VIEW FROM THE HILL

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN PAUL PENNER
For farmers and their families, wheat harvest is a busy time of the year. The nine-month-long wheat production cycle is at an end.

My earliest memories of wheat harvest go back to the time when a combine was not the modern marvel we have today. It took teams of men and machines to cut, bundle and stack the grain in wagons that moved the bundles to the stationary thresher.

Another group of men would feed the bundles into the separator. A smaller crew loaded the grain into trucks or wagons and hauled it to an elevator or the farmer’s wooden granary.

As a child, I could not go near the thresher, let alone help bring in the wheat. In retrospect, perhaps that was a good thing. This was back-breaking work. Air conditioned cabs and touch-of-the-button command of all harvesting functions of the combine, let alone the combine itself, were to come along years later.

The best part of harvest, however, was at noon, when all the men would come in, wash up and sit down to a hearty meal and visit as time allowed. The men of the harvest crew ate first, while we kids waited our turn in line.

While in high school and college, I earned money for college by working for a custom harvester. We began cutting in Texas and finished in Montana, not far from the Canadian border.

The best memories from those days were of meeting new people and touring the countryside on days when the rains or green wheat halted the harvest for a short while.

One year, we cut wheat not far from where Gen. George Custer’s troops perished at Little Big Horn.

Another time, we went to Cheyenne’s Frontier Days Rodeo. Another year gave us the opportunity to spend some well-deserved days off in the Rocky Mountains along the Montana and Wyoming border.

Ordinary days often stand out as well. One night in Enid, Okla., our crew of eight went to a movie at the local drive-in theater. Our night off was cut short by a sudden downpour, compounded with hail and lightning.

Imagine the challenge that confronted us. Eight grown men arrived at the theater in one vehicle-three people in the cab and five riding in the back. Eight grown men now had to leave the premises in the same vehicle. There were no cell phones to call for backup transportation, no early warning radar to give us advance notice.

Imagine trying to escape the rain and hail, not to mention the lightning, with no other available shelter. Imagine eight wet men in the cab of the truck and the uncomfortable drive to shelter.

At every stop along the harvest run, farm families and custom harvester families were long-time friends. These relationships often spanned years and decades.

Harvest was a time not only to gather in the grain, but also to renew friendships and make new friends.

At one stop, I met a craftsman in Otis, Colo. He made musical instruments for a popular country and western musician.

The harvest season is also a time when non-farm siblings and friends come home to help with the effort and be together once again.

The tradition of renewing friendships continues today.

This past Sunday, our children, Ben and friend Anna, Jessica and Dave, and wife Deborah and I celebrated the renewal of family ties and the start of the new harvest season.

More from article archives
Marion boys travel a hard road against a tough field
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ANDREW JOST The Marion boys came away empty handed after...
Read More