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Posted 9/07/11 (Wed)


Wow! What a week of fall weather! Warm days, cool nights. Days are becoming shorter. I guess that’s been happening for a couple of months now, but now it is really noticeable. Pretty soon, I will be able to stay up until dark. Which is pretty darn good for me.
After a week of waiting for grains to dry up a bit, yesterday the combines started cutting wheat again. It’s not like the harvest days I remember. A big truck would haul a couple of 100 bushels of wheat. Combine hoppers held 50 or 60 bushel. An eight-inch auger took grain from the truck to the bin.
But the thing I remember the most was Mom bringing dinner to the field. Maybe it is because we were young and growing and working and playing hard. But the meals eaten in a stubble field are remembered as some of the best of my life. And Mom had a knack for knowing how to keep things hot and fresh even before insulated coolers and Thermos jugs.
She would pull up to a field with towels wrapped around kettles and jugs of iced tea wrapped in wet burlap. Whoever was on the combines would be ready to eat, and the truck drivers would jump on the combines and make a round while Dad and whoever was operating the combines would take a break to eat.
I remember one year when we were running a 96 John Deere pull- type along with a 431 Oliver self-propelled. That was a big deal! Two combine operation! Unlike today’s combines, the augers both extended out the left side and didn’t fold back.
Since this was before there was much straight cutting, and before the time of self-propelled swathers, most grain was cut with a pull-type swather.
We lived in the prairie pothole region. There were sloughs and lakes scattered through all of our fields. Whoever swathed the grain would make a round going backward around these waterholes to keep from getting stuck. And a combine would have to make a backward round also, since you picked the grain up headfirst.
One day as we were sitting on a hill having dinner, Howard and Layne jumped in to make a round while combiners took a break. They were my cousins. As I’ve explained before, we didn’t pay much for help. Relatives were numerous and cheap. And most looked forward to helping out during haying or harvesting. Anyway, we’re sitting on this hill enjoying one of Mom’s fabulous dinners. It was fried chicken. Back in the day when chicken had a taste to it. There were fresh biscuits and white gravy. Watermelon and corn on the cob.
But back to the combining. We’re sitting on this hillside eating, visiting, and watching the two combines off in the distance. Then came the lake. Layne was in the lead. Seeing that backward swath, he swung his machine around and began picking up that backward swath. A few minutes later Howard got to the small lake. He started around the other way.
I can picture it clearly in my mind. The 96 going around the lake counter clockwise. The 431 going clockwise. And both augers extended out! As they began to close in on each other, Dad suddenly realized what was about to happen! He threw his plate in the air and began running down the hill waving his arms. But, like in that old country song, “it was too late.” The combine operators met each other. An instant before their augers met, they smiled broadly at each other and waved. Then, bang! The augers met and both were bent back.
Even Mom couldn’t make dessert taste real good that day.

Safe harvest,
 P.S. Come to think of it, it was Howard and me on the machines. That’s how I remember that smile and wave.