HPPR hosts & contributors
High Plains History Episode
Tue March 19, 2013
Back When Horse Power Meant Barney and Joe
Velma Wancura's dad wanted to be a farmer, so he traded a house in McCracken, Kansas for a quarter of land south of Beeler. He was a good farmer, and it took the whole family to make it successful. The kids helped milk eight to twelve cows twice a day, separated the milk, and sold the cream. Velma also remembered the horses. She recalled two by name, Joe and Barney. When Velma was six or seven, she started driving the team. Looking back, she said, "The horse looks so tall and big, I don't know how I did it."
Farming has changed over the years, especially wheat harvest. It used to require horses, a steam-powered thrashing machine, a crew of men, and three steps. The wheat is first cut and placed in a header barge, then it is is stacked. Stacking is expensive and tricky. The person in charge of stacking does it in a way so it is moisture resistant to keep it from spoiling. The last step is thrashing. Farmers would wait from harvest time in midsummer for fall when the thrashing crew, consisting of 15-20 men, came through the area. Thrashing was a symphony of movement. Imagine those men, some pitching wheat from the stack to the thrasher elevator, some pitching it into the separator, some hauling water for the steam-powered thrasher, some hauling grain away, and someone operating the thrasher. That's how it used to be. Today, the months of waiting have been eliminated, and all that man, horse, and steam power has been replaced by a combine and truck.