Monday, February 22, 2010

THOSE AWFUL THRESHERS, part 2 of 2; by Pearl Riggs Crouch (1919)

A Chinook wind had taken away most of the last snow but the ground was still a bit oozy so I covered my wool rug with plenty of folded newspapers.

Half an hour later the army arrived. We had fixed the tiny kitchen porch for the men's washing and combing. An incredible scuffling from that sanctum flurried me a trifle in my last efforts. But when they began to lunge in--big, smiling fellows, faces beaming from hasty application of soap, water and a rough towel, hair a bit ruffled from brief brushing, stepping lightly as if fearing to crush something delicate in my little white kitchen, I felt suddenly composed. I smiled back and piloted them to the dining-table.

Husband aided me in serving and things moved without a hitch, except--must I confess it?--I forgot the ham until they were half through the meal!

The beans proved the most popular dish, with cranberry jelly a close second.

In twenty minutes it was all over and alone, I faced the table. It did not look quite as it had half an hour before!

When I had taken my own lunch, rested and put things to rights I decided to have a look at the big doings; so to be well in style, I put on my sweeping mask for I wanted to go where the dust was thick.

The engine stood a few rods from the workers and by means of a wide belt, ran the separator. The blower was so placed that it sent the straw in a steady stream straight into the mow. There were three stacks and a number of men on each pitching with perfectly-timed, turn-about stroke into the broad, insatiate maw which greedily gobbled each bundle. Low from the side of the separator the precious grain poured into sacks replaced at just the right moment, weighed and taken away.

It was all very dusty and noisy but thrilling, too. Puffs of white smoke like freed genii; the air was full of flying chaff and a steady surge of power turned my pulses. I ventured through the west entrance of the barn and watched my husband place the fat sacks--the reward of his thought and labor.

Owing to engine trouble I had to furnish the crew with supper and they approached the table more eagerly, if possible than at dinner! This time I served scalloped salmon with hot biscuits and tea and a sponge cake iced with caramel.

When the dusty jovial guests had rollicked away I sought my nook in the window seat to watch the engine leave.

With much snorting and maneuvering the outfit got under way and crossed the lowered wires into the prairie range. On and on, the vast bulk moved under its fluted banner of smudgy smoke showing against the vivid west. Fainter and fainter came the puff-puff from beyond the limestone hill. The hush of sunset settled over the prairie. The "awful threshers" had come--and gone--and I still lived.