Maple Grove and Beyond...
Memoirs of “the Comin’ up years” of C.S. (Chuck) baldwin
A remarkable collection of notes, anecdotes and just plain tales of life, lived by the author down on the farm in the now ghost community of Maple Grove, and in the ‘garden’ of Eden, Bayham Township. The time span primarily covers the years from the early 1930’s to the mid 1950’s; a quarter century of ‘fun-to-read’, true life stories of the ‘Little Red Schoolhouse’ days of a farm lad many years ago. list. here i refer to the mowing-awayStraw activity. this most unsavoury job was usually done in the barn, ahead of the powerful blower of the threshing machine. no amount of fancy words or phrases would do justice in an attempt to really explain what the job was all about. you would have had to have ‘been there and done that’ to get the whole picture.
this was in the days when farmers wanted loose, threshed grain straw blown into the barn, often on top of the hay mow(s). the creaking old threshing machine would then be ‘parked’ just outside the barn, or perhaps even part way into the barn. this was to make sure the blower would reach far enough into the barn to blow the straw where needed.
the one pleasant spot in the whole operation was when the thresher was started, and great volumes of clean, fresh air blasted into the barn. right in front of the ‘air-conditioning-like’ blower was a pleasant place to get refreshed on a hot day in the mow. this refreshing respite came to a sudden halt a few seconds after the first sheaves were thrown onto the table of the threshing machine. the volume of air blasted into the mow was the same as before, but now it was accompanied by semi-chopped straw, dusty, dirty, miserable straw. yuck and double yuck!
you might ask, and rightly so, ‘why on this planet earth would anyone (or two or three teenagers) be needed in that dust-filled ‘hell-hole’ of a straw mow, ahead of a blower? why not just let the straw blow in by itself until the mow was full, then call it quits? twas not quite so simple, unfortunately. the blower pipe had limited movement, and this couldn’t quite reach all corners of that ‘cursed’ mow. also, people were needed to ‘roam around’ ahead of the blower to pack the straw down. much more straw could be stored that way.
oft times, when two or more of us were working in that musty, dusty ‘cotton-picking’ place, we could barely see each other at 30 feet distance. usually, we would wear a handkerchief around our neck, and up over our nose and mouth. this was in a vain attempt to cut down on our intake of dust and dirt. a cosmetic trick only - to be sure! about every 15 minutes we would get a brief respite while they were changing wagons out at the feeder end of the machine. the little break in the mowing down straw process allowed us a few minutes to do some blowing (and coughing) in an attempt to even partially clear the airways, and refocus our eyesight.
usually it would take a few days before our lungs, eyes, nose and throat were back to some semblance of normalcy. in retrospect, that chore must have been one of the most unhealthiest jobs on the farm. it sure was a blessing that exposure to such a breathing atmosphere happened only a few days a year. even so, this was much too long.
it was a nasty job. but as some wag might say, ‘someone had to do it.’ three hearty and healthy cheers for the passing of that aspect of the good old days down on the farm! could be called activities that may be performed by work bees or otherwise. this, of course, depended to a large measure on the number, and ages, of children in the household.
when extra teams of horses were required for the work at hand, this provided many farmers with a golden opportunity to spruce up their nags with decorative attire. putting on scotch tops, polishing the brass, and blackening the leather were often done with gusto, when your team was going to a neighbouring work bee. however, this wasn’t always the case, as i well recall that often a team would arrive for duty complete with the harness-mending done with binder twine and/or no. 9 fence wire, not a signature of a good teamster.
this wasn’t the way of my dad or my granddad before him. mending harness was always done with brass rivets and/or proper mending cord. incidentally, mending harness and polishing brass were Saturday jobs. and lest i forget, another Saturday after-morning chores were done, was the cleaning and currying of cattle. “they just looked better that way,” as dad would often reply to our query as to why?
Quilting bees (or parties) provided a most necessary provision of winter warmth for all family members. it also provided the opportunity for a great social time for the womenfolk. Quilting was a wintertime activity. hence the get-togethers gave them a much needed breather from the drudgery of the long, long winter days and months, when they could be cooped up indoors caring and providing for their families. the families were often very large, with inlaws as well.