White River Valley is credited with being the best grain growing Valley in the county. Grainwas grown here as early as 1870 and one note says the biggest crop of barley it ever produced in the early years was three hundred tons. The flour mill J. R. Withington had built in 1881 wasgone by the time the Mormon settlers came but grain continued to be an important crop. In 1917,J. L. Whipple, Jim Riordan and E. A. Hendrix built a flour mill. R. D. McKenzie operated it and also worked as miller part of the time. Part of the time a professional miller was hired. This millserved a 'useful purpose for the time it was in operation providing a use for the local grain with amarket for the flour during a time of wartime shortages. It was not financially successful,however, and the idea was soon abandoned.
But grain, second in importance to alfalfa, continued to be grown as a cash crop as well as asupplement for livestock feed. Unlike perennial alfalfa, from planting to harvesting was a oneseason operation although, with the introduction of winter wheat, fall planting gave the crop anearly start in the spring. At first the seed was broadcast by hand. Later grain drills were used toplant the seed.
In late summer when the grain was tall and ripe, after the era of hand scything, horse-drawnmachines called binders would drive into the golden, waving sea, cut the stalks, push them intobundles and tie them with heavy twine. The early models dropped each bundle as it was tied butthe later models allowed several bundles to accumulate before dumping them in a pile whichmade the work of the man who followed the machine easier. It was his job to stack the bundlesinto tepee-like shocks which might be hauled to the stackyard and stacked but often were taken directly from the field to the threshing machine.
Neil Gardner Sr. contributed this picture. It was drawn from memory and is similar to thebalers in use on the ranches when the settlers came.
This, in substance, is a description by Lloyd Oxborrow of a threshing machine in use someyears later. "Before about the year 1915 a community threshing machine was used. The mainbody of the machine was made of lumber; the gears and machinery parts were made of iron. Then my father, George Oxborrow, with three of his brothers, Jack, Ted and Eph, and a brother-in-law, Earl (Curly) Ashworth, bought a new threshing machine which was all metal. Thisthreshing machine was driven by horse power with five teams of horses hooked to what theycalled sweeps. On each sweep were equalizers for each team to equalize the power so that oneteam would not do more work than the others. As the horses walked around in a circle, at eachround they had to step over the tumbling rod that carried the power to the machine. Thistumbling rod went to a gear next to the main cylinder that separated the grain from the hull and straw. The grain went back through the threshing machine to the conveyors. The straw and chaff were blown out through the straw carrier onto a stack. Generally there were three men on thestraw stack according to the size of the stack they had to build.
"The grain went through an elevator up into the upper story of the threshing machine where ameasuring device measured and dumped each half bushel of wheat or its equivalent in oats orbarley. Then the grain went through another elevator to a sacker who stood and changed sacks asthey were filled. This was John Duffy's job for years. There were two men who changed offfeeding the machine, one they called the bind-cutter who cut the string that bound the bundles. Usually there were three men on the grain stack. They pitched the grain to the threshing machinefrom the stack or from a wagon if they were hauling out of the field.
"There were generally six men on the crew who followed the machine and did custom workfor the people in the Valley. When the threshers moved into a stackyard it would take two orthree hours to set up all the machinery necessary for threshing. They would sometimes stayseveral days before a farmer's grain was threshed. Whole families were involved. Men and boysjoined the main crew on the grain and straw stacks and wagons that hauled the grain from thefields and the women and girls set long tables of food."
Nothing the city child could have experienced could have topped the excitement of threshingtime for the country child, the noise and the bustle, the churning sound of the machinery, the clip-clop of the horses as they plodded ceaselessly around the circle stepping over the tumbling rodeach round they made, the rhythmic chant of the man who stood in the ring encouraging them ina sing-song voice somewhat like the sound of an auctioneer, "Hawly, hawly, hawly, hawly, gee,gee, gee," over and over. This may have been taken from "gee" and "haw," directives "workhorses" were supposed to understand like "whoa" and "get up."
Then the men coming in at noon with much laughter and banter and good-natured kiddingabout the respective accomplishments of each that morning in his particular job as they brushedoff a portion of the dust and chaff and washed up in the laundry tubs set out on benches in theyard. Afterward they would sit at long tables spread with the bountiful goodness these self-sufficient little farms could provide while the children watched hungrily awaiting their turn. Onetime when the threshing machine was set up at the White River field three miles across the valley, the food was packed in tubs and my father let me ride with him when he went to take it to the men. I was the only little girl there and I stood shyly to one side while the food was set outon tablecloths spread on quilts and the men began to eat. My father finally noticed me and calledme over to sit by his side and at long last I got to eat with the men.
After the thresher had moved on to the next customer there was still the fun of playing in thefresh straw. Helen Gardner recalls this incident, "After the threshers moved out of our stackyardwe children had fun jumping from the haystack onto the soft, fluffy straw and chaff that had been blown from the threshing machine. One day while we were jumping, I fell between the haystack and the straw stack. The straw covered me up and I thought I was smothering. What a relief when I crawled out into the open where I could breathe fresh air again."
Some of the threshed grain was left in the burlap bags to be freighted to market and some washauled to a granary and dumped into bins for storage until it was needed for livestock. Often thegranary was a log or adobe building built to house the family temporarily until a permanent homecould be built that had been converted to a storage space with separate bins for wheat, oats,barley, etc. These granaries served for many years until they were replaced by more rodent-proof structures of corrugated metal or concrete. A daily chore for the younger members of the familywas to dip into the wheat bin and take out a bucketful to scatter on the ground for the chickens. Another childhood memory of the use made of this grain is of the squealing of the pigs waitingfor their troughs to be filled with whatever grain was in greatest supply and of the contentedmunching of the horses on the oats in the feedbags hung around their necks.
As with everything else modern methods replaced the old and combines of varyingcomplexity and efficiency came to be used until today grain is cut, threshed, sacked and loadeddirectly from the field.