The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Growing Up On Tuggles Creek - Threshing

By YKW © 1983

Issue: October, 1983

In addition to corn, many farmers in our area also grew a small acreage of wheat, rye and buckwheat for bread crops. These grains were cut with a cradle which had a long thin blade with five “fingers” spaced directly above it. The cradler would take long, smooth strokes into the grain. Then with his right hand holding the cradle against his left leg, he would reach down with his left hand and removed the collected grain from the fingers and drop it in a small, neat pile. Right behind him came someone who would gather and tie it into bundles. The bundles were later gathered and placed into shocks to cure until ready to be stacked. All the grain was stacked close together to await the arrival of the threshing machine.

This machine consisted of a very large wooden box on wheels. At the front end there was a platform where a member of the threshing crew stood and fed the grain into a big cylinder with big spikes protruding. Below the cylinder were other spikes placed so that the revolving spikes came very close, but never touched them. These spikes effectively removed every single grain from the stalk. The grain then fell into an area where a huge fan blew all the chaff away and let the grain fall into a chute from which it was collected, measured and sacked. The threshing machine crew took their toll, either one eighth or a sixteenth and the farmer kept the rest. The straw traveled through the back of the thresher where it emerged to be stacked. Rye straw was especially valued as a stuffing for “straw ticks” for bedding in place of mattresses in modern bedding.

The power to run this machine came from a big steam engine with iron wheels and a boiler. This ponderous engine had to be pulled by at least two or three yoke of oxen. The thresher was usually pulled by horses. There was usually a crew of five or six men who moved the engine and thresher from farm to farm and who ate and slept at the farm they happened to be at when mealtime or night came.

Just feeding five hungry men and several teams usually proved to be much more expensive than the toll they took of grain. We were never able to believe it was just by accident that they hit our farm right before supper time every time.

All this has been given in some detail so that the younger generation can contrast it with the almost effortless way the big combines of today work.

The neighbors usually moved with the threshing machine to help each other get the job done. No matter what the job was, you always managed to get plenty of wheat or rye beards all over your body and only a dip in Tuggle’s Creek could get rid of them.