Back when many farms consisted of limited acreage, most people grew wheat in rotation. Instead of owning a combine, someone in the community owned a machine like the one in the picture below that would cut and bundle together wheat, straw and grain heads and all. Someone else owned a threshing machine and a power source.
This year at the Indiana State Fair, expect to see one of the threshers powered by a Huber tractor recently donated by Robert Stwalley and family of Crawfordsville. He remembers his father and uncle leading threshing rings in Montgomery County from 1934 through 1948, when the last threshing season for the ring was held in that area.
This binder will likely still be on static display. Owned by Walter Geisking, it's been restored to as close to original conditions as possible. It's believed to have been produced in either 1925 or 1926. Note the intricate engineering for the day, involving large gears which allowed it to power the mechanism that tied bundles.
John Deere and McCormick Deering were two of the leaders in making binders and threshing equipment, but there were others as well. While this picture looks pristine, imagine being the one pulling it, with dust and dirt and all the bugs of a wheat field swarming around. There was no air conditioned cab, and certainly no cooler or refreshments for drinks, like the most modern combines now feature.
If you attend Pioneer Village this summer at the fair, check for threshing demonstration times. Going on since the late 1960s, threshing was only about 20 years out of date when Mauri Williamson and crew started putting on demonstrations. Now it's some 65 years out of date, and whole generations never knew what it was like to see a blue racer snake jump out of a bundle, or collect the bundles and then feed them into a threshing machine.