No. 144, August 2010
Bernie Krueger, Thresher Man
By Delores Miller
Next time you take your leisurely country drive and
see and smell a red clover field in full bloom, ask
yourself who threshed the seeds? Who gleaned and
oats that was seeded with a drill?
Bernie Krueger and Olga Wolf were married in 1921
and moved to a 120 acre farm in the Township of Larrabee in Section 20 on County Trunk 'C'. August and Bertha Krueger, originally from the Township of Pella in Shawano County had a large family of the following children: Arnold, Bernard, John, Emma Piotraschke,
Clara Brei Schlender, Anna Wissman Schoneck,
Lillian Moede, Mabel Dewey and Antonia Bartlelt.
Long about August, the oats was tall and ripe.
Wind and rain may have 'lodged' the grain,
and laid it flat in the field.
A binder pulled by horses cut the oats, tied it
in bundles and spit it out the side. Always a
problem with the knotter, and multiple profanity
and cuss words
were blessed over this blasted machine. Then
the bundles were shocked, 6 or 8, in a tent
shape and left to dry. This, too was a dirty
job, long sleeved shirts, jeans, straw hats.
Snakes and rodents. Rain caused mold and
mildew and some farmers pitched the bundles
to a flat rack hay wagon and pulled in the barn.
An any rate, Bernie Krueger would come with
his threshing machine, either a Case or
McCormick Deering. He had a crew of men
and young boys who followed him. During
World War Two, the young men went to
war, and help was hard to find. The
women of the neighborhood made huge
meals, including many different pies. Crews
had to carry the oats in canvas bags to the
granary, later Bernie had a conveyor. An improtant
job, was the man who made the straw stack.
Another task was blower tender which
directed the straw. Bernie said these were
important chores, or the stack looked like
a cupcake and slid to a flat pile. Straw
was very important to farmers for bedding.
In 1949 Bernie had a finger on his left hand
cut off while cleaning out the blower on the
threshing machine. He crushed another finger on
the same hand and had to have several stitches taken
Now how does one prepare to thresh clover seed?
One has a huge field of red clover. With
very few weeds. The ;year before it was an
oats field. First crop is used as cattle feed.
Because first crop had tall grasses, it was not
good for threshing clover, too many weeds.
Second crop, end of August or September, is cut with a horse or tractor ground driven hay mower or pea roller. Let dry in the sun, until the stems easily break. Loaded on a flat wagon, with a hay loader attached to the
back, or just pitched with a long handle
fork. Gently pulled to the barn, where a hay
fork is attached to piles of hay, and hoisted
in the hay mow, with a team or horses. Then
Bernie came with his threshing machine, formerly
used for oats and began the process of extracting the seed,
hulls, chaff and other debris. Special sieves
had to be exchanged to save the very
small clover seeds, similar to poppy seed.
A forced blower blew the leftover stems to another mow
where it was used as bedding for cattle.
Sometimes, if the weather was good
clover seed was threshed right in
the fields, after it was cut and dried.
In 1944 Bernie and Olga took out a
loan at the Dairyman's State Bank in
Clintonville for $161.12 for a McCormick
Deering Tractor, Model 22-36 with
rubber wheels. Bernie paid this
loan off at a rate of $13.43 per month
until it was paid 10 months later. Interest
was $8.12. Because of asphalt
roads, it was no longer allowed to
use steel wheels on roads.
Other thresher men were in the area:
Paul Much, Albert Flink, Otto Niemuth
and Anton Malueg and others.
Bernie Krueger kept to the
Larrabee, Bear Creek and Buckbee area,
venturing as far as Gresham where his
brother-in-law Paul Bartlelt also had
a threshing machine and needed help..
Bernie kept meticulous records of every
customer and client he did work for.
So much for a precious bushel of
clover seed, a good cash crop. Tractors
were a McCormick Deering 10-20 with
steel wheels, and a McCormick Deering
W-30 with rubber tires. In his hey
day, Bernie also had a McCormick Deering
threshing machine, a Case, and a John Deere for
threshing wheat, rye and oats. This was
a labor intensive job, he would come home
from a job, so dusty, and dirty from the straw
and chaff, only the whites of his eyeballs
would show. Crews were also full of dust
and dirt. Most farms had no bathrooms,
and the troupe would go to the Pigeon River
each night for a swim and get clean, but
still had to wear the dirty clothes the
next morning. Baths were only required
on Saturday night, if one had a tub. Dirty
clothes were washed and hung on the line
to dry on Monday Morning.
LaVerne and Melvin were required as children
and young adults to pull thistles and yellow mustard from the oats field. Now in 2010 hay fields are
mostly alfalfa, more protein for milking
cows. The days of timothy, brome and clover
fields is a thing of the past. Where does
the alfalfa seed come from now? Western
states, and as a bonus, weed seeds, like
velvet leaf and other noxious vermin.
Bernie became ill, in 1956, first a heart
attack and a month later a stroke. left arm and
hand paralyzed and spent the
last 14 years incapacitated, while his
wife cared for him and continued
milking cows, but his days of threshing
clover seed and oats was finished. Bernie died
in 1970, Olga in 1976.
Melvin Krueger, son of Bernie and
Olga was employed in Milwaukee and
came home week ends to continue
the Krueger tradition of threshing
oats and clover. He obtained a Birdsell
Clover Huller, manufactured in South Bend,
Indiana. This is still stored in the Morton
shed on the Krueger farm, with all it's
working parts, complete with belts, bells,whistles,
and pulleys. Melvin Krueger died prematurely
in 1982 at the age of 54 of heart trouble.
Harold Wolf, farmer of Pella
came and studied the Birdsell Clover
Huller and built and exact replica.
Harold and his gracious wife live
on the Wolf family heritage farm
on County Road 'M' which has
been in the Wolf Family Name for
150 years. Harold raises beef
cattle. His Father
threshed red clover seed, and
sold about 1500 pounds each year.
Memories of a threshing crew
and machines, and a Birdsell Clover Huller.
Now hybrid seed is sold by Pioneer, DuPont,
Cargill Seed Companies.
No one works that hard any more.
Information furnished by
LaVerne Sell, Arlene Knaack,
Dale Knaack, Harold Wolf and
Copyright 2010, Russell and Delores Miller