Antique harvest: Old implements illustrate how work used to be done

2010-07-27T09:00:00Z 2010-07-27T14:07:10Z Antique harvest: Old implements illustrate how work used to be doneBy MATTHEW WILDE, matt.wilde@wcfcourier.com Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

CEDAR FALLS --- A shocking event happened just north of town Wednesday.

As cars drove past the Iowa State Trapshoot, people paid more attention to the oats field across the road.

Instead of a modern combine, an old tractor pulling a funny contraption was cutting oats. The machine would dump bundles on the ground and men would follow, setting them up like a house of cards.

Strange indeed for 2010. But 60 years ago, it was commonplace in Iowa. Members of Antique Acres --- a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and operation of antique machinery --- don't want people to forget it.

"We want people to appreciate what their forefathers had to do to make a living," Tony French said. "They had a hell of a lot of work to do."

On Wednesday, several group members harvested 10 acres of oats the old-fashioned way along Waverly Road. It's in preparation for Antique Acres' Old Time Power Show next month.

French, a farmer and contractor near Janesville, drove his 1939 John Deere B, pulling a John Deere grain binder of about the same age. The binder cuts and bundles oats. Roger Koob of Finchford rode on the machine to make sure that happened efficiently. He used four levers to adjust the height of the cutting bar, the position of the knotter and the height and tilt of the wheel sweeping in oats. If that's not enough, he dropped bundles using a foot pedal.

"I did it as a kid. I never forgot," Koob said.

Several men scurried around the field picking up bundles and stacking them together on end in groups of five to eight, called a shock. That allows air to circulate and the shock to dry.

Wednesday brought back a lot of memories for Antique Acres members who shocked and threshed oats as a kids.

"I made $1 per day driving the bundle wagon. Back then, I could buy a new pair of overalls and shoes for school with that," said Roland Brase, 72.

Guys reminisced about the labor and danger involved.

"You can spend 30 minutes and your shirt is just ringing wet. It's itchy and hard on the back," said Steve Garrison, a relative newcomer to shocking oats compared to other members.

Koob fired back, "You guys aren't old threshermen. You got used to it and forgot about it."

If weather allows, the bundles will be picked up in eight to 10 days. Normally they would be fed into a threshing machine, which is like a stationary combine that separates the grain from plants right after it is plucked from the field.

These oats will be threshed during the power show Aug. 20-22. The threshing machine will most likely be powered by a giant steam engine.

"We have a lot of active displays. Museums are static, we try to get everything running," Garrison said.

Decades ago, it would take dozens of people hundreds of hours during the course of a couple of weeks to harvest a 10-acre field. Today, one person in a combine would do it in less than two hours.

French said cars would often slow to a crawl on the road, or even pull into the field to watch.

"A lot of people stop and ask what's going on," French said. "People are interested, so hopefully they'll come to the show."

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