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gave black headlines to information on found that the shocks were so thick that these matters. Wheat had indeed be- he could not do so until some of them come King.
were moved to make a way for his maWhile the harvest was in progress in chine. It is also related that men rented Oklahoma the grain was yet green in school quarters in Oklahoma for fifty dolKansas ; but speedily the sun's ripening lars and raised thereon 2,500 bushels of force moved northward, and the laborers wheat, having no money invested and no took up their march with it. From farm taxes to pay. to farm, from county to county, out of the When the work in the fields is over, the Territory into the State, the army of work- exodus of laborers begins. At the couners moved, and when the fields of the try post-offices they have lined up on south were quiet the garnering was in full Saturday nights and bought money-orders blast further north. And this was still payable to themselves at some distant true when the harvest had moved on and office. Then they take what is left, board on to the great wheat-farms of the Dakotas, the trains in companies, as they did when where grain-raising is less a business than they entered the wheat-lands, and are a huge speculation. It was all a conquest carried away from the level landscapes of the wheat.
where the silent yellow stacks stand amid In the Cherokee Strip, the latest opened the acres of stubble shorn of a valuable portion of Oklahoma, there are six coun fleece, brave tokens of their service. ties. It is estimated that one of them Not all, however, take this course. alone raised enough wheat this year to There is yet much to do in completing distribute among the people more money the harvest. Following the binders and than the United States paid for the entire the headers come the threshing-machines, Strip when it bought it froin the Indian and thousands of able-bodied men are tribes. Such facts as this give a semblance needed in the crews that manage them. of truth to the story told of a western The smoke of the threshing.engines rises Kansas farmer who shocked his wheat from every farm, and though the task may as the men worked behind the binder. not be ended until the leaves on the cottonAt last the binder had come to the center woods along the streams are brown, it is no of the field and had finished its work. less important than was the initial stage. The driver sought to leave the field, and The old-time thresher, deriving its
motion from a horse-power and laboriously who takes the tank on wheels to a congrinding the straw as if the work were a venient windmill or stream to be filled painful operation, is but a distant relation for the use of the engine. The feeders to the modern separator and its accompani- stand at the hungry mouth of the machine ments as used to-day on the prairies. The and send the grain down among the whirlseparator itself is equipped with a clean- ing cogs and teeth, evenly and steadily. ing apparatus that leaves the grain free If the grain is in bundles, there stands on from chaff or dirt ; the straw is taken either side of the feeder a band-cutter, away through a tube-like stacker that who, with a sharp knife, severs the twine places it wherever wanted. The traction- holding the straw together. A boy of engine has wide wheels, and the driver's fifteen to nineteen can easily do this. seat is covered with striped awning when The owner of the farm takes care of desirable. It is the prairie automobile, the straw as it leaves the machine, and and when a move is made from one farm must have two or three men for this. to another it takes the whole outfit of Many a farmer's boy has served a perspirseparator, cook-wagon, water-wagon, and ing apprenticeship in the drudgery of life errand-wagon behind it and proceeds at at the upper end of a straw-carrier, fighting leisurely pace over the prairie roads. Its to keep back the dust-laden stream that progress through the towns in the dead of came pouring with what seemed to be night frightens children, sets the dogs to malicious persistence out of the whirlpool barking, and makes the old folks dream below. that a freight-train has left the track and The wheat—the reddish-yellow treasis steaming up the street.
ure for which all the toil has been perThe cook-wagon is a house on wheels, formed—at last is in sight. Out of a tiny with gasoline stove, an extension table, spout well to the rear of the machine it and a generous cupboard. Arrived at the pours its welcome rivulet, falling into the farm, it is taken to the lee of a hedge or farmer's wagon until the box is full to the under the trees along the creek, if such brim. Then with the precious burden there be, and becomes the home of the the wagon is driven to the granary or to crew. The cook may be a man with skill the elevator in town, and the farmer in that direction, or the wife and daughter breathes a long sigh of relief that he has of the owner of the machine may assist come to the end of the devious journey him in this department. The first meal from seed-time to harvest. is served at daybreak, the second at noon, The thresher has two scales of payment and the third when darkness is coming for his work—six cents a bushel if he and on, for the whistle of the engine does not his men are boarded by the farmer, and sound its welcome summons to stop work seven cents if he has his own cook-wagon, until sunset. There is plenty of whole the latter being the usual arrangement. some food—meats, pies, and bread-and A good machine can turn out 800 to 1,000 there is no trifling with appetite. With bushels of wheat a day under favorable the prairie breeze sweeping through the conditions. Rain, high winds, breakscreened door of the eating-house, and downs, and other things cause delays. It the hungry men gathered around the well- is a great source of joy to all concerned heaped table, the picture is a pleasant one. when the machine hums along from morn
The business of running a threshing ing to night without trouble. If the outfit is one that requires considerable threshing is done in the field immediately capital and some ability as a manager. after harvesting, the bundles are brought The first cost of the separator and engine from the shocks to the machine as the is about $2,500. The demand for this threshing goes on, and then more men machinery was such that ten outfits were and teams are needed, making it all a busy sold in each of a dozen Kansas counties scene. Some of the newer machines have during the present season. Along with attachments for cutting the bands of the the machine there must be taken six bound wheat, and other improvements are pitchers, who get $1.50 a day; two feeders, added each season. who, when needed, are paid $2; an engi- The long wait for a machine, sometimes neer, who receives the highest wages, necessary, has caused a demand in the $2.50 to $3 a day; and a water-hauler, West for machines that are less expensive, and so-called "baby separators" are being usually to assist in a light part of the tried. A farmer can afford to own one labor, such as driving a header-wagon. for his personal use. Then, some neigh- There is help enough without them. Likeborhoods have formed farmers' associa- wise the tales of harvest revelries are tions and have purchased threshing outfits, generally imaginative. After working each member of the company taking his twelve hours in the heat of a prairie sumturn at using it. This is not common, mer day, there is only one thing that the old method being generally in use. A appeals to a harvest hand—a place to machine can in the run of a season thresh sleep undisturbed. from 60,000 to 70,000 bushels of grain, “How did it go ?” and “What'd ye much depending, however, on the yield get ?” are the two questions that pass per acre, the abundance and weight of when farmers meet after the harvest.
THE MISTRESS OF THE COOK WAGON the straw, the condition of the stacks, and They are at the bottom of the greater the weather.
question, “ Does wheat-raising pay?” Not The danger of fire is always with the always nor everywhere. This year in threshers. It may be from an imperfec- most parts of the West it paid handsomely. tion in the engine, or it may be from some The average cost of planting and harvestcarelessly scattered coals; the tinderlike ing an acre of wheat, exclusive of the use stubble or the vast pile of straw welcomes of the land, is about seven dollars. If, as the blaze, and in a moment there is surg- was the case on hundreds of farms this ing flame with clouds of smoke as the only season, there is a production of twenty-five evidence of the wealth that once covered bushels to the acre, and it sells for sixty the soil. Frequently the machine also is cents, the usual price during the summer burned, though the engineer endeavors to at the local markets of the West, there is couple to it his obedient but clumsy mo- a profit of $800 on each hundred acres. tive power and take it out of danger. When it is not one hundred but a thou
The stories of women working in the sand acres that is harvested, the reward harvest-fields of the prairies are mostly in a good wheat year is considerable. fiction. If occasionally one does so, it is There are quarter-sections of central and western Kansas and of Oklahoma that economy in the management on a large this year raised enough wheat to pay scale, it is the method that seems best for themselves. Fields that went thirty adapted to that section. It would not be bushels to the acre, and some that did practicable in the more thickly settled even better, were numerous, and then the communities of the States farther south. farmer was certain that wheat was a good The time when the Western farmer was crop for him to raise. He forgot that compelled to sell his wheat in the field or there ever was a wheat failure, and was haul it from the thresher to the market is convinced that he could make a success past. Most of the farm-owners are able every time.
to hold their crop from one year to the But there is another side.
next if it seems best for securing better A farmer came into my office one day prices. As a result, there is less rush than during July and was led to talk of his formerly in getting the grain East, though efforts. “We are getting along all right the large crop this year has broken all this year," he remarked, “but I don't like records for the number of cars sent into to think of what we went through.". the Western cities on their way to the mills “By small crops, do you mean?”
or to the seaboard. All through the autumn “Not small crops—no crops. One year and early winter will the grain movement I got sixty bushels of wheat from fifty continue, and the returns therefrom will acres, and saved it for seed. The next make trade good in hundreds of prairie year I sowed it and didn't get even one towns where the farmers will spend their bushel. That was hard luck!
profits. Hundreds of farmers and their “How did we live ? Chickens and wives will, during the autumn, take a trip cows and kaffir corn-it wasn't very good “back East”to the little village where they living, but one can do a good deal when were born and passed their boyhood and he has to. But it's better now. I'm girlhood days. It will be a restful vacation going to take home a surrey for the folks for them, but they will go home better this afternoon.”
contented with the West than ever, for He was a type of the Western farmer they will find their old-time friends who has fought the good fight through the changed and many of them gone. hard times and the years of bad crops Following the threshers, and scarcely to better things, and, with his family, waiting for them to get out of the fields, deserves all the comforts that generous come the plowers, making ready for the Nature can give him.
next year's wheat crop. On the easy-runOut in western Kansas are colonies of ning sulky-plows they will make their Russian Mennonites who have year after rounds, changing the bright yellow stubble year stirred the ground and sowed it to to brown, as the chocolate-colored ribbons wheat. They have given no heed to of earth are turned behind the steadypolitics and little attention to the luxuries moving team. Plowing is begun in July, of life. When they made money they and the harrow quickly follows, so that by bought more land and sowed it to wheat. the last of August the fields are waiting At threshing-time it is one of the curious for the early September sowing. Later, sights of the West to see them taking the the smoke of the threshing-engine may cash for their crop in silver and going yet drift from one side of the field while home with half-pecks of the white metal the drill is placing the seed for next year's jingling in their capacious pockets. Their crop. It is the beginning and end of the economy of living and their dogged per- wheat harvest—the planting and the fruitsistence have allowed them to win where age. thousands of Americans have grown dis If, year after year, the prairies could couraged, and, loading their worldly goods produce as bountiful a yield as in the in canvas-topped prairie-schooners, have present season, there would be no limit sought better locations.
to the good times in the West. The On the great wheat-farms of the Dakotas skies would always be bright and the the business is conducted by capitalists, happiness of the people would never be and though it is doubtful if there is any diminished.