When we last left you Roland Harvesting was harvesting malt barley near Powell, Wyoming. In the time since our crew has been split in many different directions. James, Brandon, and I left during the week of August 17th to head back home to get things ready for school. All three of us began classes at the University of Wyoming on August 22nd in Laramie so we’ve been very busy lately.
Since Brandon, James, and I made up most of the crew, Dad had to adjust things after we left. Our new mechanic, Ben, from Tennessee has been a nice addition to crew. Furthermore, a family friend, Ricky, from Texas has been helping out since our departure. Also, a truck driver from home, Greg, has been assisting with the trucking in the last few weeks. Dad split the crew last week to harvest malt barley near Riverton, Wyoming. This past weekend Dad returned to Powell to finish some fields of malt barley that matured later than the rest of the area. They are almost finished up with Wyoming malt barley and will head back to Hemingford in the next few days to prepare for harvesting fall crops. (Now, normally Mom would be helping out in Wyoming during this time of year but she has taken a “temporarily leave of absence” on harvest to help out with my sister and former family crew member, Ashley, with her upcoming wedding to Kurt over this Labor Day weekend!)
Considering that Brandon, James, and I spent our entire summer, over three full months, on harvest you could say that we have a passion for it. Harvest is clearly an important part of our lives but while trying to take college classes and staying busy with extracurricular activities it’s very challenging for us kids to continue to be directly involved in the harvest operation once school begins. Although we cannot physically operate combines or drive trucks all day harvest still remains in our blood and is evident in our everyday lives.
Last Monday, Brandon attended his very first college class and James embraced his junior year in mechanical engineering, and lastly, I began my first day of orientation for Nursing School. On a campus with over 9,000 undergraduates wondering the sidewalks every day we appear to be just like any other college student with our cell phones in hand and backpacks on our shoulders. However, unlike many of these other thousands of students this summer our cell phones weren’t just for texting gossip; they were actually our life lines for the past few months. Our cell phones not only helped to communicate and correspond effectively, but they literately helped to save lives. Our strong shoulders that now carry books and binders to class are the same ones that lifted chains, binders, wrenches, fuel hoses, tires, and countless other equipment on harvest all summer long. In a matter of just 3 days we traded in our pliers for pencils, retired our work boots for tennis shoes, switched our cabs for classrooms, witnessed our grease stained and calloused hands turn into clean ones, and replaced fueling machinery daily with working on homework every night. We also exchanged our grasps on steering wheels for continuous typing on the computer, began walking the several miles we used to drive every day, and swapped our “temporary living quarters” with a semi-permanent home for the next nine months of school.
However, what really separates us from the average college student is the amount of self-confidence we exhibit, the critical thinking skills we possess, the capacity we have to handle high-stress, the responsibility to own up for our mistakes, the public relation abilities we hold, and the optimistic attitude we live by in all that we do. All of these irreplaceable characteristics were all experienced and learned while on harvest.
Throughout the summer, Brandon, James, and I were not typical 19, 20, and 21 year olds. The amount of responsibility my parents presented us is unheard of for most individuals our age. When we left for the summer in May we had butterflies in our stomachs as we hauled oversized loads over 700 miles to Texas. Every mile down the road our anticipation spiked but we slowly became settled as we unloaded and saw the combines kick up the first wheat dust of the summer. Once we began heading north our confidence and assurance grew on a daily basis. Harvest has taught us an unimaginable amount of life lessons. Most importantly, we have learned to not be afraid of the unknown and to seek new experiences with an open mind.
On our last official day of harvest I rode in the combine cab with Dad and watched the sun dip beneath the mountains in the distance as the stunning colors of dusk radiated against the barley heads in the field as I tried to soak up my final day of summer harvest. The combine hummed contently and the reel went round and round as Dad and I reminisced about everything we had experienced in the last few months. We discussed all the challenges we had faced – from being a small, shorthanded crew, to the power struggle between Brandon and I, to James trucking in Fort Worth, Texas, to the extreme heat in Kansas when we were loading up, to Brandon surviving the bridge accident. Looking back on all these events we laughed and smiled about most things. As I was able to reflect upon such an eventful summer full of amazing experiences I was overwhelmed with feelings of content and accomplishment.
As we made the very last round in the field for the night Dad told me, “I had an excellent summer and enjoyed working with you all, even during our bad days. The lessons you kids learn on harvest cannot simply be read from books, you have to actually go out and live it. I can be the ‘sheep dog’ and watch over you and try to keep you safe – all while you are able to make mistakes and learn from them. I love being able to do that job, especially when it’s family. After everything you kids went through this summer, school will be more than easy. You have the tools to succeed not only in college, but in life – no matter what you choose to do.”
My parents have not only raised my sister, brother and I with this same attitude, but they have also passed on these experiences and lessons with much of my extended family and over 100 employees. Some say that life is like a book and there are always old chapters ending while new chapters are beginning. In my family, we compare life to harvest. There’s always a new wheat field up ahead and you never know what to expect. Sometimes you pull into a weedy wheat field yielding only 10 bushels per acre yet it still takes you days to finish. The next field could be 200 miles away and yielding over 100 bushels per acre! Then the following field might be full of mud holes and you spend the next several days pulling machinery out. From these analyses the important thing is to remember that we are not alone and to keep on pushing. I know that my family is always there with me in all that I do and with all the skills I have learned from harvest I can endure almost anything and conquer nearly everything that I put my mind to.
Although Roland Harvesting had a bit of a late start joining All Aboard Wheat Harvest we are so grateful that we had the opportunity to share our harvest adventures this summer. On behalf of my family, we would like to deeply thank all of the followers that have faithfully read and engaged in All Aboard Harvest the past few months. In addition, I would like express a sincere thank you to the wonderful sponsors who made this incredible experience possible! Roland Harvesting feels truly blessed to have been part of such an amazing summer with All Aboard Wheat Harvest!
Brandon, James, and I soaking up the last sweetness of summer.
There’s always a new wheat field up ahead and you never know what to expect. But, do not be afraid of the unknown simply seek new experiences and embrace them with an open mind!
Megan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. All Aboard 2011 is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection.