August 1st, 2009
This past weekend we moved our daughter, Emily, to her new digs in Moose Jaw for the upcoming SIAST school year. I am very familiar with the Moose Jaw area as my family had lived at Marquis, just twenty miles northwest, for five years and I attended school in the city in grades seven and eight.
Especially at this time of year, I am reminded of the many experiences that I had while I worked for a few summers on my sister and brother-in-law’s Moose Jaw area farm fixing grain bins and driving truck during harvest.
I learned how to drive on old dirt roads in a ’48 Ford ½ ton while carrying all the tools of a wood grain bin repair man. Tin flashing, spare boards, tar, nails, hammer, .22 rifle, in case the rats got too close, you know.
It was always a very hectic, stressful and rewarding time of the year. So much depended on the weather, which was completely out of one’s control, and also added to my brother-in-law’s already too-high blood pressure. He was responsible for taking off his crop, his Dad’s, his uncle’s and worked with his brother on his crop, too. Two combines and one old grain truck took the entire crop off.
At the time, early to middle ‘70s, we had a field moisture tester which would tell you when the grain was dry enough to start up the combines. That was a bit of an advantage back then as not many farmers had testers, so then they would have to take a sample to the grain elevator to get tested and wait in line before the results would be given. It could take up quite a bit of time, depending on the location of the elevator and the number of farmers waiting in line, which could mean some crucial minutes or hours of harvesting time.
I am not sure how much my brother-in-law paid for the tester but he needn’t have bothered while his Uncle Mike was still around. Uncle Mike was in his eighties, a life-long bachelor and his only love was his farm. He lived to farm.
I can vividly recall seeing him squatting over a swath with a handful of kernels in his hand blowing away the chaff. He’d take one spring wheat kernel and bite down on it and predict the moisture content to within a half of a percentage of the tester’s reading! When it cracked hard enough he’d smile, wink and say, “Let’s go!”
We always unloaded the combines “on the go”, as they say, unloading the hopper into the truck as both vehicles slowly cruised down the field. I got pretty good at it, too, if I do say so myself. The only time I didn’t like doing that was when we were combining barley. That damn chaff and grain dust would give you such an itch! The only other thing that I remember making me itch that badly was a dip in the old dugout too far into July giving me “The Itch”!
I feel so fortunate to have had those experiences, the itching excluded. The cucumber sandwiches in the field, the teamwork, the late-night meals after a long day, the sense of accomplishment, even the exhaustion, when your head finally hit the pillow, felt good.
I’ve had my share of jobs over the years and they are not without their rewards but I don’t think anything can compare to the feelings I was lucky enough to experience during my harvesting days.
“Out of the strain of the Doing,
Into the peace of the Done.”- Julia Louise Woodruff- “Harvest Home”, Sunday at home, 1910.