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The farmhands and helpers
at threshing

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Although the use of a threshing machine was far better than having to separate out by hand, it was still labour intensive, involving not only farm hands but also children, dogs and anyone else available.

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What the men did

There are photos of the workers in action on the threshing machine page.

Two or three men had to unload the corn, either from the stack or barn where it had been stored or from a cart. They did this with a special light-weight two pronged for known as a pitchfork. Then they had to 'pitch' the corn up to a man working at the top of the machine.

The man at the top had to feed the corn into the threshing mechanism which effectively pummelled it so violently that the grain was separated out and collected in sacks. It was very dusty. I often thought that, in view of the violence of the pummelling, 'thrashing machine' would be a better name than 'threshing machine', and I understand that this was indeed its old name.

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How workers coped with the dust and vermin

Threshing was a dirty, dusty business, particularly when it took place inside a barn. So men wore clothes accordingly. Hats, in particular, were considered essential. Photos on the threshing machine and haystack pages show that wide brimmed hats seemed preferable to the standard cloth hats of the time.

When the threshing took place from a stack in a field, there was another essential item of clothing as Dick Hibberd explains.

The vermin in the stack prior to threshing

I was one of a number of young lads armed with clubs surrounding the stack as its contents were removed for threshing. It was our job to eradicate any vermin as they left their diminishing larder/home. There were also elderly men with Jack Russell terriers.

The frequency of escaping mice and rats increased as the stack grew lower.

The Jack Russells were very efficient little killers. They just grabbed a mouse or rat, shook it violently, dropped it and moved on to the next one. The dropped animal never moved again.

Dick Hibberd

The workers' trousers

The men that I saw dismantling the stack tied a cord around their trouser legs just below the knee. I was uncertain why until I saw the less than graceful dance that one of the farmhands performed. He had not had time to tie up his trousers and a mouse had run up one trouser leg and took sometime before it ran down the other. The man's gyrations, hopping, skipping and jumping were most entertaining. We lads all wore short trousers and were perhaps a little more agile, so were not really vulnerable.

Dick Hibberd

Fun at threshing time

Threshing was a source of great fun with the traction engine's smoking chimney, puffing pistons, and majestic drive wheels which ran a huge belt to the threshing machine which was even bigger than the traction engine.

Dick Hibberd