There was no shortage of blue sky and sunshine as I left the house and headed out to the Eau Claire Clipper. At seven-forty-five, after completing my pre-trip, I hit the road. The Clipper is no speed demon but I was prepared and settled into the relaxing drive to the Bar U Ranch for the Eau Claire Distillery’s annual thrashing bee. Dale and Sean were ten minutes behind me with the thrashing machine and bundle rack but I knew they’d be there before me, probably calling to see if I was going to be there today.
I pulled in to the Bar U at about an hour and a half later and sure enough they had the thrashing machine and the bundle rack unloaded already and by the way, I did get the aforementioned phone call to find out where the heck I was. I stopped to say hello to Dave Farran, he had his four black percherons tied to his trailer and was in the process of grooming and harnessing them. After a few words with Dave I headed out to the field and backed the trailer under the grain spout of our McCormick-Deering separator. Then we all headed into the Bar U Interpretation Centre for quick breakfast before starting the day’s work.
Photos by TS Lane, on Flickr.
We used two 1940’s era thrashing machines, ours and the Bar U’s. Power was supplied by the Bar U’s 1960-era Case and a 1944 Farm All M belonging to Bar U’s Patrick Davis. Dave Farran brought his two teams, Serge and Stephanie Laitre brought their team and rack, Dean Sundquist hauled down two of Brett Fulford’s two racks and the Bar U’s Ross Fritz had Smudge and Licorice hooked to our rack. We got started shortly after eleven and things went along smoothly, there was no shortage of forks or forkers. We broke about one o’clock to make and enjoy some horse made ice cream. As I sat and looked out at the stooks still standing in the field I thought, “We still have a long way to go.” Joe Jeffray who was sitting at the same table had read my mind and said, “I think you guys are going to be tomorrow,” but that wasn’t really an option as there was rain in the forecast for the following day.
Photo by Heather Kirk.
Well, we headed back to the field and Dean had obviously had the same thought as he threw down the gauntlet to the other teamsters by bringing in a huge load of bundles, probably the largest I have ever seen. The other teamsters picked up Dean’s gauntlet and followed suit. Next thing I knew it was five-thirty and the last bundle had been put through the thrasher. All we had left to do was load up and head to Eau Claire in Turner Valley for supper and a taste of the delicious elixirs they create. My wife Linda was riding with me and as we were about to leave, Faye Sundquist flagged us down to give us some of her mighty fine homemade jam. We were second last in the convoy and Sean was following behind us. The trailer was right full and when we hit the first hill I thought, “Oh yeah, this is going to be a long ride home tonight.” After we made it up the hill on the north end of Longview, we were able to make a little better time. I got a little head start on things before we started the climb through Hartel and had just about made it to the top of the hill when I noticed Sean had pulled out and was flashing his lights at me. I was almost out of gears so I pulled over and he ran up to the truck and said, “Your trailer brakes are on fire!.” I thought, “Yeah right!” I got out to have a look and he wasn’t kidding, the brakes on the driver’s side were indeed on fire. I went back to the truck and told Linda to get out and stand in the ditch some distance away from the truck. By that time the brakes on the other side were in flames and not knowing how things were going to end up, I grabbed my camera and iPad out of the truck. When I took them over to Linda for safekeeping she admonished me for not bringing Faye’s jam. At one point I looked over to the fence on the other side of the ditch and saw a row of fourteen plus faces as a herd of cattle were lined up along the fence watching the proceedings.
By this time Linda had gotten word to the distillery and the next thing I knew the Turner Valley Fire Department was on the scene followed closely but the Longview Fire Department. Things were given a healthy dose of water and luckily the brakes had released so I was able to limp into Turner Valley where we were able to park the truck until the brakes are repaired.
After a short visit to the distillery were we were revived with a bite to eat, we caught a ride home rolling into our driveway at around eleven-thirty. As Linda and I sat in our living room enjoying a night cap and reflecting on the day’s events I couldn’t help thinking how ironic it was that it was the newest piece of equipment in our arsenal that gave us the most trouble. Go figure!
Thanks to all who helped make this year’s “adventure” such a success. And, as always, we’re looking forward to tasting the fruits of our labour at Eau Claire Distillery.