Kindersley’s annual goose festival ended with a perfectly timed event—a harvest demonstration by the Kindersley Antique Threshing Club.
After braving a chilly weekend of clouds and showers, it was a relief to feel the sun finally break free and smile on the golden fields; which was noticeable on the faces of many members from the community as they savoured slices of pie á la mode and watched history played out in front of them.
As I crunched over the freshly-cut stubble, the first thing I noticed was the threshing machines—it was hard not to. Rattling and banging, both machines looked like hungry animals, grasping at the grain at one end and belching straw out the other. Each powered by a vintage tractor and long wide belts, the machines were fed by teams of threshers standing on horse-drawn wagons.
As I took a step back, it was easy to see the flow of the harvest. First, Lionel Story with his team of four Clydesdales operated a 1926 John Deere grain binder that cut the oats and bound them into sheaves. Once the small side basket on the binder was full, the sheaves would drop unceremoniously onto the ground. Two teams of horses followed along behind, gathering the bundles of grain. These were the stook wagons, and the grinning volunteers and crew members pitching the bundles of grain were called the “stookers”.These would feed the bundles to the chomping machines behind me.
Before I knew what was happening, a pitchfork was placed in my hand and I was suddenly pitching bundles into the wagon. Once we had completed a round, I scrambled into the wagon with my brother Steven, and neighbor, Ron Shea, and we all bumped back towards the hungry threshing machine.
Wally Larson, our cheerful, gum-chewing teamster, introduced me to his team of Clydesdales, Lois and Joker. Lois and Joker enjoyed pulling the wagon and showing off for the watching crowds; they didn’t care so much for the rattling threshing machine. Patient reining and low words soon quieted them, and we were pitching the bundles into the mouth of the thresher.
It felt easy at first, but once the chaff and bits of seeds slid past my collar and coated my back, and the bundles didn’t come any lighter, I soon realized why a threshing crew was known for its thirst, hunger, and need for a bath.
My job finished, I gladly handed my pitchfork to another unsuspecting bystander, and I went for a closer look at these rattling monsters. As I rounded the corner behind a 1915 Case threshing machine, I came across Eugene Heig, member of the Kindersley Antique Threshing Club, oiling some pulleys.
“It is a perfect day to hold an event like this,” he bellowed over the noise of the machines and tractors. I nodded in agreement, introduced myself and mentioned something about the event. “This all is very good,” he agreed, gesturing towards the crowd watching, participating and videoing. “This kind of event brings people together to visit, remember, and explore our history.” Then he was off, adjusting more belts and listening anxiously to the random grinding sound from the machine’s belly. “C’mon, just hold together for one more hour.” I heard him mutter as I moved to catch a glimpse of the 1960s combines just getting ready to start on the durum part of the field.
A lithe thoroughbred clipped past, flashing a stylish buggy driven by Glen Walker. A grinning passenger appeared to enjoy their smooth ride past the bustling activity. Three other wagons also provided the opportunity for onlookers to rest their feet. Two brisk little ponies toted a trim cart and waving children, while bigger Clydesdales proudly pulled interested family groups.
With a roar of their engines, three 1960s combines operated by Don Whyley, Shawn Jackson, and Blair Dies kept equally old grain trucks humming with harvested durum. I caught up with Don Whyley as he paused to wait for a truck to unload his combine. Whyley is a member of the Kindersley Antique Threshing Club and occasional tinker for the district museum.
“I enjoy getting back into the old machinery,” he said, pointing to the 403 Massey-Ferguson combine. “It brings back old memories while I’m busy making new ones.”
I think Whyley summed up the feeling of both the club and the onlookers. As I glanced about and saw both young and old enjoying the day, I remembered the words of Corrie Ten Boom: “Memories are not keys to the past, but to the future.”
Feature Image: (L-R) Glen Walker, Duffy Ham, Gord Caswell, Wally Larson, Lionel Story, and Ross Macintyre all brought their teams to give rides to guests and operate machinery at the Antique Threshing Demonstration —Image Source: Mallorie Rast/Kindersley Social
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