Operating a Harvest Grain Binder

Photo owned by Orv Alveshere


-By Orv Alveshere-
Waiting for Grain to Ripen/A Reel Machine
Each year they celebrated the ripening grain,
Acres of amber waves across the fruited plain.
When hard, red wheat ‘heads out’ and shimmers in the in the sun
Then each green head turns visibly gold, one by one.
Soon, anxious farmers on foot would criss-cross each field,
Estimating the harvest date and the yield.
Thankful this season’s warmer, wetter and kinder
And that this grain field is ready for the binder.

Blacksmith Duties Getting Ready for the Harvest
There’s the sound of grinding and the ring of the sledge;
Hammering rivets and making a sharp sickle edge,
Taking off the chains, dipping and letting them soak
In oil, while they’re fixing anything else that’s broke.
In the canister, two twine bales to interlock,
A leader threaded to tie up the loose grain stalk.
Hoping a harvest without breakdowns will be kinder,
That’s why they’re oiling the moving parts of the binder.

Stretching Canvas and Stretching Ones Luck
Three canvases need to be riveted and reslatted;
Any rips, or tears, need to be sewed and tatted;
Then they are stretched over rollers made of wood;
Then loop the buckles and tighten as best they could.
Stretching with use, they’ll need to tighten ev’ry fourth round,
Or sooner if they detected a slipping sound.
Packing spare sickles and other reminders
Of things that could go wrong with those aging binders.

Cutting Standing Grain and Tying into Bundles
At least four horses were hitched to this binder rig;
It was advantageous if they were trained and big
They were hitched by eveners to the carrier wheel; (distributing the load)
And they had bridle blinders so as to conceal
That clattering, noisy monster so close behind.
The two matched teams of horses pulled with muscles combined.
(This is for the pioneers and as a reminder;
And for the youth, that have never seen a binder.)

To Feed … or Not to Feed (The Mosquitos)
Some fly nets were draped across the horse’s backs;
Some were strings, others canvas, looking like gunny sacks,
And nose baskets over the horse’s heads were tied
For extra protection that they did provide.
The driver would .bring a water jug and straw hat
And tie a hanky to deter flies or a gnat.
Nothing in this whole world could have been unkinder
Than swatting mosquitoes while riding the binder!

There’s No Bull About the Bull Wheel
On a binder everything’s run by the ‘bull’ wheel:
The sickle, canvass rollers, twine-tyer and reel.
The reel slats rotate to bring the standing grain back,
The sickle slices the stems clickity-clack.
The stalks are dropped and moved on the inside track
Between two canvases it’s rolled up to be bound
Where steel fingers tie them with a fast clicking sound.
When the big wheel skids, the driver is the finder.
Alone he must fix what’s gone wrong with the binder.

The First Round is a Backswath
On the appointed day, they make their first round;
The bundle carrier deposits in groups on the ground.
It’s tripped by driver’s foot and spaced to save some steps
And each falling bundle the carrier intercepts.
But, every one must be moved for the backswath round
Which, is in reverse direction, but inward bound.
For experienced harvesters a reminder
Others can imagine a week on the binder.

Copyright 1995, All rights reserved – Orv Alveshere

Orv Alveshere, an award-winning writer of humorous cowboy poetry and stories, “grew up hanging on a horse.” He writes about his lifetime of adventures.

Orv’s Cowboy Poetry tells of the days of life on the ranch in Midwest America when horses were used for transportation, field work, Sunday-go-to-meetings, and more. Read cowboy poetry from our beloved Orv Alveshere who recalls the days and memories from his past growing up farming on the prairies of North Dakota. Revel in the glory days of the true cowboy. Take steps back into the history of rural farm life, when horses were the centerpiece of the ranch and instrumental in the survival of the families that built America.

More of Orv’s Cowboy Poetry may be found at:  https://theveonline.com/category/orvs-cowboy-poetry/