On all sides now the wagons of the plowmen or threshers were getting out into the fields, with a pounding, rumbling sound. The pale red sun was shooting light through the leaves, and warming the boles of the great oaks that stood in the yard, and melting the frost off the great gaudy threshing machine that stood between the stacks.
The wind was as hot as if from a blast-furnace; the air was thick and oppressive; the light of day was growing dim. Kurt, mounted on the seat of one of the combine threshers, surveyed with rapid and anxious gaze all the points around him, and it lingered over the magnificent sweep of golden wheat.
At the supper the Old Man gets twice as large a portion of the food as the others. The proceedings are similar at threshing; the person who gives the last stroke is said to have the Old Man. At the supper given to the threshers he has to eat out of the cream-ladle and to drink a great deal.
In taking this course I save the expense of the weed-grubbers, who gain money, of the reapers in harvest-time, who drink lustily, and without water, of gleaners, who will expect their cakes and bannocks, of threshers, who leave no garlic, scallions, leeks, nor onions in our gardens, by the authority of Thestilis in Virgil, and of the millers, who are generally thieves, and of the bakers, who are little better.
We lived out of doors, following the threshers from farm to farm, eating under an oak tree and sleeping on the fragrant straw-piles. I was also the butt of about the wildest lot of jokers ever assembled. They were good-natured, but it was their concerted effort to see how much I could stand in the way of highly flavored stories at mealtime.
If the threshers catch him they handle him roughly, beating him, blackening or dirtying his face, throwing him into filth, binding the Sow on his back, and so on; if the bearer of the Sow is a woman they cut off her hair. At the harvest supper or dinner the man who "carried the Pig" gets one or more dumplings made in the form of pigs.
At such times he got his dinner at Doty's, for it was the rule then that you always had to feed your help, no matter who they were, just as you feed the threshers and harvesters and silo-men now. About this time, James began to put bear's grease on his unruly shock of yellow hair, and tried to part it and bring it down in a nice smooth pat on the side. That's a sure sign!
Usually the farmers' wives and daughters in the valleys and on the hillsides vied with each other as to heaping food before the threshers ... every morning saw mountains of pancakes ... bacon ... eggs ... ham ... beefsteak ... we laboured like giants, ate like hogs, slept like senseless stocks. I climbed to my bed in the haymow that first night. It was chill enough for the use of my blanket.
So they made pies and cakes and bread until their cupboards were full; and surely enough the threshers did come with the threshing-machine, which was painted red, and went "Puff! puff! puff! rattle! rattle!" all the time. And the proud wheat was threshed out by it, and found itself in grains again and very much out of breath.
Their weapons, swords, and spears flew about in the air, crossing and recrossing continually in all directions, like the flails of threshers in an immense barn; and the rage of each of these fiends seemed exclusively directed against Jesus that grain of heavenly wheat descended to the earth to die there, in order to feed men eternally with the Bread of Life.