Megan: Harvest Hospitality

First off, I would like to apologize for this long post…but if you take ten minutes out of your day to read it, I promise you will have a warm fuzzy feeling by the end, or so I hope!

Hoxie, KS – While I was servicing on Monday morning a huge gust of wind came through and blew a face-full of dirt, chaff, and straw on me from the combine. After a few choice words about the wind I simply wiped off my sunglasses and face, not thinking much about it since getting dirty is part of harvest. I felt like I still had a piece of dirt in my eye but I figured it would work its way out and continued on with my day. However, a couple hours later I knew something was wrong. My vision began to blur and my eye was almost swollen shut. Since we were short handed I was driving truck and grain cart to keep up with the high yields of the field. And once my vision started to go I knew I had to get help since driving with my injured eye was a very dangerous risk. I called the first eye care clinic that came up in my phone, Vision Source in Colby. Calling at noon on a Monday morning I figured there was no way they would have an opening. However, they were very helpful and easily worked me in.

Walking into their clinic I was covered in grease, sweat, and dirt from the field, but they treated me like any other patient. I was not judged by my “working appearance” and, in fact, it actual struck up many touching conversations.  The secretary was so kind and understanding as she used to work at the elevator in Hoxie when she was in high school. Later, as I visited with the assistant I learned her family used to do custom harvesting work and they actually used to stop in Hemingford, my hometown. The eye doctor was there in a jiffy and using his high tech equipment he was able to see a large scratch on my eye and after flipping my eyelid he found a small piece of straw actually embedded in my eyelid, causing the irritation and swelling. He was able to remove it and mentioned how it would not have come out any other way. He also called in a rush order and sent me to a quick pharmacy for special eye drops so I could get back on the road and out to field as soon as possible.

My heart was truly touched from this experience. It is so refreshing to see that businesses still have an understanding and appreciation for agriculture, especially during the harvest season. Throughout the summer we are constantly traveling and the fact of the matter is that things happen during that time away. I was simply an emergency walk-in appointment and they provided me with the upmost care and respect. It is truly a blessing to have these types of businesses that welcome us with open arms in time of need.

Bad eye
A few hours after my visit to the eye doctor I could finally open my eye a little bit more, but it took a lot of effort as you can tell by my trying smile. I think an eye patch would have made for a better photo!

And so, this story continues… Monday evening while running the grain cart I felt a type of insect bite on my leg. I was actually unloading on the go when I felt it so I figured it was an ant or something harmless and once again, didn’t think much of it, especially after all the trauma my eye had undergone. After all, we encounter all kinds of bugs and insects on a daily basis.

Tuesday morning my eye was feeling much better and I was determined to have a successful day. But later in the afternoon I noticed my leg was beginning to intensely itch.  I pulled up my pant leg to see my entire calf swollen, bright red, with blisters and a purple ring forming around the original site of the bite. With just my one year of nursing school under my belt I even knew this meant trouble. By the time I helped jockey over all the equipment to the new field, I took another look and saw it getting worse, with even more swelling and new blisters forming. I showed it to my parents and they took one look at and insisted I had it checked out immediately, concerned it could be a bad spider bite. When it comes to dangerous spider bites time is of the essence and the quicker you seek treatment, the better the outcome is.

By this time it was almost seven at night, meaning no clinic or “quick care” would be open. Without any other options Mom took me to the Emergency Room at the Sheridan County Hospital of Hoxie. There was no waiting for three hours to be seen or being pushed away since I wasn’t a “true emergency.” Everyone there was so helpful and compassionate.  Since it was after hours they had to call in a physician to come see me, and she was so kind and professional upon arrival. She said it is difficult to know what exactly I got bit by, especially since I did not get a look of what it was. Most likely it was a spider bite and I must have had an allergic reaction to the venom. She was quite concerned about cellulitis, a type of skin infection that is common with spider bites. I was already starting to develop symptoms of it and without treatment the infection could easily spread and cause serious complications. They were very thorough with my care and treatment plan. I was given a shot in the rear and a prescription for more antibiotics. Along with the recommendations of icing and taking Benadryl my leg was feeling (and looking) much better by the next day.

In the ER with a bad spider bite
Heather Mauck, APRN-C, takes a look at my leg while Mom tries to lighten the mood by taking our picture. Upon visiting with her we found out her husband farms in the area so she’s no stranger to the world of harvest.  While practicing medicine, helping out with the farm and raising five daughters it sounds like she keeps plenty busy!

To have both of these potentially serious injuries happen to me on back to back days just seems to be bad luck. The truth is that the environment of harvest really does present many risks to the crew. Safety is always our priority but weird things like this happen and often time they are out of our control.  It’s rare to have such problems but we work out in the field where we could encounter snakes, spiders, bees, poison ivy and other potentially dangerous situations. And no matter what your profession is there are always risks in your work place. For harvest, we always have to keep our eyes and ears open to anticipate what could go wrong and prevent injuries as best as we can. In my case, I guess I should have closed my eyes and put on more bug spray!

In all seriousness, I would like to give a special shout out and THANK YOU to Vision Source of Colby and Sheridan County Hospital of Hoxie for your professionalism, compassion, understanding and appreciation for what we, as harvesters, do for a living. Many say that small-town hospitality has been disappearing over the years, that it’s something of the past. I can proudly prove that’s certainly not the case. I truly hope that what I experienced the last two days is merely a glimpse of what the future holds.

Wheat sunset
Harvest is more than just cutting wheat. Sometimes it’s about taking the time to realize the people we meet along the way end up touching our lives forever.

 Flashback: Brandon's finger in '08
During the summer of 2008, Brandon was helping Dad work on a combine augar. There was a miscommunication about where to place his hands and Brandon’s finger ended up getting cut during the process. It was pretty entertaining to watch him drive combine with this “finger brace.” We were always obnoxiously waving at him in passing or asking him why he thought he was No. 1.

All Aboard Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and Syngenta. Megan can be reached at


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