Julie says:

    It is interesting when you think about the hard lives everyone including their youngins had back then. Sounds like you still do, driving to pick up your son before 5 am, but I reckon it’s worth it for your kin!

    Like

    • Barb says:

      Well…that was an interesting roundtable family discussion this week, Julie. Do we make him catch the bus, the train, or try to snag a ride with a friend? (Which means he’d lose a day or more of his vacation). I’m sure someday, I’ll be wishing he’d drop by for a visit….and decided I’d better squeeze as much “now” time as I can.

      Like

  8. Barb says:

    Late readers can’t see what Spectra’s talking (last comment-below) about because I removed the comment. I was out of town bringing home a college kid for Christmas, and missed a piece of spam. Fortunately ya’ll are a great blogging community and help me out. Thank you. Thank you. Spectra had my back and was “knocking spammer’s heads together” while I was gone. (And I’ve never met the woman).
    Obviously, law and order is coming to Two Pan. Stay tuned for future posts in which Sheriff Spectra doesn’t take any guff.Smiley

    Like

  9. Roxie Matthews says:

    Ah yes, the good old days. I learn something every time you post. Thanks ever so!

    Like

  10. You know, how do you come up with this stuff? You have a very mysterious mind Barb dearest, and I love it! Margie

    Like

    • Barb says:

      Margie…this sense of humor often got me into trouble at school. And as my “What happened To Create This?” page above says. I’m frequently arm wrestling with my inner hooligan. Thanks for the pat on the back.

      Like

  11. souldipper says:

    What strikes me about your story, Barb, is the reminder that so much childhood was lost in those hard days. In Canadiana Literature – old stories of rural Canada – it’s almost hard for me to read the sad events because I know they were such a fact of life back then. Talk about child labour…

    The parents often seemed angry that their kids would dare be children. Some had been robbed of their childhood and found it hard to give their children a chance to be children.

    Like

    • Barb says:

      And you know…I’m guessing that the parents’ of those children had it even harder, so perhaps they didn’t think anything about sunrise to sunset work. Thanks for the Canadian perspective. Even though child labor was condemned as early as 1832 here…it wasn’t until 1938 federal standards set a minimal age for employment. (which I’m sure no one paid any attention to when it came to farming and family situations).

      Like

  12. Makles our difficulties seem a tad trivial. Please, when you find that word for ‘full of skunk skat’ can I have it? Pretty please.

    Like

  13. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    Loved the story, it really makes you appreciate what some people went through in days gone by.

    Like

    • Barb says:

      Thanks. Doesn’t Oz have a pioneer history? Someday folks will look at these posts and shake their heads saying…I can’t believe they had to type to communicate. And they couldn’t see each other when they made comments. Whew…they had it hard. And we do. That’s why I need a maid. And a cook. And I’d love someone to drive me around.

      Like

  14. Margie says:

    My dad and father-in-law tell somewhat similar stories about what it was like to homestead here in the early 1900’s. I think children had different childhoods then than they do now, but were they any the worse off for spending the fall threshing than spending hours in front of a TV set or playing video games or fantasizing about a movie stars life?

    Like

    • Barb says:

      Interesting question, Margie, but my motto is: Nothing’s ever simple. My uncle lost his hand in a corn picker (at 14) which wouldn’t happen with XBox.
      But….kids were supposed to help with harvest. It provided food and helped pay the bills…which doesn’t happen with X-Box.
      (Okay…to provide equal perspective, I’ll add…you can make money with video games if you’re a master gamer…which is rare. “So put down that controller, stop reading about the Kardashians, and get a job, whippersnappers.”)

      Like

  15. momaescriva says:

    I surely don’t crave for them good ole days!

    Like

  16. Alice Lynn says:

    Thanks for telling us like it was. I just got over a big fit of nostalgia for the “good old days.” 🙂

    Like

    • Barb says:

      Here’s the thing, Alice. If you never had an ipad or knew about an ipad…you wouldn’t know anything easier and you’d be blissfully unaware of what you’re missing. I think that’s why Dallas Cowboy Fan tells me they don’t make Chanel #5 anymore and Elizabeth Taylor brought up all the diamonds, so there’s no more to be had.

      Like

  17. Spectra says:

    Hey, you! That is shameless hijacking of blog comments to self-promote! Get offa this mountain, fooool!

    Like

  18. digipicsphotography says:

    What a great story! Work was hard then. We don’t know how lucky we have it now.

    Like

    • Barb says:

      The more I research these settlers’ lives, the more often I tell my family, I would’ve died on the Oregon Trail. And then to endure all these hardships after walking 2,000 miles? Yep…I think I would have settled at the first fort we came to. Just wait…it gets more interesting (and sometimes worse).

      Like

  19. What a terrific story to give the feeling of what it was like for families in those days, and how quickly the young had to take on responsibilities, but still act like kids. One thing confused me, though. Are McAllister and Elias the same person?

    Like

    • Barb says:

      Yes. It should be McAllister all the way through. I get Violet Spinrad’s 6 kids mixed up. That’s what I get for trying to get this posted and be on the road before 5am.
      I’m so blessed to be a part of such a great blogging community. Thanks for having my back. Here’s a hug…and the Two Pan Tattler now has a new editor: Mr. Swiderski. (See upcoming Dec 30th edition of the paper). Smiley

      Like

  20. Forgive my mind just works this way…What a wonderful updated version of Don Quijote.

    Like

Tell Me All About It.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s