Steph: Harvester’s hangout – part 3

Grafton, North Dakota–Whenever there’s any lull in conversation at a family gathering, you can bet a harvest story is brewing out of one of us. They are our go-to. We’ve always said we should have written a book so I suppose these blogs are the next best thing.

The many different types of hired hands we had over the years, the different farmers we would combine for, roadside picnics, breakdowns, natural disasters–harvest has it all. I did one of these “harvester’s hangout” segments a couple years ago and I think it’s about time to revive it.

Since we went back in time for this post, I figured the photos should follow suit. This was your typical sunset photo from me taken in Hobart, Oklahoma. (Photo by Stephanie Cronje.)

I recently told this story to my coworkers about how we picked up a hitchhiker back in ’97 so might as well tell it here too.

Picture this. My brother had just been born in March and I was six years old at the time. I remember being in the old white Dodge pickup with my Grandma Polly, as these were the days Grandma and Grandpa Osowski used to travel the harvest run with us. Our caravan ran into road construction where our wide loads were not welcome so, by the grace of God, my dad and grandpa decided to stop and ask for detour directions in Ipswitch, South Dakota. While they were chatting away with the gas station clerk, a sixteen-year-old, leather clad, pony-tailed boy overheard them and intervened, saying he knew the area well. He proceeded to provide us with a wide enough route. He then began asking questions like where we were headed, how long we would be gone, if we needed any help … bless my Grandpa Hiladore’s heart, he told the guy to hop in the truck and come along. Even now, 24 years later, I can vividly recall Grandma Polly not being impressed, saying how this guy was probably an ax murderer and we would all be dead by midnight (or something like that, c’mon I was six).

Back a long, long while ago. Tiny Steph and her late Grandpa Hiladore. (Courtesy photo.)

It should also be said that that greasy young man, Danny, worked for us for over fifteen years and still lives here in Grafton with his wife. They are raising their four kids and are all like family to us.

It’s pretty hard to top that one but I’ll do my best here.

The year escapes me, but we were in Hobart, Oklahoma. Every evening for several evenings in a row, the sirens would go off in warning of incoming severe weather. My family and our crew would be sitting on the pickup tailgates, watching the sky and ready to beeline to the courthouse if a tornado touched down. There’s a reason for the phrase “I’m happier than a tornado in a trailer park.” For some reason, the tornadoes head straight to the trailer parks every time. Grandma was always glued to the tiny TV in her camper, messing with the antenna trying to get a clearer picture while monitoring the radar like our safety solely depended on her. Even though it wasn’t under the best circumstances, the memories of us all sitting around and joking with one another to try and make light of the situation are still some of my favorites. I can still smell the air if I really sit and think about it, a mixture of wheat dust and damp, stormy breezes.

This same year, we had a hired hand that filmed snippets of the entire summer. We have a copy on a VHS tape that we brush the dust off and watch every once in awhile. Not sure what is funnier; the various mundane activities he found necessary to film or his commentary on said activities. I bet there is almost 35 minutes straight of him trying to zoom in on the jets flying over the fields we used to harvest in Hobart. But then again, there is also a part of the video where he decides to drive the tractor and grain cart straight through a huge mud puddle at full speed, so that makes up for at least 10 minutes of the wasted footage.

Purple loving her life in western Nebraska. (Courtesy photo.)

Brandon and I trying to hide from the mosquitoes during harvest back at the ranch. (Photo by Stephanie Cronje.)

Stephanie Cronje can be reached at

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by Case IH, Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc., BASF, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Gleaner, ITC, Westbred, Huskie, Western Equipment, US Custom Harvesters, and High Plains Journal. 


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