Megan: Wilds of Wyoming

As you all know, one of the most important characteristics that a custom harvester must have is flexibility. Our plans change multiple times a day and it is essential for us to learn how to “go with the flow.” For Roland Harvesting, our original game plan for Wyoming has been manipulated just a bit. Last week Brandon and James moved near Thermopolis, Wyoming to begin harvesting malt barley. The rest of us had planned to meet up with them but just as we were getting ready to leave home we had a last minute job transpired near Powder River, Wyoming to harvest wheat. Dad, Mom, Uncle Al (who is visiting for the week) and I hauled one combine and two of our semis to Powder River to start working. Thankfully, Powder River is along the way for us so we didn’t have to make a big detour.

Wyoming has been off to an interesting start for a couple of reasons. First off, most Wyoming grain elevators have low markets for wheat, simply because of the remote location and the high shipping costs. For this reason all of the wheat we harvested in Powder River was trucked over 200 miles back to Hay Springs, Nebraska. In order to compensate with the long haul we had to hire three trucks to help us keep up.

The other exciting part is that we are actually staying in a camper. During normal wheat harvest when we are working in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and southern Nebraska we usually stay in economical motels which give us discounted prices for our long stays.  Since our small crew generally ranges from only 4 to 5 people it is not feasible for us to haul and maintain a travel trailer on the road during the months of May, June, and July. However, once we reach Wyoming and Montana in August and begin working closer to tourist areas (such as Yellowstone National Park) the motel prices are outrageously expensive and most places no longer offer us discounts. For this reason, we decided that having a camper for Wyoming and Montana was well worth our time, money, and effort. We happened to find a bargain on a travel trailer before we left home so it made the trip with us since Mom and Uncle Al were around to help move the extra vehicle. (Before my sister, brother and I came along Dad and Mom used to haul a camper on the road for many summers. After we were born Mom stayed at home with us during the summers instead of going on the road, so it was unpractical to take a camper anymore at that time.)

On Sunday, Brandon and James finished in Thermopolis and moved to Worland, Wyoming to harvest more malt barley. We also wrapped up in Powder River late that night and had planned to load up Monday morning and meet them in Worland. Remember how I said custom harvesters have to remain flexible? Well, our crew ended up reuniting but it was not with the smooth transition we had planned.  Stay posted for an update explaining the frightening complication we ran recently ran across.

Mom and camper
Mom shows off our new camper that we are excited to have for Wyoming. Fun fact: Mom claims she has always been “challenged” when it comes to backing up trailers. She told me that after she married Dad she pulled the camper for 2 years before Dad found out that she could not back it up very well!

Taylor E.
We had a fun surprise while we were harvesting in Powder River. Our previous employee, Taylor Engum, stopped by the wheat field for a visit. He was a “jack of all trades” as a combine and grain cart operator, truck driver, and bookkeeper during the summers of 2009 and 2010. He certainly always went above and beyond to help out Roland Harvesting in times of need. In May 2010 he graduated with a degree in Ag. Business from the University of Wyoming. We were sad to see him go but he has had many fun adventures since his time with Roland Harvesting. He recently returned from working on a ranch in Australia for many months and is now working with an outfitting company in Wyoming!

Barley field
A beautiful Wyoming barley field surrounded by the majestic mountains in the distance.

Harvesting barley
Brandon and James finish harvesting a barley field near Thermopolis, Wyoming.

Barley close up
A close-up of barley. Unfortunately, this field was hailed earlier this summer so many of the heads and stalks are bent over a little more than usual.

Wind River Canyon
A view of the Wind River Canyon that we had to haul the oversize loads through on the way to Thermopolis and Worland. Hauling through the mountains is intimidating enough but while in this canyon we also deal with hair pin corners, narrow roads, tunnels, a great deal of traffic and amazingly gorgeous scenery that I find to be very distracting (in a good way, of course)!

Wind River Canyon
The side mirror of the pickup shows one of the semis hauling a combine around a corner. When we pull through the Wind River Canyon it is essential for us to have effective communication skills over our business ban radio so we can call out traffic for each other.

Uncle Al in field
Uncle Al stands in a barley field outside of Worland, Wyoming. (This is my other uncle, not be confused with the recent flashback about Al English.) He comes to Nebraska to visit us periodically and we always drag him along on our adventures! He’s dang good help and we enjoy having him around.

As you can tell by the green patch in the background, this field is still a few days off. Barley is significantly shorter than wheat is, as you can see it only reaches about ankle to mid-calf height.

Bridge teaser
Here is a “teaser” of our recent mishap. No one was hurt but it was quite the accident. More information and photos will be shared during my next post.

Blast to the Past – Today’s Flashback:

Flashback 1998
1998: The convoy hauling through the mountains as they head towards Idaho to begin harvesting wheat in mid-August.

Megan can be reached at All Aboard 2011 is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection.

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