South Dakota

How Things Worked - by Darrel Rainford

This is the 2nd in a series of writings authored by Darrel Rainford of Minnesota (1928 - 2005).
Klapperich Threshing
Klapperich Threshing
Shocking Wheat
The customary method to harvest grain (up until approx 1950 when newer smaller combines became available ) was to bind grain wheat, oats, barley into a bundle with a binder. This machine would cut the stalk and head and tie twine around enough stalks to create a bundle about 18 inches in diameter. These bundles would be dropped off a carrier every couple hundred feet to make windrows. The bundles would have to be shocked because if they were left on the ground in the rainy season, the grain in the heads would sprout and grow.

A Shock looked like a miniature teepee. To make a shock, we set two bundles
stalk down and heads up, then set 8 to 12 bundles around perimeter of first two bundles . When grain was shocked it was safe to leave until later.

Next came time when 6 or 8 men with team of horses and hayrack would go to those shocks and fill the hayrack with bundles, then drive their team to the thresher which was driven with a flat belt from a steam engine or gasoline tractor. Each man would pitch their load of bundles off onto a conveyer chute that carried them to a rotating cylinder which separated the grain from the straw. The stalks would be broken up and blown into a strawstack The grain would be delivered out of a pipe into a grain wagon.

The Cultivator
A Labor Saving Machine
As you can see this was a lot of steps and labor intensive. Now remember, Clyde Rainford was born in 1905 so he was only 23 when he bought the first combine which could cut the grain and thresh it and leave the straw in the field in one operation. Older farmers were apprehensive about some newfangled contraption that had its own engine-- a 4 cylinder Waukesha engine that drove chain around sprockets that drove shafts that drove a cycle bar and moving canvas to deliver the stalk to a rotating cylinder that separated grain from straw. The straw went overboard out the back of machine and grain went up an elevator to a holding bin that was emptied into a wagon at end of field.

There was a fair crop in 1932, but since the Great Depression began in Oct 1929, the price of grain was just few cents a bushel and did not pay harvesting expense. Clyde had anticipated doing custom combining. He traded the 8 ft. combine for a twelve-footer. These combines had their own engines that drove the sickle to cut the grain heads off the stalk and moved them on a rotating canvas to the threshing cylinder which knocked the grain loose from the straw. The grain fell down on a series of sieves which separated the dead grasshoppers and oversized chunks. The grain falling through the sieve to the next sieve only let small weed seed etc. fall through it. All this time there was a blower fan blowing away the husks and light stuff.

The larger weed seeds fell into an auger that dumped them in a gunny sack to be disposed of. The small grain fell into another auger that carried it up to a hopper (steel bin with bottom at 45 degrees) with slide gates at bottom. A truck or wagon pulled under the hopper and when the slide gates were opened the hopper grain emptied into truck by gravity. The straw was walked to the rear of the machine. There, a rotating spreader would spread the straw to avoid plugging up the plow. The only thing the tractor did was pull the combine at a speed that did not overwhelm the cylinder.

About the author:

Also see:
Frances Klapperich Labrie, A Great Cook
Clyde Rainford Farming in the 30's

Darrel Rainford was born on a South Dakota farm on April 10, 1928, one of 11 children born to Clyde Rainford and Florence “Dolly” LaBrie Rainford. Darrel Rainford
He attended the school in Doland,SD and farmed with his father. In 1949 he married Bonnie LaChance of Turton, South Dakota and after serving 4 years in the Air Force finally settled in Minnesota. Late in life Darrel wrote this series of articles for his grandchildren explaining farming in the 1930's. A father of seven, his hobbies focused on their needs-fixing toys, then fixing cars, then auto-body repair. He was also a history buff and interested in how things worked.

Author: Rainford on 03/18 2008
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