Today began like many other harvest days. I woke early to the sound of the mockingbird outside my window, sitting on the television antenna of our home, singing the bob white quail song.
I hurried to the kitchen to begin preparing the days coolers. Each person needs their own cooler, filled with tasty bits of food, enough to fill them up for dinner, supper, and munchies. Since today was moving day, oh joy of joys, I needed one for myself, as well. It’s not that I don’t like moving day, it just always seems to have added stress. While I am thankful for another job, and love working with my family, moving day always seems to take on a life of its own. You’d think by now I’d be used to it!!
My husband, Ronnie, loved harvest, and always did custom harvesting, ever since he came home from Vietnam. We married in 1976, and I fell into harvesting because of him. Our six children, four girls and two boys, grew up in the cab of a tractor or combine. Dan, child number five, says he learned to pray while I was plowing. “O Lord, please help me to get these furrows straight, to keep the plow in the ground, to not get stuck.” I was not a plow-er at heart!
Anyway, today the lunch coolers get hamburgers on buns, cream cheese and turkey on a roll, chips, apples, cottage cheese with tomatoes (their current favorite and daily request), strawberries in strawberry jello, pudding, carrot and red pepper strips, chocolate cookies, Snickers bite-sized candy, a chocolate bar, iced coffee, and cheese sticks. The truck cooler also has eight bottles of grape PowerAde. The five-gallon water cooler on the service truck needs filled with ice and fresh water, as well as the six individual water jugs. Then I get to make breakfast.
I was in a hurry this morning, so it was a simple breakfast of just scrambled eggs, toast and jam, coffee, milk and juice. I left the dishes undone (a big sin, by the way) and hurried out the door. While I was making the food, Dan and Emma (child number six) fed the livestock: two red heeler dogs that love to combine, three house cats, and six outside cats.
They got the trucks ready for the field: the service truck with all the tools, parts, and fuel trailer hooked up to fuel the combines and tractor; the semi-truck and grain trailer, and the pickup I drove, pulling the two combine heads. After eating, we leave, going west about thirty miles to our next farmers’ fields. We meet our help, Liz, (daughter number four), and her children, Elizabeth, 9, and her brother, Leslie, 7, at the field. We leave the semi, service truck, and Liz’s pickup, and travel southeast fifty miles, to where the combines and tractor/grain cart are parked. We finished up there last night.
Those three kids (not kids anymore, but kids of mine) serviced them before leaving the field. They filled them with fuel, cleaned the windows and cabs, and greased every zerk on the combines and heads, cleaned out the radiator shields of straw and field debris, and parked them in a nice neat, even row facing the morning sun, another lesson Ronnie taught us all. We all pitch in to hook up the header trailer to my pickup, get the combine’s oil and radiator fluids checked, move them to the trailer, and unhook the headers. Then they need to be strapped down. Leslie even knows how to do that job. Little Elizabeth is not feeling too perky today: she really sunburned her shoulders and back playing on Father’s Day.
Then, a quick conference beside the road as to the order of combines, tractor/grain cart, and pickup/headers, and the route. Then, we get “on the road, again” as Willie Nelson always sings: it is our theme song. We begin our trek back to where we left the semi, and the service truck. While it seems like many miles to travel in the combines and tractor, it is much faster to road them rather than load them on a semi and trailer to move them. That would take three trips, and two hours each load to load and unload them, plus the two back drives from the next location. Leslie rides with Dan and Elizabeth rides with me today. They both start on their lunch boxes, going for the cottage cheese and jello first!
Anyway, we made it there just after lunch, about one, I think. Mike, our farmer, met us as we began to get the heads on each combine. His mom, the lookout, had informed him we passed her house! Dan and Emma got right to work, opening up the field, Liz positioned the tractor and grain cart, then she and I took the header trailer to the yard, and retrieved the service truck , returning to the field with it, just in case of needed repairs. We are just in time for Liz to grab the tractor and grain cart to catch Dan and Emma’s full loads of wheat, unloading on the go.
Dan will move to the semi as soon as it is full, and Liz will combine then. I am now free to go home. The two little ones opt to stay in the field, and I head for home. I decide to stop at the grocery store; we are out of buns, Powerade, carrots, peppers, and cottage cheese and tomatoes. I know it is a bad time for the grocery store. I prefer to go in the mornings, not four in the afternoon, but otherwise I won’t have enough food for the coolers tomorrow!
Just as I am about to check out, I get a call from Dan. Will I meet him at the elevator twenty-five miles from home? He has on his sunglasses, and needs his regular glasses. After it gets dark, he will be unable to see with the dark glasses on! Therefore, off I go to meet him.
Perfect timing, we get to the elevator at the same time. I turn and head for home, he and Leslie to unload the wheat. I arrive home to unload my groceries, put them away, and do my breakfast dishes. Good timing, it is only six in the evening!
I need to make some more jello, thaw some meat for lunches the day after tomorrow, some breakfast sausage, make my refrigerator muffins for the morning, and do some laundry. By any luck, I will be done about the time they get home, probably about eleven! We all love it, Ronnie taught us well. Hope he knows what we are doing. I miss him. (My husband of thirty-four years died unexpectedly December 7, 2010. We harvest now because we love it too!)