Many belts and pulleys operate the Oliver Red River threshing machine.
Many belts and pulleys operate the Oliver Red River threshing machine.

An oats field located next to the highway about a mile south of the Waterloo Ridge Lutheran Church in rural Spring Grove was abuzz with activity last weekend as friends, neighbors, family, church members and others gathered to harvest grain as it was done in years gone by.

Threshing machines, binders, bundle racks, older model tractors, and teams of horses were the equipment of the day.

This year, Ernest Gavle of rural Dorchester, Iowa, planted 6 to 8 acres of oats on his farm. He and Anthony Gulbranson decided to harvest the crop the old-fashioned way.

They hitched Gulbranson's team of Percherons to the John Deere grain binder to cut and bundle the oats with twine.

For the bundles to dry, shocks are made either of six bundles stacked upright together or of seven when a bundle is added across the top to act as an umbrella to shed rainfall.

"This is the first time there has been shocks on this place since 1980," Gavle noted.

There were two threshing machines in operation last weekend.

The Oliver Red River Special was purchased from the Oliver dealership in Spring Grove in 1935 by William Kumpf whose sons also ran the machine, Gavle reported.

Ernest's dad, Edgar, bought it in 1952. "It has not been used since 1980."

Some history of the John Deere threshing machine is that it is a mid-to-late 1930s model. Dennis Holty explained that his father, Loren, bought the machine from Spandes, north of Mabel.

Holty recalled, "When I was 12 years old, we threshed 50 acres. Uncle Keith made me shock the oats. It was a lot of work."

Now Anthony Gulbranson owns the machine.

Bundles were loaded onto the wagons and brought to the belt-driven threshing machine, which was powered by a tractor.

Workers forked the bundles into the machine, heads first. Sharp sickle knives/blades cut the twine.

As the bundle moves into the machine, it goes through concave cylinders that loosen the oats from the stem. Then it goes onto the shaker that walks the straw back to the blower and onto the straw pile.

Meanwhile, the oats and chaff fall to the bottom of the machine and onto an auger and to the side where an elevator brings the oats up to the hopper to be weighed.

At each quarter bushel, the hopper dumps the oats into an auger that takes it to the wagon.

Four tents were set up on the side of the field to provide shade and a place to serve meals and lunches to the workers.

On Sunday morning, the Waterloo Ridge Lutheran Church held a Harvest Sunday Festival worship service followed by a potluck noon meal.

Many people driving on the highway took time from their travels to stop and view the harvesting activity in progress.