All Aboard Harvest | New beginnings
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New beginnings

New beginnings

Z Crew

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Manley, Nebraska – It’s about that time that things start really changing for us. It’s time that we look around and see that there’s nobody but us to determine what our future will be. Nobody will be there to tell us what to do or where to go or what we need to get done. It’s completely up to us. We may have some sort of plan about what the future will be like, but that’ll change. We may have friends by our sides right now, but I’m sure that they’ll change, too. There will be an endless amount of changes starting right now, but I hope we can gracefully take each change that life throws at us. I hope the unexpected twists and turns teach us valuable lessons and help us grow into better people. – Callie (taken from her Valedictorian speech given at graduation)

Change…something that some embrace while others struggle with.

Z Crew

Crew in 2009 – (Front row, left to right ) Jamie, Taylor, Tracy, Callie. Back row – Jim and Jenna


Our journey with High Plains Journal began the summer of 2009. Jenna was one of the first correspondents for this program and did a great job. She still has people recognize her when we go places and tell her how much they enjoyed her writing. She followed the harvest journey with us every summer from age two until she graduated from college. Her last year on the road was 2011. Jenna is now working for CLAAS of North America in Omaha. If you’re ever in the area and decide to have a tour of the facility, Jenna will be the one to show you around.

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Jenna and me at the 2016 Commodity Classic CLAAS booth in New Orleans.


Taylor and Callie’s journey began as babies. They have been with us every summer – until now. Yes, that’s right…we’ll be traveling the roads without any of our girls this summer. It has definitely been a year of change. Sometimes, I think it’s been almost too much change for this ‘ole mama to fully absorb. But, you “do what ya gotta do” – pick up the pieces and just do the next thing. Keep pushing on and know that God is there with you every step of the way carrying you through this mess called life. Oh, believe me, there’s been lots of tears.

Taylor and Colten got engaged last fall. Colten is a local boy with roots in the community. He’s a pretty good match for Taylor and will fit in just fine with the rest of the Z Crew. The wedding is set for November 12th. So, you know what’s on Taylor’s mind these days – wedding planning, wedding planning and more wedding planning. I tried to convince her she could still tag along with us this summer and we could work on those wedding plans together but she didn’t agree. She recently got a full time job as a bank teller and is excited to begin her new life.

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Callie graduated from high school on May 14th and because Taylor had decided not to make the journey this summer, Callie struggled with whether she should go or stay home. She told me she wasn’t ready for her harvest years to be over BUT she didn’t want to be the only kid on the road either. It’s been a VERY HARD decision for her to make but she also has decided to stay home this summer. Jamie and Curt are in the process of building a house and will be temporarily moving into our house for the summer soon after we pack the Cottage on Wheels. This will allow Callie to stay in her own room for the summer. The house is about to get noisy again but I won’t be here to enjoy it! Callie will be attending the University of Nebraska in Omaha this fall.

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I will miss them. It just won’t feel right. They kept me in line and were always good for providing a laugh or two when needed. I took them being with us for granted. I never even thought about the day they wouldn’t be with us. Especially after harvest was over last fall. Had I known that was the last summer things would be “normal”, I may have tried a little harder to absorb everything that was happening. Harvest has provided us with a lot of great memories – A LOT! We worked together so well. Everyone knew their specific job and they did them well. We never worried that it wasn’t done right because everyone knew what was expected of them. What this has created, though, are four adults with great work ethic and who know what being a family means.

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And so the “new normal” begins for Jim and me.

For those of you not familiar with the Z Crew or our history, I will touch on that very briefly for you. I was twelve years old when my grandma approached me with the idea of traveling the summer with them. I knew grandpa and grandma were gone on harvest during the summer months but never really thought much about what they did. So, I agreed to tag along. I thought it would be great fun to help grandma keep her little house tidy but most of all, I was just excited to get to spend the summer with her. This worked great for her UNTIL she left me in the field one day to help grandpa. I was hooked. My love for being in the combine was immediate and hasn’t gone away. They thought they were just taking their granddaughter on harvest with them. What they didn’t know was they were preparing me for what would be the rest of my life.

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This is a picture of my Grandpa Hancock that was taken in 1957 just before he left for harvest. Grandpa began his harvesting career in the early 1950’s. 


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This was my first year with Grandpa and Grandma in 1974. I’m practically in the header…guessing it must have been cleaning day.


Jim was a hired man for grandpa and grandma. He traveled with them for two summers – two summers that I was also along (hazards of the trade). We married in April 1982 and bought our first combine that fall. My dad had decided he was going to take over the harvest crew and they needed one more machine. This worked for several years until grandpa’s health began to fail and dad decided he just didn’t feel he was cut out to be a harvester. The year was 1989. Now what? We had this combine and we weren’t really ready to be done. Can we make the harvest journey work with only one combine? We left for Lodgepole, Nebraska the next summer (1990) and the rest is history.

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That skinny young man leaning against “Henry” is Jim in 1975 (his first year as a hired man for Hancock’s Custom Combining).


Another change for us this year will be our first job. In the past years, we’ve started this adventure in Shattuck, Oklahoma. Unfortunately a month or so ago, we found out the acres we had cut in the past were being grazed due to the freeze and the wheat prices. This left us with an unknown and a great amount of stress. Finding a job to replace lost acres is not always the easiest thing to do. I put the word out that we were looking for a new starting point and a fellow harvester came to our rescue. God is so good! We will begin the summer with a new place to call home and new acres to cut near Claude, Texas. We made a very quick trip to meet the farmer and scope out the area a couple of weeks ago. I can’t help but wish the girls were going to be with us because I know they would enjoy the change. So far (as long as the weather doesn’t make any major changes for us), the rest of the route appears to be the same. But…with this being a year of change, who knows!

Jim just asked Callie if she would be willing to help him with the first trip over the weekend. Yep – back to making two trips with every move. Last year was the first and only year we were able to pack up, load up and move in one trip. Dang! We still have quite a bit of work to do to be ready to head out the driveway but the farmer would like to have us there on June 1. That’s not that far into the future.

Harvest and being on the road has been something that has been a large part of my life. I can’t imagine NOT doing it; however, it takes on an entirely different feel without my family being with me. It used to be the common question was, “Don’t you miss being home in the summer”? Nope, I didn’t. Why? Because everything I had at home, I had on the road. That won’t be the case this year. Change…the one thing you can count on happening in your life. It’s how you deal with the change that makes or breaks you. And I’ve got some very large shoes to fill with this blog!

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All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. The Z Crew can be reached at zcrew@allaboardharvest.com.

 

18 Comments
  • kerkhofs hendrik
    Posted at 16:31h, 24 May

    We’re looking forward to follow your run again, change doesn’t have to be bad! We’ll be in the US again in July but not sure yet if we’ll get enough to the North to see the harvest crues, love the sight! One of these years we’ll try to find you guys!

    • Tracy
      Posted at 01:15h, 25 May

      You’ve been with the All Aboard Wheat Harvest for quite some time. It wouldn’t be right without you!!! ❤️

  • Ashley
    Posted at 17:24h, 24 May

    I love this post, how you connected the past and the future! Not gonna lie, as a fellow Mpmma, my heart feels for you and my eyes mist a little, but you’re right! In all seasons of change, God is good!

  • Nancy Eberts
    Posted at 18:47h, 24 May

    Awesome article on a amazing lady and family. Always appreciate your acknowledgement and appreciation for agriculture and both men and women of harvest!

    • Tracy
      Posted at 04:57h, 29 May

      Thanks, Nanc. 🙂

  • Tracy
    Posted at 01:17h, 25 May

    Thank you, Ashley! That means the world to me. At least I know I’m not the only one whose heart is hurting just a little. The time just went WAY TOO FAST!

  • Katie Allen, Texas Wheat Producers
    Posted at 14:44h, 25 May

    Excited to hear you will be in our area to begin your journey! I am with the Texas Wheat Producers, so we would love to hear any quality reports/bushels you get while harvesting. May allow us to come out and grab some pictures for our website and harvest reports too? Thank you in advance for the information and contact!

    • Tracy
      Posted at 05:00h, 29 May

      Absolutely! We’d love to have you join us in the field. You can send me information about getting in contact with you when we get there by emailing me at zcrew82@gmail.com. Will be anxious to visit with you.

  • Dan McGrew, now of North Carolina
    Posted at 20:42h, 25 May

    Dear Momma Z,
    Over the past years with All Aboard and all the crews, we’ve watched your girls mature into stunningly beautiful young women.
    I left the harvest trail after 1952 for the military and the Mountain and Cold Weather Command at Camp Hale, Colorado almost atop Tennesee Pass north of Leadville.
    Returned to Harper County, Oklahoma after finishing at Stillwater, then to McCook, then to Lancaster, PA to work among the Amish.
    For American agriculture, the corresponding crews with All Aboard are our community correspondents for the summers — Just wish it could continue through the custom harvesting for beans, canola, safflower, sunflower and corn — with the same awesome new equipment.
    My start was with a 1928 24″ IH threshing machine, then on to Gleaner combines, even some of the side hill combines common to the Palouse Country in Washington and Idaho and the Montezuma Hills of Calif.
    Ask the father of the bride to kiss her well for me and all the other ancients out here who have admired Callie and the entire Z Crew for so many years.

    • Tracy
      Posted at 05:03h, 29 May

      Why thank you, Dan! I’ve got very large shoes to fill with this project! I’ve always left the responsibility of getting it done and meeting deadlines totally up to the girls. I’ve never done anything more than read the posts when they showed up on FaceBook. I hope I can do as good of a job as they have done. I’m pretty proud of the girls and have much of who they turned into due to the harvest. I can’t imagine what it would have been like for our family if we hadn’t been involved with the harvest. We are so very blessed!

  • Sherry Zirnhelt
    Posted at 20:48h, 25 May

    From an older Z CREW (still use that personal plate), this all sounds so familiar! Everytime we lost one of our four kids we wondered how we would survive. We really couldn’t replace their knowledge of the whole operation. When our last daughter graduated from college we were not going to have anyone to teach hired men and it happened that we had a good job offer driving truck at the same time. Dan decided to take the full time job after a good year on harvest. I didn’t handle the decision well, I missed harvest terribly. I had loved combining since I was a young girl on my parent’s and grandparent’s farm. I missed all of the people involved with harvest in every way. Well, sometimes change is neccessary. We are full time grandparents, Dan works part time on a farm, ours has been rented out and we love being Winter Texans! Best of luck Tracy and Jim! Sherry Zirnhelt

    • Tracy
      Posted at 05:07h, 29 May

      Sherry,
      I remember you and Dan from years ago. I think one of the last times I remember seeing you was coming out of the Safeway in Sidney, NE. I know I will miss this way of life when Jim makes the decision to be done. At least when that day comes, I’ll have time with the girls to look forward to. I just can’t imagine what we’ll do… So good to hear from you!

  • Tom Stegmeier
    Posted at 01:33h, 26 May

    Tracy as always, your family comes first,as we get older,our comfort zone changes with life,Those four beautiful girls you have raised are a step above others,cause their roots are a big part of the picture called Agriculture.

    • Tracy
      Posted at 05:08h, 29 May

      Absolutely agree with you, Tom! Their work ethic certainly stands out among their peers. And…we have the harvest to blame for that. 🙂

  • Stan Meeks
    Posted at 17:16h, 26 May

    Congratulations Callie !!!!! I will be looking forward to all of the High Plains Journal post this year. Thanks to you all for the reminders of my harvest days. #23yearsofgreattimes.

    • Tracy
      Posted at 05:10h, 29 May

      Thank you, Stan! Callie actually got her first “real” job for the summer. She’ll be working at WalMart – much different than being on the road. She did get to make the trip to Texas with Jim so she got a little bit of a taste of it. Thanks for taking the time to leave a note!

  • Jerry
    Posted at 15:20h, 27 May

    I’ve really enjoyed following your crew the past few years. I was on cutting crews in the early 1980’s and LOVED it. If I could have done that full time I would have signed up in a heartbeat. That’s been several years ago now but nothing compares to working the harvest.

    It’s been fun watching your girls grow. Each time one of them has moved on I’ve thought “Well that’s it. Reading the blog won’t be the same. Why bother?”

    Fortunately someone keeps stepping up and keeping it interesting. Now it’s your turn. Good luck, the bar has been set high. Can’t wait to see pictures of you jumping up in the air with the signs behind you. LOL OK, maybe that’s not your style, but I’m interested to see what is. And know I’m living life vicariously through the blog. I miss being on the road with the crew.

  • Tracy
    Posted at 05:13h, 29 May

    I KNOW those girls of mine have set the bar high for this blog. Don’t be too hard on me, though, as you figure out if I’m worthy or not to carry on for the Z Crew. I’ve raised some strong women and know they’ll all be just fine in the “real” world. There will be NO jumping! I’ll have to figure out what my style is. 🙂 Thanks for following the blog. I just hope I don’t let you down.