What is it about harvest time that makes the heart grow fond? Without a doubt it can be a frantic and worry some time. Especially if the machinery and weather do not cooperate. But in all the rush there are the moments when world seems at peace.
I did not grow up on the farm. I grew up in a town of 16,000 or so. But my grandpa had a cattle and crop farm in the small hamlet of Gorham Kansas on the Russell-Ellis County line. My earliest memory of harvest is riding on the arm rest of Grandpa’s Gleaner G. My uncle’s cannot believe I even remember that time. Can’t tell you where we were cutting but I sure remember that combine with the auger fixed in the unload position and the water cooler on top of the cab.
Growing up in Great Bend Kansas we lived on Sherman Street, a block from the K96/156/56 junction which at the time was a harvester gateway. Once school was out my friends and I would be carousing around the neighborhood and the unmistakable sound of a C series Chevy grain truck downshifting would catch my attention. In seconds I would jump on my bike and ride to the ball diamond next to the junction and watch the cutters lumber south. Right after the fourth of July the process would reverse itself.
From the times spent helping grandpa in the summer to summer jobs working on farms wheat harvest has been my favorite time of year. But what is it about harvest? Wheat harvest itself can be miserable. I spent most of my time hauling wheat. The trucks were not air conditioned, people would leave windows down so the cab would fill up with chaff to later blow around the cab while driving to town, it was not uncommon for temperatures to be 100+ degrees, the Kansas wind can blow 30+ miles per hour each day, it is dirty, noisy and combine drivers can be downright rude while waiting on the truck to return.
But each harvest and even to this day, when I am not directly involved anymore, once wheat harvest is over and all that is left is stubble I feel a bit let down. Almost like a signal that we are half way through summer. Tracy Zeorian in her great blog titled Nebraska Wheatie summarized it well during harvest 2012 as she and her husband moved equipment from their stop in Oklahoma to Kansas.
“I know I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll mention it again. Harvest towns take on a different “feel” when harvest is over. The hustle, bustle that harvest brings is gone. The town has settled down to its normal daily activity. The talk inside the café had even switched from wheat and harvest to something completely different. It made me want to move on, catch up with the harvest and be a part of that world again!” Read the whole blog post here
That is so true for me too. There is nostalgia, a romance, around wheat harvest I’ve never been able to explain. Much like that best friend or family member we all love to see and regret leaving. There is something very organic about seeing the vast landscape change from dark green, to lighter green to gold. The machines, dust, heat, and the people all working to accomplish a common goal. It is something beautiful to see each year.