Friday, June 26, 2009

Wheat Harvest (Times two)

Author's Note: This is probably going to be a little long.... don't say I didn't warn you.

Where to start, hmmm.... I suppose I should start at the beginning. My great-grandfather staked a claim to a farm in the
Cherokee Strip Land Run of 1893 near that of his brothers. (Too far back?) OK, let's fast forward a bit, so my parents have a ranch/farm. Growing up, initially there was more emphasis on the "farm" bit and now more on the "ranch (distinction being growing crops versus growing animals). Their primary crop was wheat in the farm years, along with some cows, alfalfa, hay, etc... In my early years, wheat harvest lasted for weeks as they moved slowly from field to field. As a kid it was a great celebration. There was lots of playing in the trucks filled with wheat, trips to the elevator, food served on the backs of pickups, amazing sights, sounds and smells of summer. (It was also very hot, very dirty and very long days with lots of breaking down, but kids don't focus on that).

Now, harvest is limited to about 150 acres let's say. They do it mostly out of nostalgia I think as it is not that profitable in Oklahoma with its very red soil as the yeilds are much lower than furhter north and the investment required (time, energy,
resources, machinery, etc) is quite high. This year, they bought a "new" combine that I think might be from the 1970s.

We had been anticipating harvest for some time and it finally began rather tentatively on June 12th. As luck would have it, we were already up visiting so Uncle Able got to take B on his very first combine ride. It was rather short lived as the wheat wasn't ripe and they were still figuring out the mechanics of the new machine, but probably all a small boy could want. He joined us after to watch them mechanic, pull out the straw that was stuck and enjoy sitting on the nearby hay bales (some awesome pictures of that actually). Then retired to the airconditioned pick up with Mama and Grandma for some spicy peanuts before heading in. Definitely had the heat, dirt and smells of true harvest on a small scale.

Several days later, on the 15th we got the call that Harvest was coming for real the next day. So, B and I loaded up and headed to the farm. (This is the beauty of working online I can do it whenever, wherever I am so we can do things like this). It, of course, took awhile to get going. B got to run around up at the machine shed near Uncle David's house, climb on old tractors, see Rocky the wonder dog, and generally be with the guys as they finished up. The migration to my parents' house started. Several trips were needed and B joined the guys as they moved equipment around. At long last, it was time to hop up for a ride with Grandpa.

As an aside, through all these rides and big machinery B was astonishingly brave. These machines are huge, noisy, hot, and not particularly comfortable. They are also a little scary as the header (front portion) is a series of cutting teeth, spinning wheels and other vicious looking parts that cut and feed the wheat into the machine. He seemed totally fine and actually enthusiastic about all of it. Fascinatingly, earlier in the day Brent had asked me if I was going for a ride. I answered, of course not, it is too hot and dangerous. That led to the humorous realization that we were putting our 2 year old on it anyway, but all was well.

The ride with Grandpa was a little longer as they went up and down the west half of the field by my parents house. My mom and I followed along in the car just a bit nervous about how he would handle all this. It was a slow trip, but he seemed to do well, but was OK with going in for his nap after that. Harvest proceeded from there as usual. Several things broke down, it was very hot and even though the yield was very good it wasn't quite what they expected somehow. For us, it was just neat that B got to join as the fourth generation in farming fun.

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