Steam Engines?

No Thank You!

I saw all I ever wanted to see of Steam Engines just after I left school all those years ago. Disconcerting readers will recall from previous articles that I left school just before my 14th birthday. Some people, apparently, continued their education into their 20’s but I learnt at a much quicker rate therefore I was able to face up to this wicked world at a much earlier age. Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I began, however, to question the judgement of entering the work force at such an early age just after I had started my first job. It all fell into place one August, which meant, to people like myself in this part of the world, Harvest Time and boy were my job options limited. I had a choice of jobs; it was either working on the farm or if that didn’t appeal, well there was always the farm. Before I knew what was happening there was I helping to gather in the Harvest, from 7 in the morning until 9 o’clock at night. It was such fun I just didn’t know what hit me. What a shame I hadn’t got a sense of humour, or for that matter any brains. If I had, I could have gone and jumped off Hunstanton Pier, when the tide was out.

Little did I realise the joys that, a few weeks later, were to descend on me. There was all of a sudden one day this huffing and puffing clouds of smoke and steam all over the place. I thought at first it was a train that would transport me to some places I had only dreamt about, Norwich, London, Manchester, or even Stow Bridge! But what was it? A darned Steam Engine drawing a Drum and a Straw Elevator; it was, heaven forbid, Threshing Time. It wasn’t long before I soon found out who had drawn the shortest straw; Me!

I was given the job of looking after the Chaff. For those of you not initiated with the joys of Threshing Time I shall elucidate. No I don’t know what the word means either. Anyway you might as well continue to read this; it will keep you away from Emmerdale Farm, Eastenders, etc. Threshing Time came about long before Combine Harvesters appeared. The corn would be cut with a Binder very often pulled by horses; there wasn’t even Tractors in those days. When the Binder had finished it’s work the field was left with bundles of corn tied up with string. The next job was to put these into what I think we called Shocks and then a few days later when the excitement was at it’s highest, just a minute you’re sure you are still there? Yes, my God I admire your loyalty. Anyway these Shocks were then carted from the field and put together to form a Stack where it would remain until the arrival of the dreaded Threshing Tackle.

Come the great day it was Threshing Time with the corn coming out of the Drum at one end and the Straw coming out at the other. And there, right in the middle among all the muck and dust was me, looking after that bloody Chaff. If some of you more disconcerting readers still don’t know what Chaff is then you will have to find out from someone else because I’ve had enough of this. I’m off to the pub after which I might put in a spot of ballroom dance practice. Anything to wipe away those memories of years gone by.

Les Lawrence

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