This time of year always reminds me of how different the view of the world is from the lofty seat in the cab of a combine. When I first returned home from college, I didn’t have much experience in a combine cab. I was always the one hauling grain, not the one doing the actual harvesting. But, I gained valuable experience right away.
A year after graduation, my Dad was diagnosed with severe bronchial asthma, and grain dust was one of the triggers that would set off a coughing attack. So, in an effort to avoid that situation for him, I took over full-time combining duties, for better or worse.
That first year that I had planted the seed myself, done most of the field operations, and combined my own crop, a wave of relief and satisfaction came over me as I finished combining the last few rows of corn in the last field harvested. I remember climbing down the ladder from the combine cab that evening, and saying a prayer of thanks.
Over the years, I’ve seen it all from the cluttered, but comfortable cab of my old combine. Like most farmers, most years during harvest, I spent more time in the cab than at home. I can recall weathering blistering heat when the AC wasn’t working in the cab, and enjoying shelter from wind storms, hail, cloudbursts of rain, sleet and ice pellets and gale force blizzard conditions in that cab, trying to hurriedly bring in the crop.
When I was courting my wife, she spent many hours riding in the buddy seat of the combine beside me, as we planned out our life together. During soybean harvest in October 1999, I stopped the combine for a few days to witness the birth of our first child, Lauren, and to enjoy with my wife the miracle of life in our young family.
I’ve witnessed almost every critter in the fields from the cab seat. Somehow, the roaring engine of the combine doesn’t seem to bother wildlife. I’ve seen coyotes and fox, deer, pheasants, quail, owls, hawks and even a beaver or two along the creek. I’ve watched a nervous skunk duck out of the way of the combine, fortunately without spraying. Hawks often swoop down suddenly in front of the cab to pick off unsuspecting prey.
One late night, as I finished filling wagons and trucks for the night with grain, my truck wouldn’t start and the batteries were dead in my flashlight. So, I walked about a mile and a half home from the field, jumping the creek and crawling through fences by the light of a full moon and a sky full of stars.
In his later years, when my father was too ill from asthma to operate the combine or trucks himself, he still liked to ride along in the combine in the fall for a few rounds, to watch the heavy ears of corn rattle into the machine. He always liked the combine, because, he said, harvest time is “pay day” for farmers after a long season of work and worry. We are often so busy trying to bring in the crop that we forget about the experience of harvest itself and the significant view and memories made from the seat of the combine. As you run up and down the rows this year, be sure to take time to reflect on the season, and watch out for skunks running up the row ahead of you.
Here is this week's discussion question. What is the most unique thing you've witnessed from the combine cab? Let us know your experiences and thoughts right here.
Be sure to check out Nebraska Farmer online for the latest news on the growing and grazing season. You can read my new print column – Bow Creek Chronicles – in Nebraska Farmer magazine, or follow Husker Home Place on Twitter. And watch this blog the last Friday of every month for my “Field Editor’s Report” featuring the positive stories about the families who raise our food. Pass it on!