The boy stood watching as the man pitched bundles of wheat onto the belt that went up to the mouth of the threshing machine. He had just been tricked into giving up the pitchfork.
Earlier that morning the boy had fallen through a hole in the hayrack bed. He knew that the man had seen his step-father leap across the conveyor belt to pull him up before his leg got caught in the machinery. The bundles on the wagon floor had covered the hole. He had stepped on a bundle while pitching another onto the belt for its trip, heads first, up to the threshing machine separator.
“Is that a new pitchfork?” he had said.
“Yes, we just got it at the Co-op.”
“Let me see it,” the man had said, and when he handed it to him, he knew it was a trick. He had not wanted to have help unloading the wagon filled with wheat bundles, but the man, Raymond Renzelman, was Albert’s brother.
Raymond had his shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows, the way all the farmers did, and the boy watched the brown forearms as he tossed the bundles quickly into the conveyor. His arms must be twice the size of my own, he thought. He was just about as tall as Raymond now but probably weighed about half as much. It was July and hot and he had turned thirteen in February when it was cold.
He had not been frightened when he fell earlier in the day. He did not yell for help. He felt slightly embarrassed but not scared. The fear had come later when he thought about what could have happened. Fear was like that, he thought, it came be-fore or after but not during. He had been sure he could get out of the mess by him-self. He was willing to suffer a bit of pain to avoid the looks of others. But he was glad to have the help, and after being pulled up he had turned away and mumbled a “thanks” before getting right back to the work at hand.
Only a few farmers still used a threshing machine . Albert Renzelman had decided to bind his quarter section of wheat and to thresh it because he wanted the straw pile for his cattle. Almost everyone now had a self-propelled combine. One man could run the combine. But there was no straw pile at the end because the straw was spread out on the field in a wide swath or in a narrow windrow for baling later with a baler.