14 Jun Tracy: A Hope and A Prayer
THE HARVEST HAND
“The harvest drive is on again,
John Farmer needs a lot of men;
to work beneath the Kansas heat,
and shock and stack and thresh his wheat.”
~ Harvest Land, by T.D. and H, From the Little Red Song Book.
Manley, Nebraska – When I tagged along with Grandma and Grandpa for the first time in 1974, living on the road and chasing the ripening wheat was all new to me. I had no idea what challenges they went through or sacrifices they made. I just knew they were away all summer. I didn’t have a clue how the business worked. What I did know, though, was on laundry/grocery days, I could just about guarantee there would be time for a “black cow” before heading back to the trailer house. Do you know what a “black cow” is?
Kids shouldn’t have to be concerned about the stuff adults have to be concerned about. Sometimes, however, the sacrifices of being a wheatie are very real when they affect you. I remember the missed birthday parties, knowing we couldn’t go see Grandpa and Grandma because they were far away and the boxes we received in the mail. When we went to Grand Island during the summer, we would drive by a very desolate-looking house with no activity in the drive. I knew they left early summer and returned when the corn was brown.
The challenges they faced are the same ones we face…weather, acres, equipment and labor.
During wheat harvest in the good ‘ole days, Kansas towns set up temporary harvest offices. I remember the fliers I would see hanging on the door or window of that particular location being bright orange. There were signs posted all over town stating where the harvest office was. This was the place the farmer looking for a harvester could go to report acres needing cut. This was the place the harvester could go to see if there were farmers looking for wheat to be cut. I can still see Grandma bending over the table, writing her name and where they could be found. These offices are long gone…unfortunately.
For years, in order to locate new jobs, harvesters have relied on friends and word of mouth, knocking on doors or visiting the local elevator or cafe. Today, you still see business cards and homemade fliers tacked to bulletin boards. Each harvester leaving their “advertisement” does so hoping the right person notices theirs (over the others) and makes that phone call. There really is no organized manner in finding acres to replace those that have been lost. It’s mostly done with a hope and a prayer.
It’s been nearly a month ago that Jim decided to take a quick trip to Texas, Kansas and Colorado. He wanted to see, for himself, what things looked like and where we stood with our jobs. He came home very discouraged. After he told me the grim news, I did the only thing I knew I could do. I visited the modern-day harvest offices. I wrote words. I typed my plea, added a picture of The Beast and posted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We were in dire need of work and had no idea where to even begin looking.
Through the amazing reach of the internet and the different social media outlets, we found something to get us out the driveway and down the road before the first of July. Friends I have never met reached out and helped us. Tweets and comments provided us with hope and phone numbers to call.
Last week, we made a trip to Lyons, Kansas to meet with the farmer who was willing to give us the opportunity to help him with his 2018 wheat harvest. A lot of similarities…the farmer’s name is Jim, he has four daughters and a month younger than Jim the harvester. He showed us the wheat fields, pointed out where we can park our equipment and said he’d see us again around the 18th.
After the meeting, I realized my “friend” on Twitter who helped line up this job was actually giving those acres up for us this year. He has cut them for the past couple of years and willingly gave them to us so we could get a start. This revelation hit me as we pulled away from the farmyard. I grabbed my phone and sent him a note, “We made a trip down to visit with Jim today. Sounds like we’ll be back in a week or so. THANK YOU! I know you must have given this to us to help. It’s very much appreciated.” His reply, “We did. I’m glad that it’s working out for you guys. You should come stop by the farm and say hello if you get a chance when you come down!”
People helping people. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
So, now that we know we have a place to go, it’s time to get the equipment loaded and the trailer house packed. Time to get our heads wrapped around being away from home, away from the kids and doing the job we need to do. At the risk of sounding hypocritical, leaving home, home is not an easy thing to do. Period.
This brings on a whole new set of thoughts and emotions…
All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Tracy Zeorian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.