We started harvest three weeks ago this past Saturday. That Sunday, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she had to haul her 5 year old son to the field because “he can’t believe they started farming without him.” He was ready to ride in the truck or combine with dad or grandpa, or it probably didn’t matter who actually was driving, he’d be happy as long as he was with.
I was, and still am, the same way. I love being in the combine. My mom came for a ride a few days ago and reminisced about my childhood. She pegged it at three, the age that I started riding in the combine and she started dragging me out. I vaguely remember my dad had a 510 Massey Ferguson. Then I remember upgrading to the Massey Ferguson 760. The 760s had a ledge behind the seat that would accommodate me and my brother. I would ride on dad’s lap, he’d let me steer and I tried my best to keep the swath between the two pieces of black tape marking the center of the header. We’d have some lunch and lemonade, nothing ever tasted better than anything eaten in a combine. The sandwich’s cheese would melt perfectly in the microwave that was dad’s black plastic lunch box. And lemonade in a thermos cup with maybe a little grain dust in it to add some flavor. Nothing could be better. Then the drone of the engine would get the best of me and I’d crawl up on the ledge under my dad’s jacket and sleep the balance of the afternoon. I remember being 4 years old and, since I would be in Kindergarten the next year, I asked my dad how he would survive without my help next year.
In 1998 or 99 my dad had a small stroke in late July. The doctor, and his wife, ordered him to take it easy for six weeks. That six weeks included the weeks of harvest. And this drove my dad nuts. His participation would be to bring me lunch, and that would be all. He was to come home immediately after. One day, I remember he came to the field at dinnertime and told me mom wanted me to come home for dinner. I got home and mom asked what I was doing there and where my dad was. He wasn’t in to much trouble as we realized how much the combine meant to him and a little work was the best therapy he could have.