Thursday, June 25, 2015

Harvesting Memories: Take Two

A note from Kim:  I have been having some internet issues the past few days, so I am reposting a blog from 2010, the first year of Kim's County Line. Television isn't the only thing with re-runs these days.

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 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. 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.
Brian, Kent & Bob Moore
Randy is the fifth generation of his family to farm in Stafford County. I'm proud to be part of this century-old tradition on the Kansas plains.

More from Harvest 2015 is sure to come.


  1. I just now found your blog...from Robyn over at the Ranch Wife Chronicles. Love it! I really enjoy hearing all about farming in different part of the country. (my brother in law is from Sharon Springs KS...way out west) My hubby also worked a summer on the wheat harvest with a guy out of Inman. I see on the map that's not too far from where you are! Our son also just visited Hesston College back in April. It is indeed a small, small world! Looking forward to reading more about your farm and family! And happy birthday! :)

    1. Welcome, Alica! We actually have friends at Sharon Springs - Craig & Inga Sloan. Craig and my husband were FarmHouse brothers at Kansas State, and they were candlelighters at our wedding 34 years ago. Yes, Inman is within a hour of us. We drive by it on our way to Manhattan/K-State, and one of our former Stafford school administrators now works for the Inman school district.

      Is your son thinking about Hesston College? I hope he (and you!) enjoyed your visit to the Sunflower State! Thanks again for visiting the County Line!