It is such a pleasure to be back here at Petticoats & Pistols with you all. Thank you for inviting me to join you today!
Back in the early years of the twentieth century, Umatilla County (where Pendleton is located) produced approximately one percent of the nation’s wheat crop. Wheat harvest brought workers to town, provided income for families, and an event many looked forward to all year. It was also a lot of hot, sweaty, backbreaking work. From experience gained during my childhood on a farm, I state firsthand that the dusty, itchy chaff that makes the air thick and hard to breathe.
Although I’m familiar with modern harvests and the equipment involved, I wanted to know more about a harvest taking place in the early 1900s.
This photo was taken in 1903 in Sherman County, Oregon. (If you’ve read my Grass Valley series, it is set in Sherman County.)
This was another photo that provided a great visual of how I picture wheat harvest at Nash’s Folly, the ranch featured in Bertie’s story. Taken in 1902 in Walla Walla, WA, this photo shows not only the machine, but also the deep dip in the hill as well. Wheat fields in this part of the country are often planted on rolling hills.
This photo, also from the oldoregonphotos.com website, shows a team of 32 pulling a hillside harvester in 1900. Because of the rolling hills, the farmers needed a machine that wouldn’t tip over on steep inclines.
It took a large number of horses or mules to pull the heavy equipment, especially up the hills.
After gathering the historic photos and studying them, I still had no idea how to describe the equipment, so I emailed my octogenarian dad the photos and asked for his sage advice. He called me back with a wealth of information.
My dad comes from a long line of farmers, and also spent several years after he and my mother were newly wed working in Pendleton in the early 1950s. He had firsthand experience with the terrain, the hillside harvesters, and even told me why so many of the farmers preferred mules to horses (because the mules could go all day without a problem and the horses often got sores or sick.)
In addition to providing descriptions of the equipment, he told me the names of some of the jobs involved with wheat harvest. The jigger sewed the sacks of wheat shut once they were filled. The tender made sure the cutter was going where it was supposed to while the skinner drove the team.
Read more about Pendleton, wheat harvests, spring balls, outlaws and in-laws in the Pendleton Petticoats series.
If you found yourself cooking for a harvest crew in 1906, what one thing would you bring along from the future to help you survive the heat and hard work? Post your answer to enter for a chance to win one of three digital copies of Bertie being given away!
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, USA Today best-selling author Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen, one story at a time. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and heart-pumping moments with relatable characters.
When this hopeless romantic isn’t writing or indulging in rich, decadent chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
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