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THE PANTAGRAPH
1945

Thresherman for 57 Years
Recalls Old Time Machinery

Says Mortgage is Worst Thing About Farming

HEYWORTH --R. O. Halsey, six miles southwest
of Heyworth, finished his 57th threshing season a week
ago and now plans to retire to Clinton at age 70.

He started as water boy at age 13, then graduated to a
hand feeder of a threshing engine at 17, and for the 
past 47 years has operated his own threshing machine.

Also, he has operated a corn sheller, once ran a 
sawmill, and during that period he has accumulated over
500 acres of land.

The worst feature about farming is the mortgage, he 
reflected, but you’ll never get anywhere at farming
unlessyou go into debt.  He recalled the great relief 
when his mortgage was paid, and also the black days of
the depression after the first world war, when the only
thing that saved his farm was that creditors didn’t 
press for payments.

Horses on Engine.

A team of horses was used to guide that first steam 
engine used when Mr. Halsey was a boy.  The engine did
have a drive wheel coupling but no steering gear.

Mr. Halsey recalls that even before the steam engine 
there were horse power threshers, with six teams of 
horses hooked to the big beams, walking around in a 
circle with a whipsnapper riding over the center gear.
He never worked with such an outfit but has seen them
in operation.

Hand Fed Threshers.

I was considered one of the fastest hand feeders in this
part of the country, he recalled, when telling how those
old threshers had to be fed by hand.  Two pitchers would
pitch bundles from the wagons to the feeding table.  Two
band cutters, with sharp knives, would cut bands by hand.
The safety rule in those days was that the band must be 
cut with one slash of the knife -- never make a second 
slash or you might cut the feeder’s fingers as he 
snatched the loose bundles, to shove it, heads first, into
the thresher cylinder.

Many’s I time I hod those leather gloves slashed and 
fingers cut, but I never lost a finger, he said.

Wages $20 a Month

Farm wages are now at an all time peak, Mr. Halsey 
commented.  He recalled that farm hand used to get only
$20. a month, but they were provided with meat and a cow,
eggs, all the garden space needed, and they’d go to town
only on Saturday nights.  The farmer would provide the 
horse and carriage to take the farm hand and his wife to
town once a week.

Hours were longer in those days.  When he ran a steam 
powered shelling outfit he would often arise at 2 a.m. to
get up steam, then haul the outfit 5 to 10 miles over 
"not so good" roads and get the first loads of corn 
shelled before sunup.

Have Had More Bugs

Yes, we’ve had far worse chinch bug years, he said.  Near 
failures of crops were recalled in some of those dry years.
The soft corn years of 1917 was a difficult one for 
shellermen.  The next spring many a rush order for shelling 
was placed when blue smoke started coming out of the hot 
corn stored in cribs.

The corn prospect this year is far from bad, although we 
have had a dry summer, he reported.

'No, I’m not planning to retire to be a loafer,' he said.
He plans to come back to the farm often, to improve the 
buildings a lot when supplies are available.

One observation was that the soil does seen to be washing
worse that ever.  Fields that never did show gullies years
ago now need special protection to hold the soil at home.
It seems that our rainfall comes in heavier downpours than 
years ago.  Perhaps we’re having about the same amount of 
rain each year but it seems to come in bunches, not in 
many small showers.

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