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P.O. Box 7
Watson, MN 56295

(320) 269-8543

Chapter 7


The homesteaders had to do much of the work on their farms in the mose primitive ways. Too many of them had no money whatsoever to buy farm machinery and farm implements with even those who had a little money could not get to town whenever they needed to like farmers can now. When the nearest towns were Litchfield and New Ulm and there was nothing but oxen to drive with, it was not always so convenient to go shopping. Hence they made a lot of crude but serviceable farm implements at home. Quite a lot of grain was harvested with scythes to begin with, and most of the sowing was for many years done by broadcasting the seed grain in the field by hand. 

In order to smash, break, or smoothen the coarse sod, in the newly broken up fields, in preparation for seeding many at first used home made split log drags and others used harrows made out of poles and brush. The first breaking plows used were clumsy affairs too, compared to what came in market later, but they gradually worked up more and more land with these primitive implements. Of course when the longing for some real farm implement grew great enough they were not afraid to take a trip to town even in those days, and that is how O. E. Slotte, a bachelor uncle of A. E. Lyngen in the summer of 1869 walked to New Ulm and bought himself a pitchfork and walked right back home to his dugout again, and this fork he displayed with at great deal ot pride pretty near as long as he lived. On another occasion a, little later, the same summer, he ran completely out of chewing tobacco, the bachelor's sole comfort, and then he also set out afoot, but this time he aimed for Litchfield, His aim was not correct, however, for he reached a little store, in what is now New London, without seeing anything of Litchfield. And it is a good thing he found that store or he might have gone to Boston. After buying a couple pounds of chewing tobacco he walked cheerfully home again a happy bachelor.

Ole Hauglands dropper was possibly the earliest make of harvesting machine used by anyone in the Watson community territory. On a reasonable sized field it required at least four men to "tie stations." That means the machine cut like a mower and some wooden slats studded with nails gathered the straws into bundles; the discharging device discharged these loose bundles just as promptly as any modern grain binder does, but with this difference that the dropper dropped its bundles right into its own path, so four men had to be tying the bundles and removing them from the dropper's next path on one side of the field while the dropper was cutting on the other side of the field.

Ole Waldum bought a self raker harvester from George Crane who had started in as machinery agent - the first machinery agent in the community. There were several makes of self-rakers on the market, but some of them were no more efficient than the dropper just mentioned because they too did not discharge the loose bundles far enough to one side. Both the dropper and self raker harvesters were take down, dual purpose. machines. They cut the same width of swaths as the earliest mowers, somewhere around four feet, and they were used as mowers when the self raking and dropper attachments were taken off. - Paul Golie, John B. Oyen and Iver Restum used a self-raker that they owned jointly.

Then George Crane sold John B. Oyen a Mars Harvester. It was the earliest Mars harvester ln the Watson community territory. But it proved such a great improvement on the harvesters used before that in a very short while pretty near every settler had his own indvidual Mars harvester. The Mars harvester was almost exactly like an ordinary grain binder without the bundle shaping and binding attachments. The loose grain bundles slid out on a table. Two men standing on a platform lower than this table tied the bundles with great speed and expertly with bands they fashioned out of handfuls of grain straw.

Each settlers had about this time from 40 to 50 acres in field and each one pretty near had to buy his own harvester whether he liked it or not. Because no human being, no matter how expert, could fashion a bundle tie out of grain straw in the middle of a hot harvest day when the grain straw was so dry that it broke and powdered up in his hands. Hence they all had to do most of their grain cutting and bundle tying either early in the morning when the dew was on the straw, or towards sunset and into the night when the straw again got damp from dew. And that is undoubtedly where those venerable pioneers got into the habit of getting up so confounded early in the morning and staying in the fields so late at night that it was almost impossible for a willing worker to keep up with their long hours.

The droppers and self-rakers, equipped only with metal and wood conveyors for the grain straw, always threshed out too much of the grain in a field that was dead ripe. The Mars harvester did not do so. It was one of the greatest steps ever taken ln the improvement of harvesting machinery even though it did not include the modern bundle tying device.

The Mars harvesters too were mostly hauled by oxen, but most settlers traded off their oxen for serviceable teams of horses as fast as any opportunity presented itself. The breaking or training of steers, to driving so that they would work with wooden bows and the beam known as an ox-yoke around their neck was not much easier than training a team of bronchoes, remarked an old pioneer, but he added that it made a lot of difference whether the ox teamster or the oxen were the most stubborn and persistent. But the consensus of opinion of the pioneers who had been ox teamsters seemed to be that the oxen were as a rule contrary brutes, more stubbornly self-assertive than the horses are.

They did an enormous amount of heavy hauling with oxen in pioneer days. The Conestoga Emigrant Wagons, or real "Prairie Schooners" on which the wagon box was shaped somewhat like a flat bottomed boat, carried some thousands of loads of valuable freight and human lives when hauled by no other tractor power but yokes of oxen clear across the North American continent from coast to coast. Millions of acres of the best North American agricultural soil were first turned over by the breaking plows pulled by the sturdy yokes of oxen alone. And billions of tons of grub-roots and billions of tons of rock have been hauled off from timber land and other lands so as to make them fit for agriculture with no other power than that supplied by the contrary brutes known as yoke oxen.

But, for joy-riding behind oxen well, we can remember a ride we lads had with Hans Nelson our neighbor. Nelson owned a yoke of oxen which was probably the last yoke of working cattle used in Chipnewa county. Nelson was going to Kitchell's flour mill then doing business on what is now the Edward Solseth farm. We lads boarded his slowly moving lumber wagon somewhere west of the Oyen farm home. Nelson was sitting on a spring seat on the wagon box and all he had to steer the oxen with was a lariat sized rope appended to the horns of one of the brutes, but he held a wicked looking whip in one hand. We had climbed on top of some wheat sacks in the wagon box and were watching the oxen loaf along and were enjoying a long ride while the conveyance went first south to circumvent a pasture fence, and then turned east towards the river. We were approaching a descent from a hill while thinking about how turtle slow those cattle were, for we had never rode behind anything slower than horses, when something happend.

BrrooUrf! voiciferated one of the bovines and with that we must have shifted into high. There were some awful dislocating jerks so that we tumbled off from the wheat sacks into the bottom of the wagon box, while we saw Nelson fall out of his spring seat into the bottom of his wagon box much after the manner of a duck going under water. There was a terrible commotion in bouncing, jolting, rattling and uproar going on in and about that poor old lumber wagon, while we saw against the horizon ox-tails wafting high while their owners were streaking it down that hill at a furious gallop. But, all of a sudden those brutes stopped just as abruptly as they had started and when we were able to sit up and look they had lowered their dumb heads and were grazing very peacefully and innocent like. But we did not stop to visit any more with them. We jumped out of that wagon and went home as fast as we could, even forgetting to say, Thanks for the ride.

Chapter 8
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