People say it all the time about their job: “Another day, another dollar.”
Cork Wright means it.
And on Saturday at Missouri Town 1855, the memories came back to the 88-year old farmer when an old tractor kicked a threshing machine into action and the wheat piled up and the straw went flying.
“I was 9 or so and took water to the pitchers (men on threshing crew),” Wright, of Harrisonville, said as he watched the display that was part of Missouri Town’s “An Agricultural Century,” a first-time event to show how farming changed from 1855 to 1955.
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“I got a dollar a day and my dinner and a piece of pie. And sometimes the housewife would give me a second piece of pie for later.”
He smiled at the perk.
Jonathan Klusmeyer, site administrator of Missouri Town 1855, and longtime employee Linda Goin came up with the idea for the special event to show how farming evolved over 100 years.
“We went from oxen and mules to threshing machines and John Deere tractors,” Klusmeyer said.
Goin, like a lot of workers, wore period clothing.
“This dress is pretty much what they wore in 1855, and I got on two petticoats and a corset,” she said. “But I didn’t make any of it. I can train a team of oxen, but I can’t sew a lick.”
It was a day of apple peeling, sheep shearing and a tractor parade. Kids forked straw into a wagon, shelled corn and made butter. They learned the difference between a crock and a churn.
A big draw was the two-man crosscut saw. For a while.
Carmen Puckett of Buckner watched her 5-year-old son, Cadence, work hard on his end of the saw.
“You done?” she finally asked.
“Yeah,” he said.
Draft animals plowed. A blacksmith worked hot iron.
But the threshing machine might have drawn the biggest crowd. It was powered by a Hart-Parr 22-40 tractor that was bought in 1927 by a Paradise, Mo., farmer who had it 50 years.
Paul Allen from Lawson, Mo., owns it now. He’s part of an antique tractor group in Lathrop, Mo., which provided the threshing machine on Saturday.
“Some people probably remember stories of Grandpa working on one of these things,” Allen said.
And when the demonstration was over, a few people huddled around Cork Wright, who, albeit a bit shyly, talked about how he loaded jugs of water on both sides of a little horse named Shorty and the two of them would ride into the fields at threshing time.
He did this 21 straight days until the crews moved on. It was the Great Depression, and the family needed that dollar a day.
“Course we didn’t buy hardly any groceries and my mother made most of our clothes,” Wright said. “But my father smoked a pipe and went through a can of Velvet tobacco a day.
So at 9 years old, Cork Wright was loading jugs of water on a horse and riding into the fields 10 hours a day. Missouri in July and August. Had to be awfully hot work.
Wright looked puzzled at that.
“I don’t remember it being hot,” he said.