Thrashin’ Time takes us back to autumn days in North Dakota in 1912, when farmers worked the land with sturdy draft horses and a new-fangled machine called the steam traction engine. The story opens with young Peter’s first look at the engine— blue boiler and red wheels, puffing smoke and hissing steam, gears spinning and rods stroking back and forth— and old Mr. Torgrimson’s wise prediction: “You know, Peter, you’re witnessing the beginning of real scientific farming.”
This is Peter’s own story of how he and his little sister Anna learned to farm, and how it all changes the day Mr. Parker’s steam-threshing rig rumbles onto their place. All the neighbors come to help, and so does Aunt Mavis with her recipe for buffalo-berry pie and her stories about the children’s pioneer Norwegian grandparents. Threshing begins when the engine’s whistle awakens the threshers, bundle pitchers, and wagon teams, and calls them to work in the darkness long before dawn. While the men thresh the grain, the women and girls prepare five meals a day for a horde of hungry threshermen. The end of the workday comes only when darkness falls again. For Peter and Anna summer brings long days of hard work, reunion with family and friends, and some sadness too.
Beyond this tale of Peter and his family is the story of steam power on the American farm. It was the steam traction engine— the first farm “tractor”— that plowed America’s vast prairie grasslands and threshed the fields of wheat stretching to the horizons. Thrashin’ Time is about growing up on a farm in the midst of fundamental change, but even more it is a tribute in words and pictures to America’s farm families and a long-gone way of life.