Dave Utke stacking shocks in preparation for Sodbuster Days at Fort Ransom, ND. Photo by Kim Utke

-By Orv Alveshere-

Stand Up Comics Stand Up the Bundles
Ev’ry year there was a pressing ‘people-power’ need.
At harvest and shocking time the farmers would plead;
It’s exercise and pay and it would be a good deed,
And sunshine, they said, but not everyone agreed.
Young children, fam’ly, school teachers, hobos and all,
Were standing up grain bundles, early in the fall.
There was work for everyone that was able to walk;
Propping ripe grain bundles upright into a shock.
A Demand and a Demanding Occupation
Young children, at times, would become part of the crew;
Dragging one bundle to the adults, or maybe two.
Some came along as there was no baby sitter,
And keeping track of toddlers, one must consider.
Was it my aunt’s opinion that she once implied,
As a toddler at my widowed grandmother’s side
Of making her day seem shorter with baby talk
As she intently watched her mother shock.
Grain Bundle Shocks Falling Over
Grab two grain bundles and prop them up together.
Bundles seemed to get heavier in hot weather.
Adding the next two bundles at 90 degrees,
As they talk to ‘mini’ shocks, “Stand up, please.”
Shockers adding more twine-bound grain with heads upright.
If bundles fell apart, they’d try to reunite.
You’d be the comedian and a laughing stock
If the whole field of oats fell down, ev’ry last shock!
Shocks Were Shockingly Devoid of Humor
Grain shocks tumbling over was no laughing matter
And doubly maddening hearing rains ‘pitter-patter.’
For drying and keeping it dry was the theory used
And only oily, slippery spelt could be excused. (triticum wheat)
Barley and spelt would cause one to become unglued
More often than not, the upright stance they’d elude.
To make matters worse, you’d have thistles in each sock
While concentrating on building a ‘standing’ shock.
Disagreement: Pitchfork or Gloved Hand?
On the first day of shocking the argument starts:
Gloved hands or pitchforks for those performing arts?
Although working together neither would bend;
Forks? or hands? that disagreement would never end.
But they’re a team now as the two bundles are set
With grain heads pointing up and shockers wet with sweat.
They would banter and joke ad laugh and make small talk
To pass the days and the ‘duty’ they called, “Go shock.”
Both Shockers and Animals Get Jumpy
Walk to a group of bundles and a rabbit jumps outs.
They’d rather see rabbits than a skunk, there’s no doubt.
Or they may disturb a snake that would slither away.
So much for the excitement of a long work day.
Some days they’d slap a biting gnat or a horsefly.
They wore boots because the stubble was ten inches high.
If one walked and worked without a shoe or a sock
They’d have bleeding ankles as they set up the shock.
A Shocking Shocking Incident/He Bolted
A lad of 16 had almost finished a field.
He was watching the storm clouds as the thunder peeled
He dutifully moved his burlap covered jug
(It’s wet outside and had a whittled wooden plug).
It kept him wet ‘inside,’ he put it in the shade 
By putting it under the last shock he had made.
A lightning bolt shattered the jug and he took stock
Of safety and fled before he got the other shock!

(c) 1995         

(He claimed his feet did not touch the ground, as he sprinted home to safety!)