Friday, April 17, 2009

Circle of life

Lots of birthdays in our family this month.  My great granddaughter, Robin had her first birthday this week.  I won't try to list the rest you all know who your are.  Just Happy Birthday Jerry tomorrow.

A friend's sister died last week a few days before her first grandson arrived in the world.

Two weeks ago my friend and fellow writer, Jim died of colon cancer.  Our writer's group (of three) met the Tuesday before he died and had scheduled another meeting for the next Tuesday.  It was not to be.  Jim liked the family stories I had been writing for the blog.  He had been writing a book on being a survivor of cancer.  He did survive about five years and tried many treatments.  He exhausted all treatments and prepared for the end of his life.  I was  honored to be part of his support in the end.   

This is the story I would have shared at our next meeting.


Neighbors worked together to harvest the oats.  First the grain was cut and tied into bundles. Then the crews of men ant teen boys stood the bundles up into shocks.  The shocks looked like teepees.

The Grenier brothers had a threshing machine they brought to each farm.

When threshing day arrived people arrived.  The men came with hay racks pulled by teams of horses or tractors.   The threshing machine stopped at the edge of the field.  A belt, very wide maybe 12 to 18 inches, connected the thresher to a wheel on the tractor.  The noise of the tractor and the thresher was as loud as a jet airplane.  It ran constantly as the men and boys brought the shocks of oats to be threshed.  The grain spewed into wagons that hauled it to the grainery and the straw dropped on the ground.   

Meanwhile back at the farmhouse, Mother fried several chickens, prepared a pot roast and some kind of potatoes.  The women arrived about ten with potato salad, corn on the cob, green beans, peas, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.  There were cakes, pies and cookies for dessert. Iced tea was made in a big kettle that would be used for canning tomatoes, peaches and pickled cucumbers.

The dining room table was stretched to it's longest and sawhorses with planks appeared on the lawn outside for the overflow.  Every chair in the house and some folding chairs from other women were set up. 

At noon, exactly 12 noon, I'm sure, the machine was stopped and the men arrived to wash with Lava soap at the outdoor pump.  Some of the men took short, black combs from a pocket in their bib overalls and combed the straw out of their hair.  They took places at the tables and women and kids old enough to carry a platter or a bowl kept the food coming.  They served dessert and coffee.  The men thanked and complimented the cooks and returned to the field.

Women and kids took places at the table to eat and gossip.

Stacks of dirty dishes turned into clean ones and returned to the cupboards.   

Bologna, cheese, and chicken or tuna salad sandwiches were prepared cakes were cut and a huge pot of coffee made.  At four PM this lunch was loaded into the car and driven to the field.  This time the machine continued to separate the grain from the straw and the crew members ate as they brought their load from the field.  They worked until the field was finished or dark.

The next day the scene changed but the people were the same.