Eastern Colorado - Due to a lack of urban centers, I'm guessing a lot of people would deem where we're currently cutting the middle of nowhere. It is true we are miles and miles from the nearest village or town, but despite all that, "I" would say we're in the middle of somewhere. That somewhere is beautiful. Brave little houses and farmsteads dot the landscape -- those few still willing to take on the unpredictable windswept prairie. Signs of days gone by are here too. I see the abandoned one-room school house and the occasional forgotten skeleton of a house that was once a happy home. Who were these people that once inhabited these spots, and what became of them? Song birds flutter on the breeze. The swish-swish of wheat and grass can be heard, and in the words of Louis Lamar, "The wind, always the wind." Cattle peacefully chew the grass. And the view... one can see for miles.
It's out here that there are few distractions. One can think out here, breathe out here, and just be. Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky that I am to see these places that most rarely, if ever do. I have to think that a lot of the world's problems could be overcome if we just took a little R&R on the prairie to clear the air in our souls and minds.
Pierre, South Dakota – We made the big trip from Western Nebraska up to the Pierre, South Dakota area, and there is definitely a big ole drought going on. I was told that there really hasn’t been any rain at home in Nebraska since May, and South Dakota looks to be the same way. I could see the drought results as I traveled across Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota last week. Kansas looked alright, but as soon as I was in Nebraska I could see it. And it became worse as I traveled into South Dakota.
On the way up here we ran into road construction at Mission, South Dakota. There was a sign at Valentine, Nebraska that said road construction and width restriction 31 miles ahead. We asked around in Valentine; and everyone said they had seen lots of combines going north, and we could get through there. We got up to Mission, and there it was. There they were working on the main street that we travel, and our wide loads couldn’t fit through because of the cones. I wonder how many combines have just been hauled through there anyway. A local was nice enough to stop and tell us to turn around at the school, go back a mile and then head west on the gravel. Then at the dead end, go north up to Highway 18 and we would be back on the right track again to Highway 83 north. There was no detour route sign anywhere. For goodness sakes, why not?
Western Nebraska – This year I was in Kansas longer than expected due to the evening rain showers. We couldn’t ever work really late like we needed to and put in our time because we’d get shut down by the rain most evenings. The weather really messed with us.
Thankfully, my brother Jared and Uncle Lonny were able to harvest most all of our wheat jobs in Western Nebraska before we got there. We did still get to stop there and cut for a few days, which was great. Disappointingly, the wheat I cut didn’t yield well due to mosaic disease. The wheat looked decent from the road, but the mosaic disease really got to it this year. However, Western Nebraska has some of the most beautiful sunsets with such beautiful colors. I didn’t get to cut there long enough this year to enjoy them.
Morgan County, Colorado - Ryan left several days ahead of us to get started in Colorado. I had several more days of paperwork and preparation before we left home again, so I was relieved to finally have it all done and hit the road late Friday morning. As soon as I hit top speed, we experienced what I would call a "major" vibration. I exited on the next road. Nothing was visually off, so I circled around and tried again... same thing. The kids thought is was hilarious and great fun. They were laughing and making the "aaaahhhhh-ahhhh-ahhhhhh" noise along with all the vibrating. I could feel my frustration rising. All the while, I said prayers of thankfulness that this happened only a couple miles from home. A few back and forth calls with Ryan, a few calls to local mechanics to see who could get me in last minute, a couple shakes at Wendy's to pass time with the kids, several laps around Wal-Mart and visits to the pet department to watch the fish, two plus hours later we were ready to roll again. Thankfully it seems that something had just gotten out of balance, and it was nothing more serious!
Sheridan County, Kansas - It has been humid lately. And by humid, I mean western Kansas humid, not eastern Kansas humid. The day I was there it was downright sweltering with temperatures in the high 90s and almost no wind. Yes, it's not common out here to have little to no wind.
Out in that heat is where I met Stoney, a semi-retired farmer, whom wanted to come check out the "big harvest." It has been something on his to-do list for some time, and he drove 8 hours from the east to come watch. That is REAL desire to come watch harvest on a hot July day! Of course they have harvest east of us; but the fields are often smaller, and there isn't as much wheat in his area. The scale out west is just different. Here, the field sizes are often so much bigger, and they can hold a larger number of machines, larger headers, etc. It is a little humbling to think that someone would want to visit "US." In my mind, we just do what we do, but I guess it is no different than me going to see other sectors of agriculture, like the strawberry patch earlier in the season. I think we as farmers and ranchers, of whatever type, typically have a great respect for the profession and enjoy seeing and learning what goes on in other areas different than out our own backdoor.