A Memorable Day in Autumn

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“A Memorable Day in Autumn,” Ensign, Aug. 1990, 50

A Memorable Day in Autumn

Symbolic of yesteryear was the horse-powered threshing machine traveling through our pleasant valley during harvest-time, stopping at farms along the way. One particular Saturday morning has become especially memorable—the morning that my family’s wheat was threshed.

Sunup found us children at a vantage point in the barn window, with playmates hastening to scramble up beside us. Finally, with its clanging, banging sound, the long-awaited machine was actually making its way slowly down our lane.

Papa swung the heavy wooden gate wide for its entry. Three pyramid stacks of ripened grain stood in the stackyard, the rising sun enhancing their brightness as the lumbering monster maneuvered to the right position. Under expert management, machinery and all hands were soon organized and active. Five teams of sturdy horses plodded slowly in a circle firmly urged to a steady pace by the driver who sat on a pedestal in the center. Settling into a droning singsong, the thresher performed in a miraculous manner. Bundles of grain pitched into huge jaws were emitted as straw, chaff, and golden wheat, the latter rapidly conveyed to bins in the granary.

At noon there was an enthusiastic pause for dinner. Hearty men made their way to the back dooryard where they drank cool water from a long-handled dipper hooked conveniently over the rim of the water barrel. This life-sustaining barrel rested on a “lizard”—a large, forked log, horse-drawn, whose runners had worn smooth from oft-repeated trips to the creek for water. From the kitchen wafted savory smells introducing those hungry men to the sumptuous meal Mama provided—a feast comparable to any prepared for Thanksgiving.

By evening the threshing machine had devoured the last bundle of grain and had come to a hesitant, wheezing halt. As it was drawn back through the gate to continue its journey to other fields and other harvests, I thought nostalgically, “A whole year will pass before we will see it again.”

Our eyes scanned the somewhat depleted stackyard where numerous shocks of corn, with tassled tops, stood like sentinels. My feeling of loss that this long-awaited day was coming to an end was eased as it occurred to me that it was time for us to begin earning our Christmas spending money, shucking corn for a nickel a bushel! My family always loved working together on this harvest-time project.

Following Papa up the path to get the milk buckets, we passed a huge woodpile—abundant fuel to keep the kitchen range crackling and the fireplace blazing during the winter. As we walked through the grape arbor where the purple clusters hung, Mama came through the kitchen door to join us. Our little group settled cozily on the back steps for precious moments of “togetherness.”

The sounds of autumn became more audible. Night birds had begun their wistful calling. Across the creek, on Jack Hill, coyotes began their howling. Shortly, a breeze came whistling about the eaves, finding its place in nature’s symphony of thanksgiving.

Illustrated by Steve Moore