All Aboard Harvest | Tracy: A Hope and A Prayer
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Tracy: A Hope and A Prayer

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Tracy: A Hope and A Prayer

THE HARVEST HAND
“The harvest drive is on again,
John Farmer needs a lot of men;
to work beneath the Kansas heat,
and shock and stack and thresh his wheat.”
~ Harvest Land, by T.D. and H, From the Little Red Song Book.

Manley, Nebraska – When I tagged along with Grandma and Grandpa for the first time in 1974, living on the road and chasing the ripening wheat was all new to me. I had no idea what challenges they went through or sacrifices they made. I just knew they were away all summer. I didn’t have a clue how the business worked. What I did know, though, was on laundry/grocery days, I could just about guarantee there would be time for a “black cow” before heading back to the trailer house. Do you know what a “black cow” is?

Kids shouldn’t have to be concerned about the stuff adults have to be concerned about. Sometimes, however, the sacrifices of being a wheatie are very real when they affect you. I remember the missed birthday parties, knowing we couldn’t go see Grandpa and Grandma because they were far away and the boxes we received in the mail. When we went to Grand Island during the summer, we would drive by a very desolate-looking house with no activity in the drive. I knew they left early summer and returned when the corn was brown.

The challenges they faced are the same ones we face…weather, acres, equipment and labor.

During wheat harvest in the good ‘ole days, Kansas towns set up temporary harvest offices. I remember the fliers I would see hanging on the door or window of that particular location being bright orange. There were signs posted all over town stating where the harvest office was. This was the place the farmer looking for a harvester could go to report acres needing cut. This was the place the harvester could go to see if there were farmers looking for wheat to be cut. I can still see Grandma bending over the table, writing her name and where they could be found. These offices are long gone…unfortunately.

Title Page

I started searching for an image of one of those Kansas Harvest Office fliers on the internet. I even sent a note to Kansas Wheat in hopes they would have one. No luck. Unless you’re one who remembers them, you’ll just have to take my word for it. But look what I did find. This is a jewel right here! If you have the time, go read this and just see for yourself how things have changed since 1922. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100198768

First of Four

View one of four.

Second of Four

View 2 of 4.

Third of Four

View 3 of 4.

Fourth

View 4 of 4.

For years, in order to locate new jobs, harvesters have relied on friends and word of mouth, knocking on doors or visiting the local elevator or cafe. Today, you still see business cards and homemade fliers tacked to bulletin boards. Each harvester leaving their “advertisement” does so hoping the right person notices theirs (over the others) and makes that phone call. There really is no organized manner in finding acres to replace those that have been lost. It’s mostly done with a hope and a prayer.

It’s been nearly a month ago that Jim decided to take a quick trip to Texas, Kansas and Colorado. He wanted to see, for himself, what things looked like and where we stood with our jobs. He came home very discouraged. After he told me the grim news, I did the only thing I knew I could do. I visited the modern-day harvest offices. I wrote words. I typed my plea, added a picture of The Beast and posted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We were in dire need of work and had no idea where to even begin looking.

Through the amazing reach of the internet and the different social media outlets, we found something to get us out the driveway and down the road before the first of July. Friends I have never met reached out and helped us. Tweets and comments provided us with hope and phone numbers to call.

Last week, we made a trip to Lyons, Kansas to meet with the farmer who was willing to give us the opportunity to help him with his 2018 wheat harvest. A lot of similarities…the farmer’s name is Jim, he has four daughters and a month younger than Jim the harvester. He showed us the wheat fields, pointed out where we can park our equipment and said he’d see us again around the 18th.

Harvester 1

You never expect those “butterfly” feelings that happen when you see a harvester on the road headed south. Sort of takes on a whole different feeling when you’re not on the road with them! Spotted this one in Ellsworth, KS.

Ellsworth. The Cowtown and Fort

Looks like a place I’ll have to check out…if I have time!

Ellsworth. The Fort

Ellsworth, Kansas…the fort.

Ellsworth Elevator

Prairie Skyscraper – Ellsworth, Kansas

After the meeting, I realized my “friend” on Twitter who helped line up this job was actually giving those acres up for us this year. He has cut them for the past couple of years and willingly gave them to us so we could get a start. This revelation hit me as we pulled away from the farmyard. I grabbed my phone and sent him a note, “We made a trip down to visit with Jim today. Sounds like we’ll be back in a week or so. THANK YOU! I know you must have given this to us to help. It’s very much appreciated.” His reply, “We did. I’m glad that it’s working out for you guys. You should come stop by the farm and say hello if you get a chance when you come down!”

Kansas Wheat

The wheat was in all kinds of stages during our tour. Most of what we saw around Lyons and Ellsworth was mostly golden with green. Some was mostly green with some golden. And we saw one combine making lots of dust just Northeast of Abilene.

Harvester 2

Harvester #2 headed south.

Homeward Bound

This storm didn’t bother us but sure looked nasty as we were making our way towards home.

People helping people. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
Hebrews 13:16

So, now that we know we have a place to go, it’s time to get the equipment loaded and the trailer house packed. Time to get our heads wrapped around being away from home, away from the kids and doing the job we need to do. At the risk of sounding hypocritical, leaving home, home is not an easy thing to do. Period.

This brings on a whole new set of thoughts and emotions…

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Tracy Zeorian can be reached at zcrew@allaboardharvest.com.

14 Comments
  • Ian meikle
    Posted at 16:25h, 14 June Reply

    Watching your wheat harvest from Northampton england

    • z crew
      Posted at 07:47h, 16 June Reply

      Glad you’re here with us!!!

  • Tom A
    Posted at 07:47h, 15 June Reply

    Truly enjoy your posts. I enjoy your historical narrative of the wheat harvest & the country that you travel as it progress’s . Also your life lessons . The world is made up mostly of good people. Especially in the great plains of our country. As a farmer & cattleman myself I know nothing happens without Gods blessings. I cope with day to day trials knowing he is in control. I couldn’t otherwise. Hope your harvest work picks up as you move north.

    • z crew
      Posted at 07:47h, 16 June Reply

      Thank you, Tom. I honestly don’t know how people go through life without God and his promises! I know it’s easy to fall back into the way the world thinks (very easy), but when we step back and realize WHO’S in control…it makes everything so much less scary. Life is one big adventure, right?

  • Tom Stegmeier
    Posted at 23:49h, 15 June Reply

    So glad you’re in the Harvest mode again ,Work Safe ,God Bless !!

    • z crew
      Posted at 07:45h, 16 June Reply

      Thanks, Tom, me too!

  • nancy eberts
    Posted at 19:27h, 16 June Reply

    HOME,HOME IS RIGHT!

    • z crew
      Posted at 00:42h, 19 June Reply

      🙂

  • "Dan" McGrew
    Posted at 22:44h, 16 June Reply

    Read the pretty words explaining why young men started the wheat harvest south in Texas and New Mexico and followed all the way into Manitoba and Sask., or swung west into Montana’s Golden Triangle. Or when the Great Plains harvest was thin, hitchhiked west to the Palouse of western Idaho and eastern Washington, out across Washington to Ephrata.
    Starting in 1948, there was one reason for chasing wheat == Dollar a day farm wages in Oklahoma, $35 to $50 per day operating a Gleaner.
    We had experience starting with 5 a.m. chores before starting school, 40 hour work weeks in addition to school. The wheat harvest offered one attraction === MONEY. With weather and down days, average $30 per day, from June 15 through September 15 — With luck, finish with $2500 saved in a time when many farmers and small ranchers did not net $2000 annually.
    Having started with maintaining and repairing an IH threshing machine from inside at the age of six, setting up a Gleaner to leave only straw on the ground, with all the wheat in the bin, came naturally.
    With the grower at my side, I could adjust every Gleaner in a field for minimum loss and maximum yield, and get myself a permanent job in the deal. Go behind four combines already cutting and show every one was leaving 20-to-50 grains per square yard — adjust to three to five grains per square yard — worked to get a job every time.
    After that just stayed with that crew all summer, operating one Gleaner and adjusting all of the machines.
    Often just mean flattening the straw walkers and reducing the air a little bit.
    Even the eastern college students mainly driving trucks were there for the money and not the climate.
    I remember several small towns had movie theaters in war surplus Quonset Huts. Several towns had Saturday night dances in open air pavilions, heavy wooden shutters lifted from the big screened windows.
    If younger harvest hands wore shirts and jackets with university insignia, they got to dance more.
    From age 14, through 17, especially being undersized the first two seasons — I danced with a lot of grandmothers — with the advantage, I ate better during the potluck dinners about midnight.
    As luck would have it, Holyoke, Imperial, Ogallala and Lusk were on my schedule most years, so there were several young ladies I got to see mature from “gangly awkward’ to “Ravishing Ruby” between ’48 and ’52
    Some of the dancing grannies of ’48 were using canes by ’52. The depression and war years took a heavy toll on folks on the land.
    Many of those “Grannies” had lived 40+ years of hard physical labor out on the plains.
    Many of those Grandmothers had been widows in their mid-20s to 40s, often with no idea concerning the fate of their husbands during the depression and WWII combat. They survived short rations, maintaining a farm or ranch, raising children alone.
    Unlike after 1955, the disportionate gender imbalance on the plains often involved loss of men during the 30s and 40s.

    • z crew
      Posted at 00:41h, 19 June Reply

      WOW!! Dan, this is all so awesome to read! You’ve got a book in the making…seriously! These memories of the way it used to be really were fun to read. 🙂 Thank you for sharing them. Please feel free to share more whenever you feel the need!

  • billy harris
    Posted at 14:53h, 17 June Reply

    Enjoy all your posts! Thank you for sharing.

    • z crew
      Posted at 00:37h, 19 June Reply

      Thank you, Billy! And for taking the time to leave me a note. It means a lot!

  • Ricardo Alberto Senteio Rocon
    Posted at 16:20h, 17 June Reply

    Sigo você a alguns anos e sei como é a colheita do trigo ,pois já estive em Montana ,onde colhia trigo ,em Great Falls,A importância do trabalho que nos sustenta é imensa e as dificuldades que atravessamos, apoiados em DEUS ,só nos faz crescer .Hoje no Brasil ,trabalho fazendo preparo e conservação de solo e já faz dois anos que este tipo de trabalho foi a zero e as dificuldades só aumentam ,mas com fé em DEUS tudo vai melhorar.Boa colheita a você e colha o trigo que é o nosso pão de cada dia !

    • z crew
      Posted at 00:36h, 19 June Reply

      Ricardo’s comment is translated to read:

      I have followed you for a few years and I know the harvest of wheat, for I have been to Montana, where I was harvesting wheat, in Great Falls. The importance of the work that sustains us is immense, and the difficulties we endure, supported by God, grow. Today in Brazil, I work in preparation and conservation of soil, and for two years now this type of work has gone to zero and the difficulties only increase, but with faith in God everything will improve. Good harvest to you and reap the wheat that it is our daily bread!

      Thank you, Ricardo! Your words of encouragement mean a lot. And you’re right! Faith in God does make everything better – because He makes it better. Even when things look tough, I know he is working. It’s so unfortunate that is seems anything involving agriculture is difficult. You’d think it would be so different because we all have to eat! Thank you for following along and for taking the time to leave a note!

      Obrigado Ricardo! Suas palavras de encorajamento significam muito. E você está certo! Fé em Deus faz tudo melhor – porque Ele faz melhor. Mesmo quando as coisas parecem difíceis, sei que ele está trabalhando. É tão lamentável que parece que qualquer coisa envolvendo agricultura é difícil. Você pensaria que seria tão diferente porque todos nós temos que comer! Obrigado por acompanhar e por ter tempo para deixar um recado!

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