Sixteen years ago, several of my family members, along with friends, started buying up old farm machinery. Their purchases included tractors, binders, blowers, and the most prized possessions of all, the threshing machines. They knew the year, the make, the model of each one. Old barns, granaries and farm sheds were scoured for those elusive missing parts that were needed to make the machinery work. The older of the group was about to show the youngsters what real farm work was all about. Thus began the start of the Annual Richmond Thrasharee.
As I researched the correct spelling, I found that threshing is the modern spelling of thrashing. I had to do the research because I had a shirt printed with ‘Thrasharee’ on the back, and I was informed that the word was spelled incorrectly, which technically isn't true. There is no word 'Thrasharee' or 'Thresharee'. Those are made up words. According to one of the participants creating this event, it was more like thrashing than threshing anyway.
After the equipment was assembled and the grain fields were planted, we gathered together to watch those old dinosaurs come to life. How exciting to see the man who was standing on top of the lumbering machine hold one finger in the air and twirl it around, signaling another on the tractor to set things in motion. There was something magical in watching the heavy belts twisting between the tractor and the threshing machine. The noise was loud, the air filled with dust. Grain spewed from the chute. The stalks, now considered straw, dropped from the machine, to be picked up and used for bedding. The man standing on top watched to make sure the sheaves were going in straight and it wasn’t plugging up. Others were on the wagons pitching the bundles, or on the ground, making sure nothing was overheating or causing any problems. During those first years, the crew was very ambitious. They bindered the oats and set up shocks. When one of the neighbors saw the shocks dotting the hillside, he called to his wife and asked her what the year was. He wondered if we had somehow slipped back in time, when that was how the grain was dried before the threshing took place.
The tradition continued on from year to year; some years bringing inclement weather and few visitors, while other years found us sweltering under a hot sun and fighting the swarms of mosquitoes and flies that persisted in irritating us. The visitors wandered around the equipment, asking questions and shaking their heads in wonder. Many had never seen such a sight.
We began assembling food, and, as is often the custom, bringing a dish to pass. Our parents joined us, sharing tales of long ago, when threshing grain was a way of life and not something to entertain the neighborhood.
Before the days of combines, the threshing crew would travel from farm to farm, setting up the equipment and pounding the kernels from the stalks that had been drying in upright bundles. The farm wife was responsible for providing the meal for the crew. A full meal would be served at noon, including a tasty, enticing dessert. For my mother, it was her chocolate pie, made from scratch and wearing a golden covering of fluffy meringue.
The tradition of the Richmond Thrasharee has continued, the crowds growing each year. This past weekend saw the sixteenth year, with new faces and old coming together to share wisdom, knowledge, friendship, and good eats. What better way to learn a bit a history, savor a few memories, create a colorful quilt block of life.