Threshing Bee

We went to a threshing bee with Matt's father weekend before last.  It was put on by a group called the South Central Montana Antique Tractor Club.  It was an awesome good time and it was a gloriously beautiful day for.  I think it might have gotten a little hot for both Matt and Roger by the end of the day though, but by then I supposed we'd had our fill. 
I'd like to point out with a playful tease that Matt wore this shirt because he figured it was the most western one he had.  I told him I didn't really think it was all that western, but I suppose it was MORE western than a tie-dye.
I had been to only one threshing bee before and that was many, many years ago with my grandparents.  This was Matt first threshing bee.  We had a blast.  It is such a unique and interesting affair, steeped in history and human ingenuity.
Tractor-powered sawmill.
1909 (or was this the 1910?)  Steam Tractor, at this point being used to run the sawmill shown above.
We asked Roger load of questions.  This probably either A) pleased him greatly as he was able to share what he knew about farm equipment that Matt and I had no idea about or else B) it drove him bonkers until he was wondering why on earth he'd agreed to bring along such clueless city folks.  Either way, he was a very good guide and he was very patient with our questions.
Roger apparently knew the person who owned this particular piece of equipment.  It is a beet digger that harvests one row at at time.  I don't know how many rows get harvested on a modern machine, but I can say from my two sugar-beet-harvest-ride-alongs that we did not harvest one row at a time.  Of course, fields/farms are much bigger these days.

A Shingle Maker.  Roger seemed particularly impressed with this contraption.  You could have a shingle branded as a souvenir, but we didn't get one as Matt and I had a fantastic miscommunication and had brought along no money.   All the better, I mean as cool as the machine was do I really need one single shingle to take up space at my house?
We watched a series of different old plows turning up the earth.  It was practically a plow parade!  (There really was a parade at the threshing bee called The Power Parade where they drive all the tractors around in a line announcing what year and make they are and who owns the, but I didn't take any photos of that.  What can I say, I guess I am just not a tractor aficionado.
The other steam tractor at the bee.  This one was also a 1909 or 1910.  There was one of each, but I cannot recall which was which at this juncture.  I enjoyed that the operator almost looked like he fit in with the machine what with the black and vest and hat and whatnot.
Bale maker.

Grinding wheat and corn.  I managed to snag a bag of ground corn, but haven't yet whipped anything up with it.
There was a functioning black smith shop where Matt and I saw red-hot metal for the first time.  The only other time I've seen blacksmithing done was at the Fort Union Rendezvous as a girl.  It was neat.
Notice the belts coming down from the ceiling to power the equipment.
A belt powered drill.  How cool is that?
The blacksmith pounding the red-hot end of a stake of some sort.

And with this many tractor around there just HAS to be a tractor pull!  Just in case you've never been I'll briefly explain.  The tractors are hitched to a trailer with weights that slowly move towards the nose of the trailer as the tractor pulls making it harder and harder until the tractor grinds to a halt.  The point is to see who makes it furthest.  For the record, there were several tractors that made it all the way, but the steam tractor seemed to do it without even trying. 
Steam tractor taking a pull.
They also raced the two steam tractors.  In a way it was like watching snails race.  But, still very impressive.
There was also a tractor event that I'd never even heard of, let alone witnessed.  The tractor balance.  The point here is to drive a tractor onto basically a see-saw and try to get it to balance.  There were both timed and untimed balances.  For the timed ones they had to do it in 60 seconds.  It is a crazy event if you ask me.  Imagine...trying to balance a tractor...trying to move a tractor just like one was very impressive when they pulled it off.

The lone female entrant at the threshing bee. 
I suppose it stands to reason that perhaps the most exciting part of the threshing bee for me was when they fired up the threshing machine and did some actual threshing.  It is so amazing to watch.  There is so much work and so many people involved.  It was also surprisingly quiet, most of the tractors were to be honest.  There was a enchanting rhythm of life and labor to the whole thing.
Tractor and Threshing machine in action!
Pitchforking bundles into the thresher.
After watching the men work for a while I peeked into the back of the truck  (It is a truck.  Or so I learned from  Roger after calling it a pickup) and was shocked by how little grain had come out for all their efforts. 

The threshing bee was very intersting for me because it is one of those experiences that makes you appreciate why we have evolved to the modern, machine-intensive way of farming.  There was a lot of work and it took much longer.   I can see why a farmer of years past might think every emerging technology was the bee's knees.  That doesn't mean I think 90-foot sprayers and GPS seeding is the way to go, but I can certainly see how we got here.  It also doesn't mean I wish everyone to go back to a binder and thresher, but perhaps there is a compromise to be reached somewhere in between. 
The Binder making rounds in the field.

A bound bundle of wheat as it is being kicked out the chute of the binder.
So, we spent quality time with family, explored a lot of history and learned a lot in general.  We also sampled some tasty homemade pie.  I mean, really, what more could we ask for in a Saturday?!


  1. Blogger did not update your posting activity, so this afternoon is the first I have seen of this post. I would have read it before now! That looks like fun except for the threshing bothering my allergies. The belt-driven machinery reminds me of the authentic machinery in the saw mill of The Waltons. Tractor balance is a new one on me. The forge is something I have seen lots, but I am about three times your

    Old-timey things intrigue me. You certainly had an eductional and fun day. With no money, how did you eat? Carry all your food?

  2. What great photos. I will have to show my husband, who grew up on a farm. Choteau will have a threshing bee the middle of this month. It's kind of pricey, but I'm hoping at least my husband and son can go.
    It's feeling like fall up here. I love it. I hope the gardens survive awhile longer though. It is supposed to get down to 37 degree tonight, so I think I will cover my tomatoes.
    Have a great holiday weekend......Denise

  3. Gosh, I got a laugh - a hawaain looking shirt indeed:)

    I've been pondering your comments on my blog further. And, I agree about your idea on people buying new because they can donate old. My parents buy new but then just put the old item in the shed "in case" - I have never had the heart to point if you put in the shed 'in case' you probably don't need to replace it:)

  4. Parsimony- Yes, we brought our own food. Being highly frugal, mostly vegan, organic nuts we tend to do that whenever we go on an outing. Roger treated us to the pie! It would have been a rough place for a person with allergies...chaff flying everywhere! I am fascinated by just about anything old-timey, especially agricultural and domestic things.

    Denise - This bee cost $4 per person or $10 a family. It was a steal for the amount of fun. It did get quite cold last night, didn't it?! We put an extra blanket on the bed and I thought how strange. I hope it is just a brief tomatoes and peppers need more time!

    Homemaker - Yes, probably more suited for a luau rather than a threshing bee, but he's so sweet for trying. I think he was trying to dress as much like his dad as possible...which only went as far a a collared button down shirt. :) And our discussion has launched another massive wave of wandering through the house selecting things to sent to the thrift shop. This time the criteria being nothing that isn't useful or beautiful to me.

  5. Oh Beth, I don't know how I never saw this when you posted it. 2 comments. I can say for sure that the anwser to your question about Roger was definitely A. He may act like he can't believe how ignorant you are, but he loves to share his knowledge about this kind of stuff. And I also have to tell you that I was educated at a young age the difference between a pick-up and a "truck", glad he got it cleared up for you...I'm sure this was one of Dad's favorite days of the season.

  6. hi i,m prithiv kumar from india.i studied mechanical engineering. i liked your simple life style


Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!

Popular Posts