Friday, June 25, 2010

Harvesting Memories

I've been around for my share of harvests. In fact, I entered this world at harvest time more than 50 years ago. However, back in 1957, it had rained enough that harvest was momentarily stopped just in time for my arrival into this world. So my Dad didn't even have to get off the combine to take my mom to the hospital.

However, I was not around for the harvest pictured above. I rediscovered the photo when I was digging through a box, looking for some other photos. It was one we brought home from Randy's folks' house. When we were going through all the "stuff" of their lives, we got down to the photos and everyone was tired of sorting.

As an admitted photo fiend, I didn't want to throw them away, so I said I'd take them home and store them until people wanted to go through them and divide the rest of them. That day never came. So here they still sit, taking up space in my basement.

Anyway, with harvest 2010 in full swing, I thought it was perfect timing to find a photo of a harvest from days gone by. I don't know who the people are or the year it was taken. I assume they are some of Randy's relatives. My Grandpa Leonard, who was also a farmer, had a similar photo hanging in his home office in Haskell County.

It does make me thankful for modern equipment. And I also appreciate that I don't have to feed a crew that big. Sure, I have a couple of extra people at the table or gathered around for our impromptu field "picnics." But I count at least nine people in the long-ago harvest crew. That would be a lot of meat and potatoes!

The combine pictured above was owned by my parents. It was a 1957 model, just like me. My Mom and Dad gave all the grandkids a history book several years ago and included family and farm photos and stories. It was a great gift (and one that I haven't yet passed along to my kids. I am storing the books for safekeeping. My sister says her kids have to be 30 before they get their books. I think that's a good idea, since I pull them out all the time and use the photos and information.)

My Dad, who is also a saver, kept sales receipts and other records. I think it's fascinating that a brand new combine had a $6,275 price tag. Let's just say the price for new combines has gone up faster than the price of grain.

In 1964, my sisters and I posed with my Dad in the photo below. I would have been 7. I hadn't debuted as a harvest helper yet, but by this age, I was already driving the pickup in the field while my Dad picked up fence posts. My sister, Lisa, worked the foot pedals on the pickup, since we needed to use the clutch. I do remember it took us a little while to get the hang of it.

Maybe that's why my Dad had me helping in the harvest field at about age 12. I was the oldest child and the first to qualify for harvest duty. I began moving the grain trucks around in the wheat field before I was old enough to make trips to the elevator. After my Dad would make another swath with the combine, I'd move the truck closer so he didn't have to take time driving to the truck. I don't know whether that was really helpful or whether it was a job to get me used to driving the truck.

I can't remember for sure, but I think this old truck was still around the farm when I started, though we had bigger and more modern trucks, too.

When I had my license, I was promoted to a "real" truck driver and took loads of wheat to the Iuka Coop. I remember being coached by my Dad and also by another truck driver named Ed, who taught me the fine points of waiting in line, unrolling the tarp, how to dump the truck and instruction in the fine art of elevator etiquette.

My Dad always said I was a better truck driver than any teenage boy would be. I don't think he was just "saying" that. I know I wasn't whipping the truck around corners to show off, gunning the engine or anything like that.

That's not to say I wasn't trying to impress. I distinctly remember putting on makeup and eye shadow before going to the field for the day. Those cute custom harvesting crew drivers might see me when I got out to unroll the tarp at the coop.

When I think back about that now, I can't help but laugh at myself. I doubt those drivers were looking in my direction - other than to see if it was their turn to drive onto the scales at the elevator. And any efforts to "doll" myself up were probably lost in a cloud of wheat dust anyway.

But I think it's a natural phenomenon among teenage girl truck drivers. I seem to remember a certain truck driver named Jill who was definitely interested in the whole seeing-and-being-seen part of trips to the elevator.

Yes, the truck driving skill was passed down to the next generation here on the County Line. She was all about working on her tan while waiting on Dad to load the truck.

There also was some multi-generational teamwork going on at my childhood farm during Harvest 2010. My Mom took these photos from the Moore family harvest, featuring my nephew Brian as combine driver. My Dad was his personal consultant. My brother kept irrigation systems going, but he happened to be available for a three-generation shot.

The equipment has changed. The technology has changed. But the teamwork to accomplish the harvest is still there. Brian was driving the combine on ground homesteaded by his great-great-great-grandfather. He's the sixth generation to work the Pratt County land.

Randy is the fourth generation of his family to farm in Stafford County.

Brian, Kent & Bob Moore

I'm proud to be part of this century-old tradition on the Kansas plains.

1 comment:

  1. Kim, OK, so I love the memories--tanning while truck driving, easing the clutch as you pulled onto the scales so that you didn't kill it, scratchy wheat stubble against my legs because I didn't want to wear jeans---I wanted a tan! YEs, I think I even wore make-up, at least until the sweat washed it off.

    As for the old photos---I love the old pics--especially if they have ID. Because I have Gladys Fritzemier's old photos, I may be able to help you ID some of yours. BTW, thanks for saving pictorial history. I told my kids, they don't have a be a historian, but if they don't want the old pics, at least take them to the history museum! :>) Shari