All Aboard Harvest | HPJ
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HPJ Tag

Bayard, Nebraska - Well, courtesy of AAWH, Anderson Harvesting will be heading back south a bit to Pine Bluffs, Wyoming to continue the wheat run. Farmer Lance awaits us our arrival and Farmer Don can sit back and relax, knowing his wheat is safe and sound in the bins of the elevator. He averaged about 35 bushels per acre with test weights between 62-65 pounds. Our next fields are right in the corner of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. I've always wanted to be in three places at once, and I just might get my shot.

A fun fact -- Farmer Don's son brought his family out to spend some time in the field and experience harvest. The following day, his wife and kids went off to a family reunion and he stayed. Little did I know, it was his birthday! This became known to me after the fact. And I didn't even get to wish him a "happy birthday," but all he wanted to do was spend his birthday in a wheat field. That's music to a harvester's ears.

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. 

Chadron, Nebraska - This came to me today as I was following Jim and The Beast to the field. YES! I said... field. It's been quite the week. And when it began on Monday, I would have never guessed we would be making a move northward. It's been an emotional roller coaster for me; and from what I hear, other harvesters are experiencing the same, crazy feeling.

We finished south of Wallace, Kansas late Monday afternoon. Once the last standing straw of wheat was cut, we decided that regardless of what happened next, the combine and header would have to be cleaned. Jim and I had talked a little about what we thought we would/should do next. We had no acres to move to so we had decided that we'd just clean the equipment up and see if we could park it at the New Holland dealership in Goodland until moving it to Colorado for the millet harvest in September. That's what we thought when we laid our heads on our pillows Monday night. 

Bridgeport, Nebraska - Just as I was letting off the clutch at a stoplight in town, a motorcycle revved the ever living out of his motor and sped by me. I about had a heart attack -- hearing noises like that, all I could think was that I blew something somewhere on my truck. I mean, I am hauling 64 pound wheat, so anything is possible.

It is pretty rare to have two stops on the harvest run that are a mere 27.5 miles away from each other. Obvious reasons being that they are both likely ready at the same time; and as we all know, the wheat waits for nobody. But, contrary to the norm, we moved from Gurley to Bridgeport without missing a beat. Farmer Don has some pretty spectacular wheat with test weights anywhere from 62-65 pounds, 35-40 bushel, and protein peaked at 13 for content, but is consistently between 8-10. Harvest days are coming and going and definitely running together these past 10 days or so. This time of year just works that way. It's harvest autopilot, if you will. You just do because you know you need to do, and that's all there is to it.

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.

Gurley, Nebraska - Harvest is all about the people. It's about the people you harvest for, the people who provide you with your fuel, the bar/grill in the small town that cooks you supper every night, and the people on the other harvest crews that you get to mingle with at the end of the night. The people are what make the harvest what is it... addictive and unforgettable.

Here in Gurley, the harvest spirit is tangible. The campground is loaded with harvest crew trailers, combine trailers, service trucks and semis. The best part is that we all know each other, so we are just one, big harvest family. Being a harvester is a very misunderstood profession. People just can't understand why we would want to load up our super expensive equipment on trailers, pack up a camper and haul it all across the country to cut wheat only to load it all back up in a week to do it again in a different town. It sounds crazy, and we all know it does.

Dodge City, Kansas - I have found that I do some of my best thinking with a windshield in front of me. While I was over-the-road trucking this spring, I started to daydream about the different features a truck could have that would make life in a truck that much more enjoyable. Mind you, most of these things are pure imagination but it's certainly a place to start.

  1. A holographic barista that will prepare you any coffee drink known to man (bring on the espresso).
  2. Autopilot -- that's got to be close on the trucking horizon, don't you think?
  3. To go hand in hand with the autopilot, the driver's seat should swivel so the driver can easily move in, out and around the seat/cab.
  4. A little more about this seat... it should also have the capabilities of a high-end massage chair -- one that actually relaxes you and doesn't leave you in a bigger pile of knots than when you started.
  5. In the sleeper, there should be a button you press that slides the solid roof of the sleeper to one side to expose a starry night.
  6. A giant flat-screen TV that folds down from the roof between the main cab and sleeper. If there's autopilot, there's plenty of time to catch up with your Netflix-ing.
  7. Blow a tire? A motor? Maybe an alternator? No worries -- the truck will notify you when these things happen, slowly get you to safety and fix itself.
  8. An interactive motherboard that could do anything from teaching you a foreign language to reading you books (in different voices per character) to singing you a lullaby before bed, making the time over the road that much better.
  9. The ability to change colors anytime. Tuesday could be purple; but maybe by Friday you're feeling more adventurous, and you want it to be camouflage.
  10. Wheels that turn into propellers so the truck can go underwater. This serves absolutely no purpose -- just sounds super cool.

Dodge City, Kansas - Once the harvest stops in Kansas have all been completed, the rest of harvest becomes a blur. I was thinking today how far we have come as a crew. I say this in the sense of a rhythm - a groove that a crew gets into. Everyone gets acclimated to how everyone else works, and things just go smoother. The farmers in Texas versus the farmers in Nebraska see two different crews.

We were able to finish up in Dodge, and we will be heading to our fifth stop on the harvest run - Sidney, Nebraska. We brought one of two combines up here today, and the wheat is still a bit green along with the inch of rain the area received this afternoon (07/03). The wheat we cut in Dodge ran anywhere from 60-100 bushels per acre, and the test weight averaged 60 pounds.

That being said, Farmer Chris here in Dodge City bid Anderson Harvesting off with an awesome barbecue for a job well done. There were hamburgers, brats, brownies... you name it. Farmer Chris' wife, Eileena, made some of the most delicious potato salad I have ever had in my life, and the evening was full of laughter and conversation.

Dodge City, Kansas - A little over a week ago, I received a Facebook message request. I hit "accept" to get a look at what this perfect stranger had to say. In the message, this gal explained to me that her and her husband both grew up on farms in Oklahoma, but they had made their home in the Philippines for thirty-five years now. She continued on to say her husband never missed a High Plains Journal issue and that he particularly loved the All Aboard Wheat Harvest program. How cool is it that? This program is so widely renowned.

We chitchatted about how harvest was going, and she then mentioned to me that there was one particular photo that her husband loved. The only thing was this; he had only seen it in black and white, and he had always wanted to see it in color. I asked her to send me a "photo of the photo," and I would see what I could do in terms of hunting it down in my picture archives.