Love these photos today. This is oat threshing in the Amish community at Carroll County, Tennessee. You hear it pronounced “thrashing” as well. For some time I thought that was the official spelling. But I think that might just be the Amish accent (I’m actually partial to “thrashing”).
These photos were taken by Brenda, who previously brought us scenes from a laundry day in the same community. Brenda got permission to shoot this community’s “Oat Thrashing Day” last week, which she says involved around 50 men.
These first four photos, however, were shot about a month ago, after the oats were cut, shocked, and left to dry.
Threshing is the process of separating the edible part of a grain from the chaff. In English America this has been mass-mechanized. Amish have kept the horse. That means more labor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, is it?
One thing for certain: this is hard work. “The little pony with the cart and wagon behind, had 6 little boys, age 3 – 7, and they were the ‘water boys’,” Brenda explains. “They would take the big water cooler out in the field for the ones loading the wagons.”
“I could have stood and watched for hours, however the heat index was 113 degrees, and not my kind of weather.”
Amish threshing rings are made up of small groups of men who rotate among farms to do the job. The threshing ring embodies the strong Amish ethos of cooperation and mutual aid.
Changes in Amish work patterns have disintegrated this practice, however. As Amish have moved from farm to shop and factory, threshing rings are no longer needed. In “Lunch Pails and Factories” (See The Amish Struggle With Modernity p. 177), Thomas Meyers quotes an Amishwoman: “when people earn a lot of money they think that they can take care of themselves and don’t really need others. Our community used to have a bond.”
Threshing rings remain among farmers, however. And Amish do plenty of other cooperative jobs. The various work frolics involve Amish from all occupations, both men and women. However they may not occur with the same predictable regularity as threshing does.