Brian: Living on the edge

Thomas, Oklahoma — I don’t know about you, but I’m always up for a little adventure. For some, that means jumping out of a plane, while others get their adrenaline rush dangling off the side of a mountain cliff. Those are probably a little too extreme for me, but the past week has been a non-stop adventure. I’m pretty sure wheat harvesting doesn’t qualify as an extreme sport, and yet the crew has felt like we’ve been pushed to the extremes, living life on the edge.

Getting a deer antler in a combine tire is supposed to be an extremely rare event, but that proved to just be hypothetical this week. Out of the corner of my eye I spied something white flash by, and that all too familiar hissing noise put an end to my harvesting for the night. This makes the third time we’ve had the combine tire off the rim this week, and that’s just about enough to make you jump off a cliff.

I don’t know if the odds are for or against me, but two antlers in three days seems unnecessary.
Glen calls in the tire expert to repair another antler hole…and by expert I mean himself, unfortunately.
Red rocks. Red dirt. Red roads. Yup, we are in Oklahoma … and it’s extremely beautiful.

Actually finding a cliff to jump off wouldn’t be that hard here in Thomas, as the rough and tumble terrain here keeps everyone on their toes. It takes a little more work to cover acres here compared to other states with wide open spaces, with winding terraces making up the majority of fields here. Washouts and canyons are found in nearly every field as we venture out into some pretty remote areas that sometimes make you feel like you are at the edge of the world. One particular field is on a dead-end road that winds its way through narrow trees and across cattle guards and requires driving over some tiny bridges I’d like to think are perfectly safe. It juts up against the Canadian River, and houses that appear to be less than a mile away are actually inaccessible from this part of the county. The people in those homes are literally living life on the edge, but harvesting here can seem pretty extreme, too.

A birds eye view of Glen headed out of the field and across one of many small bridges to cross.
Nestled agains the Canadian River, this field makes you feel like you’re on the edge of the world.
The rough and tumble terrain makes for challenging terraced fields and winding dead-end field trails.
Cameron helps David navigate the narrow road and trees to arrive at the next field along the river.

Navigating machinery here isn’t for the faint of heart, and I think we have removed our heads nearly 50 times. There is a lot of driving time involved moving from field to field, and it’s extremely likely you’ll spot some wildlife most of us rarely see. Wild boar, armadillos and snakes are pretty common sights, but the crew always keeps an eye out for the occasional tarantula or roadrunner. We have had an excellent viewing experience when it comes to wildlife this year, and it just adds to the adventure of being out in these secluded areas. We always get a kick out of how the red cows here match the color of the watering holes, too.

Brenda and the boys get a close up view of a tarantula crossing the road. Too close, if you ask me!
I caught a photo of this snake crossing the road, but no roadrunner photos. They’re too fast.
Vernelle comes across some red cows that match the color of the water while bringing supper to the field.

After 11 straight days of harvesting, the crew is pretty weary. Most days have been 15 hours long, but the good yields motivated farmers to have us do some extra work to get the crop in with such ideal weather. It’s hard to believe we’ve cut more acres in almost half the time compared to last year. Cleaning and loading equipment was pretty brutal under the sweltering sun, but we can’t wait to get to Kansas, where harvesting is a little less extreme. The wheat is ready near Dodge City, so there will be no down time for the tired team. Welcome to wheat harvest, where you are always pushed to the extremes, living life on the edge … and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

The boys pose for a picture against the red road ditches that cut across so much of the countryside.
Good yields this year kept Cameron and Glen busy navigating the winding, narrow roads to the elevator.
The moon peeks out behind the loaded combines. One more sleep and then hello, Kansas!

Brian Jones can be reached at

Thank you to our 2024 All Aboard Wheat Harvest sponsors: High Plains Journal, Lumivia by Corteva Agriscience, Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc., Merit Auctions, Kramer Seed FarmsShelbourne Reynolds and U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc.


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