Brian: Wishful thinking

Thomas, Oklahoma—They say if you make a wish on a shooting star it will come true. I’ve also heard if you catch a leprechaun they will grant you three wishes in exchange for their freedom. Supposedly tossing a coin over your shoulder into a fountain will make your wish come true, and if you ever stumble across a lantern be sure to pick it up. I have zero clue how a genie fits inside there, but apparently he’ll grant you three wishes if you rub it the right way.

Three wishes sound nice, but the crew has spent the week really only wishing for one thing—dry weather. Just when it looked like our wish may come true the forecast changed and we ran out of luck. Small chances of rain turned into big storms, and once again we stared out rain-streaked windows at muddy fields. This week we managed to eke out a whopping ten hours of harvest. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more than we accomplished our first week here. We’ve seen a few rainbows appear, but so far we’ve failed to discover any pot of gold or found a lucky leprechaun to grant our wish for dry weather.

Our drive home through the rain reveals a full double-rainbow, but we never find a pot of gold. We were thrilled to get the moisture low enough one day to put a few loads of seed wheat in the bin.

Technology makes it easy to track the combine’s work, so out of curiosity I checked my phone app and showed a total of 26 harvesting hours since we arrived nearly three weeks ago. Of course we’re not the only ones struggling to get into the fields, but it seems the stray thunderstorms never miss our fields. I’d estimate maybe 40% of this area is harvested, meaning there are a lot of acres left to go. I’ve tossed a few pennies into standing water in the field for good luck, but so far those makeshift wishing wells have only resulted in using up my spare change.

We only manage ten hours of work this week, as seen here in the John Deere Operations Center screenshot. Some of the poorer fields are averaging 20 to 30 bushels per acre, and the weeds continue to hamper harvesting.

The days we have been able to harvest have been hampered by humidity. The wet ground means the wheat seems to dry out at an excruciatingly slow pace. It’s the type of weather where you head to the field and sample every hour until finally you can go, only to have a few hours before the sun sets and it gets too tough. The only day we’ve taken lunchboxes to the field resulted in our five o’clock sampling being interrupted by raindrops. So we ended up eating our packed sandwiches back at the trailer houses. We have yet to harvest before noon, and we’ve only been able to work late enough to turn on the headlights twice. I’d make a wish for better weather, but with constantly cloudy skies I’ve not been able to find any shooting stars.

The drought caused a few fields to be abandoned here, allowing us to drive through one as a shortcut. It’s not a very good feeling. We only refuel once after dark, a sure sign things are not going as planned.

It’s been too much time off all at once, but we still have managed to find a few small projects left to do. We checked the wiring on a turn signal that worked intermittently, rotated a tire that was wearing unevenly, and I had a small oil leak starting on a reel lift cylinder that needed to be rebuilt with new o-rings. The kids spent an afternoon at a splash park (despite the sun not being out), and most evenings end with a walk or bike ride around the town for some exercise. We’ve also made a short trip to visit a long-time customer, now retired but always eager to see us each year. It’s a forty-year friendship, one where we reminisce about past harvests and marvel at how harvesting equipment has changed. It’s an example of how this job transcends just being “work” and instead creates life-long friendships and learning experiences you will never forget.

We pass the the time with an evening walk and fix a small oil leak on the head. Farmers you work for sometimes become more like family, and we celebrate this retired customer’s 76th wedding anniversary.

It’s been a week of wishful thinking, but not all hope is lost. Southern Kansas has continued to get rains that have slowed the ripening of their crop, so it looks like we have a solid week before we need to move up there. Perhaps the weather genie was listening after all, as this week’s forecast shows a stretch of days with no chances of rain and triple-digit temps. We’ve still got a lot of acres to cover, but maybe our wish will come true after all. All I know is if we get good harvesting weather, I’m not going to try and put that genie back in the bottle.

The kids enjoy an afternoon at the splash park, even though it’s a cloudy day. You never know what wildlife you might come across in the wildness of Oklahoma. This turtle seems to move at the pace of harvest this year … slow.

Brian Jones can be reached at

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