The Seasonal Almanac: Life on an Amish Threshing Crew

The Seasonal Almanac covers astronomical events and nature, including life on an Amish threshing crew at Gideon Stoltzfus's farm.

| December 1996/January 1997

  • 159-014-01
    You are seeing, through my eyes, my first morning of threshing on Gideon Stoltzfus's farm, where I had threshed before for two seasons before taking a year's sabbatical.

  • 159-014-01

The Seasonal Almanac shares astronomical events in December 1996 and January 1997. This issue includes a study of life on an Amish threshing crew. 

Picture yourself seated high atop a massive load of wheat straw on a wagon driven by a nine-year-old boy and pulled by two draft horses, muscles rippling and coats dark with sweat in the heat of a sultry June morning. The wagon, perched at the top of an escarpment dividing highlands from low on a cattle farm, is about to descend. Far below, you see freshly painted farm buildings and human figures and horses and mechanisms flickering in the collective endeavor of a wheat harvest.

A long eroded gully that is supposed to pass for a farmer's lane stretches in front of you, winding its way down the hillside until it appears to make a sharp right turn at a barbed wire fence. The declivity is so steep and the surface so curvy and pitted, it seems better suited as a slalom ski run than a passageway for a rickety straw wagon.

You are seeing, through my eyes, life on an Amish threshing crew: my first morning of threshing on Gideon Stoltzfus's farm, where I had threshed before for two seasons before taking a year's sabbatical.

Swoosh! I grab onto my hat as I feel the supports falling out from under me. The boy, Mervin, is yelling, "You can't stop 'em when we get down there so you jus' have to let 'em go!" I am vaguely aware of large objects—fence posts—going "boing" as they alternately enlarge and recede in my vision. As momentum builds, the galloping horses seem to be tumbling: 3,000 pounds of bone, muscle, sinew, and hoof in avalanche. The straw is about as solid as air, and levitates disconcertingly with each bounce. I am flowing down the hill with it.

I see the barbed wire getting close and shut my eyes. I feel myself lurching leftward as the wagon rounds the right turn, and I seem to hang out over the edge dangerously—then settle in place again. My eyes open as we land in an open field across from the barnyard. Mervin's hat flies up on the last ascent, and he catches it with one hand without losing hold of the reins. Spitting straw out of my mouth, I slither down the steep pile (still mostly in place, miraculously) and stride over to a half-full wagon where the crew is reassembling for another load, led by two fresh horses. Shocks of grain, jagged and glinting, surround me. I grab my pitchfork and am about to say something when, once again, Elbert cuts me off.

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