My husband has been missing in action for about two weeks now. To some, his long hours away from home seem unexplainable. Why work so hard for such a meager reward given the state of the modern day farm economy? The answer is simple and I realized this the first time that I saw the wheat being transferred from the combine to the truck. That golden stream of kernels falling from the combine auger with a loud “woosh” sound is the result of planning, hard work and prayers. Prayers that the rains would come, the insects would stay away, and that the hail would avoid us. Prayers that we would be out here for another year.
And here we are. The wheat harvest is a time of great excitement in the plains. Our community lives and dies with high yields of wheat and the drought years that are an inevitable reality. Farmers pull late nights with few breaks when harvest is at hand. The rest of the year is available for play, but during harvest, you work hard. After all, your livelihood depends on bringing in the crop and storing it safely away in your grain bins to play the marketing game in the coming months.
We all speak the same language at harvest time. Whether talking about yields, about the effects of poor soils, under-fertilization or drought, you always know what the next question out of your neighbor’s mouth will relate to. At harvest, nothing else matters. And in small communities such as these, we look forward to seeing the custom cutters arrive in town. There is no sight more powerful on a hot August night than several combines valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars staggered across a field, headlights blaring for miles across the prairie, bringing in the wheat crop in record time. The move from the southern part of the country towards the north, following the seasonal cycle that is such a part of our lives. When the cutters arrive, autumn is not far behind.
So the next time your point your car across the rural heartland of America and you see a farmer taking the combine on yet another trip around the field, stop and ponder all of the hard work that culminates in this moment. In order to reap the rewards of harvest, our small American communities put so much effort in getting the crop in the ground, tending to it during the growing season and praying that Mother Nature treats us well. If you understand this, you can then grasp why harvest is such an important time to us. As those golden kernels are transferred from combine to truck to grain bin, we in the farming community are rewarded. Though the reward is not always monetary (it seldom is), our spirit is filled with satisfaction. And that is reward enough.