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casion, and once took the place of harvest festivals, Thanksgiving Day is our national harvest festival. It ranks as a legal holiday and is fixed by proclamation. This day was suggested by the Hebrew feast of tabernacles, or the “feast, of ingathering at the end of the year.” Occasionally in our country there is also an after harvest dance. Our festivals, however, have lost the rude simplicity and rustic romance characteristic of the past, and they are less immediately connected with the harvest. Modern invention has quite changed the nature of harvesting, rendering it an ordinary process and depriving it of many features which made it important and interesting in the olden times. One feature which has survived is the annual migration of harvest laborers. The novelty, the hardship, and the adventure incident to the travel, and the unusual compensation for the toil, so often performed with emulative zeal, have always lent a peculiar charm and enchantment to this occupation for a certain class of humanity. Every harvest, bands of the Irish used to travel to England, while the Italians and Austrians still go to France and Germany to help reap the grain. Shiploads of Italians regularly go to Argentina for the harvest time, and return to Italy when the season is over. Every year great numbers of agricultural laborers, both men and women, emigrate from the central and western provinces of Russia to the steppes of the east and southeast. Nowhere else has this feature of harvesting evolved to such an extent as in the United States. The characteristic attractions are here found in an unusual degree, especially upon the bonanza farms of the northwest. In this district there is no farming in the usual sense of the word, for wheat raising has become a business interest differentiated from all others. The hard and practical business atmosphere of our age is everywhere prevalent, an atmosphere that would soon chill the simple home customs of our fathers. Not even home life is found here, for the year around the bulk of the work is done by transient laborers who live at the division dormitory, or in quarters far out on the fields. Nor is there the association of the factory, for men working on different parts of the same farm will often not see each other a single time from one year's end to another. But for the harvester the fascination
of magnitude is always present, for magnitude is characteristic of every phenomenon and of every operation. The mere sight of a field of swaying, rippling wheat, with its green and gold, and with wave upon wave rolling away beyond the observer's horizon, surpasses description. The Harvest Laborer.—In the United States, the wheat harvest begins in earnest by June. It is September before the last harvester passes northward out of the Red river valley, and during this time the merry click of the reapers is heard from sun to sun. This harvest-time succession has developed its own typical harvester. He first appears in Oklahoma. As the wheat ripens, he travels northward. Before Kansas and Nebraska are left behind, his possessions include a little money, a blanket, and perhaps a sooted tin tea pail. He is now one of an army of many thousands, a great number of whom follow the harvest through the Dakotas and beyond the Canadian border. The typical men of this class rarely pay railroad fare. Many of them ride into the bonanza district on the “blind-baggage” of passenger trains. Perhaps most of them ride on freight trains, at times over a hundred on one train. As a rule, the men of this class are not ‘‘hoboes,’’ though now and then a tramp does work. The tramp element helps some, especially when laborers are scarce, but they are poor and unsatisfactory workmen, and are avoided when possible. Perhaps a large majority of the men required to harvest the wheat of the middle west do not follow the harvest northward, but merely work through the season in one locality. Tempted by low railroad fares and large wages, they come from nearby cities, and from the states east and south of the wheat district. Many of them are farmers and farmers’ sons. A large per cent are foreigners, especially Scandinavians. The personality of the men varies much. Among them the writer has found the city banker again seeking in the harvest fields during a brief vacation the health and pleasures experienced in younger years; the refined college youth earning the means with which to finish his course in the east; the western pioneer making a desperate effort to keep the wolf from the door of the shanty that sheltered his family, and to save the homestead by paying the interest on the mortagage which drought and frontier misfortunes had placed upon it; the dreamy faced wanderer who merely drifts with his environment; and the coarse, hardfeatured criminal and ex-convict. It has been estimated that 15 men for every 1,000 acres of wheat migrate annually to the wheat districts. The number recruited from other sections for the harvest of Kansas alone in 1903 is claimed to have been 28,000, a force half as large as the standing army of the United States. Employment agencies in adjacent states sent men into Kansas in companies of 100 and 200. Some farmers used all the guile and promises at their command to induce men to stop with them instead of journeying farther. Some men were actually kidnapped, it is claimed, from the platforms of the trains, and held by force till their train had gone. “In Saline and Cloud counties, when the harvest started and there was a shortage of hands, the farmers’ daughters went into the fields while the thermometer was close to the one hundred mark and did the work of men.” Many of these harvesters remain over for the threshing, which often lasts until the snow flies in December. Doubtless a majority of the men go as they came, on special railway excursions, for which fares are frequently one cent a mile. The itinerant harvesters disappear so gradually that no one knows where they have gone. Some of them find their way to the mines of the Rocky Mountains. Many of them go to the logging camps of Minnesota and Wisconsin. In Argentine there is a succession of harvest-times similar to that in the United States. It begins in the northern provinces in November and continues to move southward until February. The succession of wheat-harvesting seasons in different countries of the world is given below:
January.—Australia, New Zealand, Chile. February and March.-Upper Egypt, India. April.—Lower Egypt, India, Syria, Cyprus, Persia, Asia Minor, Mexico, Cuba. May.—Texas, Algeria, Central Asia, China, Japan, Morocco. June.—California, Oregon, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas, Arkansas, Utah, Colorado, Missouri, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, South of France. July.—New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Southern Minnesota, Nebraska, Upper Canada, Roumania, Bulgaria, Austria, Hungary, Southern Russia, Germany, Switzerland, South of England. August.—Central and Northern Minnesota, Dakotas, Manitoba, Lower Canada, Columbia, Belgium, Holland, Great Britain, Denmark. Poland. Central Russia. September and October.—Scotland, Norway, Northern Russia. November.—Peru, South Africa, Northern Argentina. December.—Argentina, Burmah, New South Wales. * Crop Reporter, June, 1899.
Proper Stage of Maturity for Harvesting.—In most of the wheat growing countries it is a very general practice to begin harvesting before the wheat is quite ripe. This lessens the danger from loss on account of over-ripeness, and if the grain is properly cared for, it does not seem to diminish the yield. Ordinarily, cutting should begin as soon as the straw turns yellow and the grain is in the dough. A good test is that the kernel “should be soft enough to be easily indented with the thumb nail and hard enough not to be easily crushed between the fingers.” “ In a climate like that of California, wheat may stand without injury for over two months after it is ripe. There is no danger from rain, and the only loss occurring results from an occasional sandstorm.
Machinery for Harvesting.—The development of agricultural machinery is a very important factor in the world's economic progress. Growth in this direction has been very marked in recent years, and in no class of agricultural implements has it been more so than in that for reaping grain. The primitive method of harvesting wheat doubtless consisted in merely pulling up the plants by the roots and stripping the heads from the stalks by means of a comb or hackle, but long before written history crude implements were devised to assist the hand in pulling or breaking off the straw. From these rude beginnings to the modern combined harvester and thresher is a far cry, and the wheat grower who sacks his thousands of bushels of wheat from over 100 acres in a single day has little conception of the amount of painful study and experimentation, and of the numerous inventions it has required to evolve from the ancient sickle the perfected machine with which he so easily gathers his grain.
The Sickle.—Flint implements resembling a rude form of sickle or reaping hook are found among the remains of the later stone age in Europe. The remains of the early European habitations contain bronze sickles. The earliest records of Egypt contain accounts of reaping by means of crudely constructed implements similar to the modern sickle in form. Greece, receiving the art of agriculture as a heritage from Egypt, had similar forms, as did also the Jewish nation. Since ancient times, the Chinese and Japanese have reaped with an implement resembling the sickle. All sickles were used with one hand only. The grain was not
1 Hunt. Cereals in America (1904), p. 103.
As lettered above: a. o sickle; b. sickle of the middle ages; f, smoothedged sickle; c. toothed sickle; d. early form of scythe; e. Hainault scythe and hook.
always bound in sheaves. One man could bind what six reapers cut, using ‘‘corn” for binding. A reaper cut an average of one acre per day." Brewer, however, states that in England in 1844 seven persons usually cut one to one and one-half acres in ten hours. Besides being still widely used in China and Japan, the sickle is also a common implement among the Russian peasants, and in Sicily. The first wheat raised in the Red river valley in America was cut with sickles and bound with willow withes by women and children.
The Scythes and Cradles are all used with both hands. They evolved from the sickle and form the second class of reaping appliances. The Hainault scythe, a Flemish implement, was a form intermediate between the sickle and scythe. It had a wide blade about 2 feet long. The handle, about a foot in length, was held in the right hand, and had a leather loop into which the forefinger was inserted. The handle also had a flat part which projected against the wrist, and served to keep the blade in a horizontal position. The left hand, aided by a hook, gathered the grain. The early scythes were clumsy and heavy. They had straight handles, and were used for cutting grass
* Rogers, Hist. A gr. and Prices, Eng., 5:53. * First Cen. of Repub., p. 176.