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Voyageur's Best Features of 2003

Family 'restores' tradition

Family ‘restores’ tradition
Paul Johnson bought a threshing machine
by John Grones  |  September 16, 2003

It was just by accident that the threshing show Paul Johnson had in mind landed on the 100 year celebration for Cromwell. In fact, Paul didn’t even know there was such a celebration until three weeks prior to Harvest Festival. All Paul knew was that he wanted to purchase a threshing machine and introduce his sons, grandson, nieces and nephews to a family tradition.

And he did just that.

The Johnson family threshing event was held at the Paul and Deb Johnson farm 11 miles south of Cromwell on Sat., Sept. 6 at 2:00. Family, friends and neighbors showed up to help or just watch the tradition. Shocks, or bundles of oats littered the five-acre field and three wagons were used to gather the shocks to be loaded in the threshing machine. Right behind the threshing machine a binder rolled straw into bales.

Many of the workers included Johnsons, relatives and neighbors. There must have been 30 or so that pitched in to help out. A couple of men from Mahtowa even showed up with a horse-drawn wagon to help out.

The process moved right along as the chaff floated about on a light breeze. There wasn’t a glich, thanks in large part to careful planning and preparation by Paul, his two brothers, Walt and Ray, and his nephew, Roger Delacey.

The idea for the whole event came about last year when the Johnson brothers first talked about getting a threshing machine. Their first step was to find one. It wasn’t until Paul ran into Tom Nistler one day that their wish came true. “I mentioned to Tom Nistler that I was looking for a thresher one day, and he said, ‘I know where there is one, and he might sell it.’” He was referring to his father-inlaw, Art Aho.

The thresher was in Art’s barn and it was in the neighborhood. It was also in excellent condition and the only restoration that was needed was the replacement of a chaffer screen. Once the threshing machine was purchased, transported and restored, the rest was easy. Paul and his brothers just needed to just get busy and re-enact their childhood memories. They planted oats in the spring and when the harvest was ready, they cut them with a binder and stood them up in bunches, a process called shocking. This occurred three weeks prior to the big day.

Art, the previous owner of the threshing machine, was on hand and the smile on his face revealed his joy that it was again in use. “It was just sitting in my barn,” said Art. He commented that it was running smoothly. The threshing machine has a history that goes back to 1948. It was first sold to the Turtinen family by Hongisto Implement in Cloquet. It was then passed on to Walt Matsen before Art bought it. Art traveled around the area threshing the neighbors grain for about 10 years.

Just like the Johnsons, Art felt it was a lot of fun. They all agree that it was a chance to work and fellowship together. “I haven’t seen this many people gathered around a threshing machine in years,” concluded Art.

All-in-all, it was a rewarding day, especially for Paul and his family. The question remained if this might become an annual celebration. Paul grinned and was not ready to commit. Whether he does or not, it was evident, he was just glad he had the opportunity to ‘restore’ an old tradition, and fellowship with friends and family.

This article first appeared in the September 16, 2003 issue of the Voyageur Press.