When I was young I loved riding on the combine with my dad.
My mom would pack a small ice chest of goodies and we would take it to my dad who was harvesting in the field. I brought our lunch and got to stay with him for the afternoon. Sitting on the arm of his seat or in his lap, I helped him drive that enormous piece of equipment!
Times Have Changed
Today, combines are equipped with state-of-the-art GPS technology that guides the operator down each row and ensures the combine remains on the correct path so none of the grain is missed. Before GPS, however, it was imperative that the operator of the combine stay completely focused on the edge of the header so he wouldn’t leave any grain in the field and yet still have the most efficient use of the equipment.
So, as I would chat with my dad and show him my treasures, he would say “I can listen, but I can’t look. I have to watch the rice.” Even though he would spend those long days in the cab not being physically active, he was mentally exhausted from the focus required to efficiently harvest the crop he had been patiently growing all season.
The warmth of the sun coming in the window, the steady rumbling of the engine and the mundane staring at the rice would put me to sleep every time. As I began to get drowsy, I crawled on a little shelf right behind my dad and curled up for an afternoon nap. It was kind of like a truck driver who sleeps in the cab of his truck. My dad and I still enjoy those memories and wonder how I ever slept in such a small space. I still doze off in the strangest places.
Factors Out of Our Control
Many professionals today are able to get work done at all hours of the day and night. Some people say their most productive times are during odd working hours. With farming, however, the natural conditions most often control a farmer’s productivity. When his crops are mature and ready to harvest, the farmer would love to work around the clock to get them out of the field to avoid any storm damage that may come. Unfortunately, there’s a window of time each day when the crops are too moist to harvest because of the dew that develops. The farmer must wait until the sun rises and dries the crops before he can begin harvesting each day.
Into the Night
The dew doesn’t develop until late into the night, so I remember my dad and brothers turning on the headlights of the tractors and combines and harvesting until after midnight during the rush of harvest season. Those were the days when the school year didn’t begin until after Labor Day and everyone was still on Summer Break when a majority of the harvesting was done.
It Is Finished
Harvest is a time of accomplishment. After all the planning and nurturing, the time has come to cross the finish line and complete the season. What kind of yields will they make? What about all the small decisions the farmer made throughout the growing season: when to water, what fertilizer to use, what to do if it doesn't rain for weeks? So many paths that could have been taken and now to see how it all turns out. For the farmer, this is the most critical and exciting time of the year!