Preserving the Past: Brossart Held Grain Binding Demonstration for Family

"Preserving the Past: Brossart Held Grain Binding Demonstration for Family." Pierce County Tribune, 18 December 2004, 7.

Though many decades have gone by, Rugby resident Valentine Brossart still has many vivid memories of spending time working on the farm with his father.

In an effort to preserve some of his forefather’s heritage, Brossart gathered many of his children and grandchildren together on a sunny day last month to demonstrate to them first-hand how a grain binder works.

He said this was something he had looked forward to doing for a very long time but never had a chance to do until now.

After a crank of the engine, Brossart fired up the old W-30 McCormick-Deering that was just like the first tractor he remembers riding on as a young boy with his dad at the wheel. In later years, he would be the one that would run it, after the days of using binders that were horse-drawn.

The McCormick-Deering Tractor Binder was operated from the tractor through the shaft running out of the rear, making the binder independent of ground conditions. This power take-off, as it is called, is regularly supplied with all tractors. The binder, being independent of ground conditions, can operate when a horse-drawn binder would find it difficult, if not impossible, to cut grain. The McCormick-Deering Harvester-Thresher was the most modern type of grain-harvesting machine. It cut 40-50 acres per day and threshed the grain, delivering it after a thorough cleaning, into a grain tank. From the tank, the grain could be drawn off into motor truck or wagon and was hauled to the granary.

The grain was cut using this grain binder, which required cutting the grain a few days before it was ripe. The grain binder cut the standing grain and wrapped twine around six to eight diameter inch groups of straw, then kicked them onto a steel carrier.

When the carrier had eight to ten bundles it was dropped to the ground, which allowed the bundles to slide off the carrier’s steel rods. Each cutting pass dumped bundles in a line with those on the ground so when the field was cut it had several bundle rows across it.

Shortly after cutting, the shockers picked up the bundles and set them with the grain up, in the shape of a tepee. Usually there were eight to 12 bundles to a shock. The grain ripened while in the shock. Depending on the size and weight of each bundle, a shock would tuck one or two bundles under each arm and pick up four to six other bundles by the twine band and carry then to a shock site.

A few week later a threshing machine (sometimes referred to as a separator) was brought to the grain field to separate grain from stalks/straw, which was a procedure requiring quite a number of workers. It was during this phase of the operation that the much-appreciated “soldier harvesters” were sent to Rugby during World War II to help out before the were sent overseas to fight the war.

One person was the operator, usually the owner of the threshing machine and tractor required to power it. The operation, usually required four to eight bundle wagons to haul bundles from the shocks to the threshing machines and usually four “pitchers” who pitched the bundles from the shock onto the bundle hauler placed bundles neatly and securely in rows from front to back of the wagon to get more on it and to make it easier to pitch them off and into the threshing machine. It was the water boy’s responsibility to take fresh well water to each member of the “threshing crew” as they were called.

Not only were men required, but three to six ladies prepared a large lunch for the “crew” plus themselves and the children too small to help with the threshing.

Threshing crews would travel from one farm to the next throughout the neighborhood, including the ladies preparing lunched in the cook car, like the one that is located at the Prairie Village Museum. A typical lunch would consist of fried chicken, mashed potatos, gravy, fresh peas, beans or corn, sliced tomatoes, and iced tea, whenever ice was available. The crew would wash up for lunch at the house well pump. Most of the farm houses could not accommodate a full crew of approximately 20 eating at the dinning table at the same, so they ate in two shifts and slept in the barns or Quonset-huts.

Brossart said has always been very important to him and has also been a lot of fun to be able to demonstrate the old way of farming to the younger generation. He also has a few antique tractors that have been restord that he hopes to one day demonstrate when the time is right.

Valentine Brossart (above and riding at left) gathered many of his children and grandchildren together one day last month to demonstrate to them first-hand how a grain binder works. Brossart wanted to show the younger generation how farmers used to harvest the old fashioned way.

Photos by Peggy Burgard


Valentine and Alice Brossart (left) were honored at the NDSU Harvest bowl dinner Oct 29. NDSU President Joseph Chapman (right) presented the Agricultural Recognition Award.

Brossarts Honored at NDSU Harvest Bowl

Valentine and Alice Brossart, Rugby, were among a group of outstanding agriculturists form each county in North Dakota and western Minnesota honored at the North Dakota State University Harvest Bowl awards dinner Oct. 29. NDSU President Joseph A. Chapman presented the Agriculturist Recognition Award.

The Harvest Bowl was established in 1937 to recognize respected community citizens who are dedicated to agriculture as a vocation. In 1970, the first Harvest Bowl scholarships were awarded to Bison student athletes. During its 31 years, Harvest Bowl has recognized more than 1,800 agriculturists and awarded more than $66,000 in scholarships to students with agricultural backgrounds.

The Brossart represent Pierce County. Valentine and Alice, along with their sons, raise wheat, barley, durum, corn, canola and sunflowers and have a cow/calf operation on their farm near Rugby. They have served as 4-H leaders and on school and church boards. Valentine and Alice are parents of nine children, four of which are NDAU graduates.

Printed with permission of the Pierce County Tribune

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