Scripture:Blessed is the man who does not walk in the way of
the wicked. . . (he) yields . . . fruit in season. Not so
the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Psalm 1: (exerpts
from vss. 1, 3, 4, NIV)
Up on the hill sits a big, red bull;
He eats and eats, and never gets full.
What is it?
If you knew
that the answer to this riddle is “a threshing machine,” you have just dated
yourself into the first half of the 20th century, and into an agricultural
setting. The most awesome display of brute power in the early 1900’s was
probably the steam locomotive, but the machine the average farm boy could
experience up close was the threshing machine. Combined with the tractor
to power it, a small boy was likely in total awe of this monster of the harvest.
Threshing is the final step in the harvest, separating
the grain from the plant upon which it grew. The dried grain stalks are
called straw; the protective coverings which held the kernels of grain are
cast aside, and are known as chaff.
The threshing crew would arrive as if celebrating with
a great parade. Few farmers could afford such equipment just for their own
use, so threshing became a neighborhood project. A dozen or more farmers
would participate, going from farm to farm until everyone’s grain had been
harvested. The thresher and tractor would arrive, followed by men with teams
and wagons to haul the bundled grain from the fields. Still others would
come, bearing a long-handled pitchfork, with which to lift the bundles, or
sheaves, onto the wagons.
The thresher had to be positioned, leveled, and coupled
to the tractor by a long leather loop of belting. The driver would maneuver
the tractor back and forth until both machines were in perfect alignment,
lest the belt would run off the pulleys. The conveyor that fed the grain
into the thresher folded up for travel. It would be extended out in front
of the machine, and locked into position. The opposite end of the thresher
contained a big fan, coupled to a long tube that would direct the straw and
chaff to an area chosen to become a “straw pile.” What an exciting moment
when all is ready!
All day long the wagons would shuttle to and fro, loaded
to the groaning point with the sheaves which had been drying in the field.
Carefully loaded into the thresher, grain heads first, the grain was flailed
from the stalks, and then separated from the straw and chaff by sieves and
fans, which shook and rattled in a cacophony of marvelous complexity.
A steady flow of grain poured forth, destined for storage in bins in the
granary. The straw and chaff piled up into a golden mountain, which would
become bedding for the livestock during the coming winter.
The women were not left out of this community celebration
of the harvest. They also traveled from farm to farm, preparing such meals
as you can scarcely imagine. So, of course, the children went along. The
excitement of the visit by the threshing crew truly involved the entire community!
Hard work, yes, but what a marvelous testimony to community and God’s gift
of the harvest.
Those who have such an intimate knowledge of the harvest
process readily understand the meaning of the 1st Psalm. Visions of
the chaff flying out of that monstrous machine leave no doubt
as to the difference between grain and chaff, between good and evil, nor of
the fate that awaits at the final harvest!
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