Farm work in years gone by, was a much harder job than it is these days, but with the invention of machinery, things got easier. Still, most people couldn’t afford to own those machines in the early years, so they either did the work by hand, or hired the threshers to come and do it. Soon, most farmers were hiring the threshers to come. It was a lucrative business for someone who had enough money to buy a machine…or better yet, several. I know that those members of my family, who were farmers, did hire the threshers, or else, they had enough money to buy their own machines, but I have to think that most people in those early years did not think the machine was a good value, if a man was going to just use it on their own farm, so the work was mostly hired out.
When the threshers were scheduled to come to your farm, it was a big day. The women would get up early and start cooking for the men, who would be very hungry by lunch time. This was heavy work, even with the help of the machinery. Nevertheless, everyone was excited when the threshers came…from the adults to the little kids. I’m sure that being able to watch the big machines working was a novel thing in those early years, and nobody wanted to miss out. Not only that, but everyone wanted to get their picture taken with the workers too, so that they could say they had been there when they were working. It was almost like having a celebrity visit your house, I suppose. It is a day like no other in the year. Everyone wants to be in on all the excitement, and it’s hard to keep the little kids out of the way. Nevertheless, they had to stay out of the way, because the huge machines were also dangerous and could easily kill a small child.
With the excitement, however, comes hard work. When the threshers are done. The grain had to be bagged for storage or sale, and the straw stacked for use in the barns. Nevertheless, it took a lot less workers to harvest the crops, and many farm laborers were not happy about that, because they faced the loss of their jobs. I suppose that with every bit of progress designed to make our lives easier, comes the possibility of job loss. Every time a machine takes over the hard labor, a worker becomes unnecessary. People have to adapt and change, educating themselves to run the equipment so they can move into a job that takes more skill, and thus creates job security. I know that for the farmer, the machines were the best thing to come along. The wages they didn’t have to pay out to the laborers added up to pure profit for them, even with the cost of the threshers. It was a new era, and things would never be the same again.
With the recent storm, and all the broken trees in the area, there was a lot of clean up to do. In fact, there still is a lot of clean up to do, but neighbor has helped neighbor, and families have helped families. Many have even helped people they didn’t know. The community rallied together, and cleaned up the parks, cemeteries, and streets. It was an amazing show of community and the human spirit, but there was one person that I missed very much at that time…my father-in-law.
In the early years of my marriage to Bob, we went with his dad to the Shirley Mountains to cut firewood. This event wasn’t a planned firewood cutting event, but it did end up putting a lot of firewood into the woodpiles of anyone who had a fireplace or wood stove. The work reminded me of those trips we took to the Shirley Mountains. My father-in-law knew exactly what he was doing, and we were his laborers. It was a learning experience to be sure. He was always so capable.
Of course, in those later years, he could not have done the work of cutting down those fallen trees, and he would not have been there in any capacity, except to watch…or supervise. While we worked to cut down broken trees and branches, it occurred to me just how much I had learned from him all those years ago in the Shirley Mountains. We knew what needed to be done, and we did it. My job wasn’t any different than it was back then, but Bob was in charge now. He had made the transformation from being the son, learning the ropes, to the person in charge of the operation. Of course, that transformation had taken place a long time ago, but because of the storm, and the forest like mountain of fallen and broken trees, it hit me at this particular time, and not on the other times that Bob has cut up firewood in the past.
The lessons we have learned from our parents will always be with us. We may not see them as an important lesson at the time, but down the road…when we need the information that was given to us…that lesson comes back to us and shows us the things we need to know to help us in the situation at hand. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t appreciate the valuable lesson that was taught, until the teacher is gone, and we can’t even thank them. Then, all that is left is a warm feeling in our hearts, and a lump in our throats, because our parents, and even in-laws, really did prepare us for life.