Horses balked and shied as they were driven up alongside the feeder. The grain bundles were pitched into the feeder where a moving canvas conveyor carried them into the whirling knives that cut them into shreds. Inside the machine a series of shakers separated the grain from the straw. A blower moved the straw through the blower pipes and out the end. An elevator carried the grain to a weigher that had been set to trip when its contents measured out a half bushel. A counter kept track of the number of times it tripped thereby giving the farmer a fairly accurate record of the yield. When the weigher tripped the grain flowed down a spout to the sacker. Two grains sacks could be snugly locked into the divided end to catch the flowing grain. When one sack was filled a lever could be flipped to direct the grain to the other side until another empty sack could be attached. To my delight, as soon as my brother and I were considered responsible enough, tending the sacker became our job. The trouble was when we got distracted or careless about the way we locked up the sacks, suddenly we would have a pile of grain on the ground. How we’d scurry, then to scoop it up, even picking up individual kernels, before anyone saw what we had done. Several men carried the sacks of grain to the granary. They’d shoulder the bags, climb the stairs, often to the second story of the granary and empty the bag into the bins.

Another job was tending the blower. The straw would be built into a well squared off stack by the man in the group recognized as the best stack builder, a skill not found in many. The men tending the blower assisted him by directing the straw to a place where it was most needed. Sometimes in fun or spite, we were never quite sure which, the blower tender turned the blower on the stack builder. The words they exchanged were hardly complimentary.

All the grain we harvested was used for feed for the cattle, hogs and chickens. We always hoped for a good harvest. A poor harvest would mean we’d have to reduce the number of cows we milked or the number of hogs we raised for market which would have a definite effect on our annual income.

Next time – Making Ice

Bernice Hellwig has been a lifetime resident of the Coon Valley area. Growing up at her parent’s farm in Chipmunk Coulee, Bernice developed a love of learning. Over the years Bernice has written the story of their lives. It is an account of cherished memories of farming, teaching and family. In her own words, this is her story.


Westby Times editor

Dorothy Robson is editor of the Westby Times. Contact her at 608-637-5625.

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