Megan: New Adventures in North Dakota

After our move to northern Wyoming we spent a few days scouting the area and checking out the slowly ripening malt barley. Many of the fields still had green patches in them so Corporate (Dad) sent Brandon, James, Jose, and I on a mission to southern Montana to see if we could pick up a job to keep us busy for the next week or so until the Wyoming barley was ready to harvest. We worked diligently as “marketing representatives” as we visited several grain elevators in hopes of landing a job. For some reason when checking in with Dad we used the analogy of catching of a fish. We told him how we had a few nibbles and even a big bite but while reeling in the fish the line broke or somehow wiggled free. After two days of “fishing” Corporate made the executive decision and told us to take a few days off to relax.

While in the area we made an educational stop at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and headed for Yellowstone. We enjoyed a nice day of hiking throughout the park and a campout that evening. The next morning we were driving to Old Faithful and fell into a debate about where we should camp out that night. In the midst of this Brandon’s phone rang, to our surprise. Service is minimal in most of Yellowstone so we were shocked he could even get a phone call in. After a quick visit Brandon told us that Dad received a call from a wheat farmer in North Dakota and that we were hired for the job. Roland Harvesting has never worked in North Dakota before so this opportunity meant our crew was going to make history.  After a quick stop at Old Faithful we made the trek back to Worland, Wyoming where our equipment was parked. We topped off with fuel, checked over all the rigs, ensured tires had good pressure, and double checked all the chains. As we crawled into bed that night we laughed about how different our day had turned out from what we were anticipating that morning. But, over the years we’ve learned that having a successful harvest run is all about staying flexible! “Expect the unexpected” is our life motto during the summer.

Overlooking the Battle of the Little Bighorn
Brandon, Jose, and James look over the valley of where the Little Bighorn Battle was fought. Last September Dad actually harvested wheat just ten miles away from this national monument. It’s amazing how many historical places you run across during harvest.

The boys at Old Faithful
James, Jose, and Brandon pretend to be tourists while we watched Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. The next day at this time we were driving across Montana in our convoy. I’m always impressed with how well our crew can switch from relaxing mode to work mode in a matter of minutes.

The next morning we were up with the sunrise and began the 500 mile journey to Belfield, North Dakota. After checking with the Montana DOT we learned there was a low bridge outside of Billings and that our rigs were too tall to cross under it. This led to a fifty mile detour on our expedition but what are a few more miles when you’re already on the move? We successfully made it through the port of entry outside of Billings and shortly after we stopped for fuel and to check our loads. When we hit the road again we thought we were home free for the last half of the trip. Boy, were we ever wrong.

About ninety miles outside of Billings Jose radioed us saying his pickup’s warning light went off, indicating a low battery power that was continuing to slowly drop. Half an hour later we received a phone call saying he had lost power and was pulled over on an exit off of I-94. I dropped my header at a rest stop and headed back to help out Jose while Brandon and James continued pulling their combines and grain trailers, knowing their oversize loads could not be on the road after dark. Jose and I were able to charge up the battery and jumpstart the pickup. After Jose dropped his header I hooked up to it and luckily we were able to make the thirty mile trip into Miles City. Of course these breakdowns can never happen at nine in the morning, they always happen right around five in the afternoon when all the businesses are trying to close.

Thankfully, Mac’s Frontierland Inc. in Miles City stayed open for us to replace the alternator in Jose’s pickup. When I pulled into town I did a quick walk around the header and noticed one of the trailer tires had chunks of tread missing from it and I knew we needed to get it replaced as soon as possible. Jose also spotted a wheel bearing going out by the tongue of trailer. It turns out that having the alterntor go out actually ended up saving us from having some serious problems down the road with this trailer. Mac’s Frontierland Inc. recommended us to a tire shop across town and even called over to make sure they would wait for us to get there. Rolling Rubber Tire Factory stayed open three hours after their closing time to replace our tires and fix our wheel bearings. I was so touched by this act of kindness. You’d be surprised at the amount of businesses we run across on harvest who refuse to stay open a minute past closing. We greatly appreciate the mechanics’ dedication and hard work to get us back on the road!

Brandon and James made it to Dickinson with their oversize loads just as the sun went down. By the time everything was fixed and we were able to get back on the road it was almost midnight when Jose and I rolled into town. After a very eventful trip to North Dakota we anxiously awoke the next day, ready to start cutting wheat. Unfortunately we faced disappointment as it rained all day and we were unable to get going.  Oh well, these ever-changing plans always keep us on our toes!

Fueling up in Wyo
James washes the side mirror and windows while fueling up the semi. It was a tight squeeze to the pump due to the low overhang of the truck stop.

Loaded up
The CR’s still loaded up and ready to get back to work in the field!

Brandon airs up a low tire
Brandon fills up a low truck tire with the air hose.

Convoy ready to head to ND
The convoy all checked over and ready for the move to North Dakota.

Tread missing from the tire
Check out the missing chunks of tread on that header trailer tire. The mechanic told me we probably would have blown the tire in the next twenty miles or so.

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

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.