One more night in Jordan :)

We got started this morning in good time, after having McDonald’s coffee and a bite to eat. The truck lot we stayed in was right in their backyard so we just walked over.

The entire 1,000 miles back to Denton, I am a passenger. I did drive for a couple of hours yesterday but, all in all, Jim is the driver. I borrowed Jenna’s book, “Heaven is for Real” and finished it today. AWESOME book! For those of you who are believers, it’ll reinforce what you believe and give you an idea of what we have to look forward to. For those of you who are a little more of the “Doubting Thomas”, it’ll give you something to think about. One part of the book that most excited me was the part where Colton tells his mom and dad that he met his sister. He had no idea that his mom had miscarried the child she was pregnant with before he was born. This gives me the reassurance that one day I’ll meet the three babies I miscarried. I had two between Jenna and Taylor and one between Taylor and Callie. One thing is certain, there must be a good reason T and C are with us! I can’t imagine what our family would look like without them. I can guarantee one thing, had I carried the two babies to full term between Taylor and Jenna, there would be no Taylor and Callie.

The town of Jordan holds a pretty special place in my heart for another reason. I had the last miscarriage in 1996 while we were up here. Some of the townspeople brought food for my family and Dr. Dan made trailer house visits until I was back on my feet. Being 85 miles away from the nearest large hospital, I’m sure people have learned to take care of each other up here on a whole different level than back at home. I also learned one thing more, when someone is going through something like this, they don’t want to be told over and over that it probably happened for a good reason. I had fallen in love with that baby and all I really wanted to hear was, “I love you and I care about you”. Sometimes, even no words at all and just a hug will suffice.

Ok, enough of that. Back to the harvest story. We got to Denton about 2:30 mountain time. We each did the jobs we’re accustomed to doing and we were back on the road at 3:45. We arrived in Jordan at 7:15 p.m. Supper was next on the list since Mr. Slave Driver didn’t even stop for lunch. Thank you Rose (Edward’s Family Hilltop Cafe) for a lovely supper! Back to the Garfield Motel for the night.

Back in Ed’s yard

One of my jobs is to guide Jim on the trailer. He can do this himself, it just helps to watch that he stops where he needs to be. I also put on the window covering, the flags, the banners and help with whatever Jim needs help with. I guide him with hitching up but sometimes not so very good. 🙂

The “train” is ready to go one last time for the summer.

 Looks like Ed’s ready to start the 2012 seeding process!

Goodbye Square Butte and Central Montana. I hope to see you again one day!

 I’m driving the dually, pulling the car trailer with the service pickup on that.

My family’s favorite meatball recipe and other ramblings

I have nothing fun and/or exciting to share with you tonight. I decided that while Jim was doing more combine clean up work, I would start working on the trailer house since I had hot water and a sewer drain. When we get home, I generally unload everything and then clean the trailer house from ceiling to floor. You would be amazed at how dirty this can get with road dirt and cooking. So, I try to thoroughly clean it before it gets put away for the winter. Last year, I put the trailer on a RV site thinking maybe I could sell it. I’ve had a couple of bites on it this summer so maybe if I get it cleaned and someone really wants to look at it, it’ll be in good shape. After it’s completely unloaded and cleaned, we’ll winterize it and put it in a shed we rent for the winter. If there was any one thing I wish Jim had it would be his own shed – with cement floor and heat. He can’t do anything with the equipment in the spring until it warms up and quits raining so he can work in the yard.

I guess the ideal time to have built a shed would have been when we started this business. At one time, our dream was to have 10 acres in the country with a shed and a newer home. At the time, we couldn’t afford 10 acres and then life just happened and the dream didn’t materialize. Now, we’re both older and getting older every day. I sort of think the shed idea probably won’t happen. So, we’ll just continue to rent one and hope that lasts a few years longer.

The house we live in is the one we moved into while I was pregnant with Jamie twenty six years ago. At the time, we thought it really seemed like a lot of house since we were moving from a one bedroom apartment. Then, Jamie came and Jenna shortly after. Taylor and Callie, too. So, at one time there was six of us living in a three bedroom house with just barely 1,000 square ft. But, as the sign in my entryway says, “Love grows in little houses” and it certainly did. Our little beginner home will probably be our finisher home. That’s ok, though, because unless we built a home on the acre we have, I would really HATE leaving my yard. Everything in my yard has been done with my hands except for a couple of nice oak trees that are in the yard. And Jordan is under one of those oaks. I wouldn’t want to leave her.

I made my family’s favorite meatballs for supper tonight. It was a little weird not making the amount I usually do. Even the pan I did make will take Jim forever to eat. Lots of meatball sandwiches 🙂 A funny story to tell you about meatball sandwiches. One of our hired guys came from around home. He was a good kid and would eat just about anything you put in front of him. He also went along with us for two summers. Anyways, it wasn’t until years after he was with us I learned that all the meatball sandwiches I fed him (using leftover meatballs) were eaten but hated. Poor guy! I wish he would have told me how much he disliked them! Sorry Homer!!

MEATBALLS (this recipe can be cut in half for a smaller batch)

3 lbs. ground beef                                          1 – 13 oz. can evaporated milk

2 eggs                                                                             SAUCE

2 cups oatmeal                                               2 cups catsup

1 cup chopped onion                                     1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp. garlic powder                                   1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tsp. salt                                                          1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. pepper                                                    1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. chili powder                                          1 Tbsp. prepared mustard

Mix all ingredients together and form into balls. Place in 9 x 13 pan.  For sauce, combine all ingredients. Pour sauce over meatballs. For small meatballs, bake uncovered for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. For large meatballs, bake covered for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees. Small meatballs are great as an appetizer.

Jim was disappointed that I didn’t use the picture of him with his head down by the food with a huge smile on his face. The pictures of the flowers were taken this spring before we left home.

Gettin ‘er ready for the road leading home.

We got started on the big job of cleaning the combine today. We waited for the latter part of the day simply because it was fairly warm here today and there was no breeze. When we decided to start, the air was cooler and there were a few clouds in the sky. That certainly helps when you’re subjected to the elements and the tiny, little wheat chaff and dirt clings to anything it can. Jim said he was glad that big job was done – cleaning the header. I told him I didn’t think it was that bad. He said I would if I had to do it all myself. Yeah, I suppose you’re right! I tried picking and pulling as much of the straw out of the areas that I could while he used the air hose and blew out as much as he could.

Today, I felt like I was a caretaker of the lawn. Because we’re parked right in the middle of what feels like a park, I felt like I should water the patches of the grass that were beginning to need a drink. I moved the sprinkler around most of the day. When I finally moved it for the last time and came in the trailer, I told Jim I felt like a homeowner with a real yard to water. I haven’t moved a sprinkler around like that probably since I was a kid. My dad took great pains in taking care of our yard when we were growing up. We had a beautiful lawn! We learned that the spot of dirt under the tree was NOT there for Barbie or GI Joe to be having a campout in…or for the toy dirt haulers!! So, I just expected that everyone had a nice yard like that. I was wrong! Jim is not one to keep a perfect lawn. I also learned 20+ years ago, that you better just like the dandelions that are growing. I finally convinced him one spring to spray the dandelions – the flowers died too. So, I’ve learned to endure the dandelions because that means I still have my flowers to admire.

When I leave in May, my yard is beautiful! The flowers are all in bloom, the yard is green (including the dandelions) and there are no weeds. Now, when I get home, it will be a different story. The weeds will  have won the battle over the summer months. If having dandelions isn’t bad enough for our neighbors! I do have to give a huge thank you to Jamie, Jenna and my brother, Matt, for mowing the acre of yard that we have. If it weren’t for them, the neighbors would REALLY hate us. Thanks, guys!!!

Even though Jim’s got the feederhouse safety block down (the red thing under the feederhouse), I still get a little concerned while we’re working under the header. I personally knew someone 30 years ago that had only been married 6 months. Her husband was a farmer and used the shade of the header for eating his lunch. The header fell on top of him and killed him. I think of that every time we’re working under the head.

The time of day when the long shadows begin to take place. Can you make out what the shadow is?

Tracy, “Jim, why didn’t you tell me to wear my boots tonight?” Jim, “You hate it when I tell you to do something!” Geez, I really dislike having the wheat beards and cheat grass get between my socks and my feet! Seems like I’m picking that stuff out of my socks several times a day because it starts working into my skin and it hurts!

Facing the inevitable

I took the above picture because the thunderhead was so large and so beautiful. It missed the town of Denton and I think it probably kept moving east and north. It made me think of the large thunderheads we see in the southern states which usually means severe storms and/or tornadoes and hail. I don’t think this cloud had any of that. And, a cloud like that usually puts on a tremenous light show – this one did not. It was good to see a reminder of the summer storms, though.

Now, the pictures I’m showing you next are the trees that I mentioned in an earlier posting. These are the 100 year old trees that the town of Denton is tearing down for progress…new sidewalks, curbs and highway.  When they’re gone, it will give the town a whole different look!

Along main street, there is an old bank. Jim’s been inside and told me I should go back in when they’re open and take a good picture of what it looks like. For now, I took a picture through the window:

Our trailer sits on the west edge of town. We walked to the farthest east edge of town to the football field. I’m guessing that’s a little more than a mile. The geese are flying-heading south. I think they must be stopping in the fields around here for something to eat. When we got to the football field, an older gentleman was outside of his home with his dog. We stood there for quite some time visiting with him and listening to his life story. Very interesting! We figured he was probably about 80 after thinking about dates he talked about. This town is full of the nicest people! Jim just says it over and over again how nice everyone is. By the time we got back to the trailer it was getting pretty dark.

This morning, we decided that we’d better take a trip to Geraldine. A friend of ours had suggested we go there and talk to a person about whether or not it looked like we could find more acres there to cut before heading home. So, we loaded up in the dually and set out. Geraldine is near Square Butte and the scenery was gorgeous. The next two pictures reminded me of the badlands of South Dakota (you can click on the pictures if you’d like to look at a larger photo):

When we arrived in Geraldine, it took all of five minutes to scope out the town. I happened to see the Geraldine Train Depot but didn’t say anything. We found the place we needed to go ask about wheat acres. Jim found out there wasn’t much going on and what little spring wheat there was, was still a ways off from being ripe. Didn’t sound like the news we were hoping for. I asked Jim if he’d take me by the depot so I could get a couple of pictures:

After leaving Geraldine, we got back on the highway and headed south again. When we got to the “town” of Square Butte, I wanted to read the historical sign that was along the highway. After reading it, we decided to see if we could get closer to this jail the sign was talking about – which we did:

After looking at the jailhouse, we opted to take a tour of Square Butte, population of less than 100. We drove by the school house and I could just hear the chaos of the kids and the fun they would have had in that yard. The date above the door is 1918. It looks like it has been turned into a place you could stay. Possibly for hunters? I tried the door but it was locked.

The white building looked like it could have been a business at one time. The town of Square Butte sits at the base of the landform also named Square Butte. Square Butte (the landform) juts 2,400 feet above the surrounding plains and can be seen 70-80 miles away.

After our tour of the big town of Square Butte, we got back on the highway and headed south again. Now, these next couple of pictures were the source of a little spat between me and Jim – which NEVER happens…yeah, right 🙂 I wanted to take a picture of the railroad bridge with Square Butte  in the background. Ok, so he didn’t stop when I said for him to stop. Since there was absolutely no one on the highway, I figured he’d back up and let me get the picture I wanted. Instead, he went forward. Ok…forget it, I said, just go on. Nope, he was going to make sure I got the picture I wanted so he turned around. This is the result of the spat: Now, off to the right of the above picture, you can see a rock that sort of looks like it’s sticking up off the track. Jim was intrigued with this rock formation so we got off the highway and took a few pictures of it:

“Now what?”, I ask. Jim says, “Now I’m going to take you to Lewistown”. Well, I’ve been married long enough to him to know if he does something, it’s usually because HE wants to do it. So, I said, “Ok, but what are we going to do in Lewistown?” If you know Jim well enough, food is something that’s on his mind quite often…AND…it was nearly lunch time. So, he says, “we’ll have lunch and whatever else we want to do”. Well, I figured if he wanted to go to Lewistown, that was ok with me cuz we’d been in the trailer house for the past two days hoping someone would call wanting us to cut more wheat. Guess what else we got to do while in Lewistown – we went to Don’s Sporting Goods and checked out their line of guns and then to the pawn shop across the street. Went to Pamida, got gas and ice and headed north towards Denton. I figured that was the end of our excursion, but I was wrong. Since we were here last year, I had heard that driving to the top of Judith Peak was something we should do. So, he decided today was the day he was going to take me there. I knew it was something he probably really didn’t want to do because he doesn’t like to drive on gravel roads any more than he has to, but he did it. It WAS worth the trip:

There were several places where the road had washed away from the flooding they experienced this spring. In one spot the road was completely gone – nothing but a hole where there must have been a bridge or culvert.

The view from the top of the peak which has an elevation of 6,400 ft.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s the U.S. Air Force operated a radar station on top of Judith Peak. We also went by the buildings that would have once been a military area. Seems a shame they’re all sitting there empty now.

A fun fact…the Judith River was named by William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He named it after his distant cousin, Julia (Judith) Hancock, whom he had met years before the expedition. He married her 16 months after they returned. I am related to Julia on my dad’s side of the family. I’m assuming the Judith Mountains were named after the river which flows near here.

The final picture I have is the red dog house that sits at the corner of the intersection of the highway south of Hilger, MT (which goes into Lewistown) and the road that goes east to the Judith Peak. I don’t know if I’m going to tell the story exactly right but I’ll try. According to the story, someone dumped a dog off at this intersection. It stayed there waiting for its owner to come back and get it. There is a home near this intersection. The people who live in this home fed and watered the dog and eventually built the dog house so he would have a place to go. After the dog died – probably of a broken heart – the landowners left the dog house on the corner. I think Paul Harvey did a story about this but I couldn’t find it on the internet.

Now, to explain the title of this post. We will not be cutting any more wheat this summer and I must face the inevitable – going home. Jim said he had some minor repairs to do on trucks, some servicing and he wants to clean everything up at a leisurely pace. So, the feelings I explained in my previous posting will begin and will continue until we’ve got everything “home home” and the new “normal” begins.

My silly dream

I remembered a dream I had last night – a silly dream to most of you, I’m sure.

I dreamed that winter was already over and the girls and I were starting to pack our trailer house – preparing for the summer wheat harvest. That time of year is such an anticipated time in our lives. We live by events rather than months. First, it’s the end of summer harvest, Thanksgiving, Christmas, USCHI convention and then harvest is just around the corner. There’s birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate too, but above all it’s the summer harvest that motivates us to get through that winter mode.

So, last night when I dreamed that we were getting ready for harvest, I remember being happy that winter was already over and  it was time to get ready to go again. I wish I could explain to you what it means to be home in the fall – out of our little home on wheels and back in “real” life. Harvest is stressful and does tend to wear on a person’s nerves at times but overall it’s us, it’s our life, it’s what we enjoy, it’s an addiction!

I sit here in the trailer house beginning to realize that the end of being on the road is coming much faster than I want it to. The girls are already home and that gives me a reason to want to go home. But, the end of what we look forward to all year long is about to become a reality. I know the girls can relate to what it is I’m TRYING to explain to you and can’t. Words just  can’t effectively explain what it is that I go through every year when it’s time to think about heading for home. Maybe it’s the time we, as a family, spend together that I’ll miss. Maybe it’s working together towards that final end result (a job well done and it took all of us to do). Maybe it’s not knowing what day it is or what’s happening in the news. Maybe it’s the simpler way of life. Maybe…hmmm…I just can’t pinpoint what it is that I’m trying to say. I’m saddened by the fact that the past 100 days has already come and gone.

No more of the excitement of being on road and reaching our destination with a job to do. The last time I “take down” the stuff in the trailer house and the last time we load that combine and the last time I see a wheat field will break my heart. It’s the let down I experience every summer when wheat harvest is over that I don’t look forward to. Going home means being involved in a different world. When I think about the world we are about to immerse ourselves back into, it makes me appreciate the time I’ve had with my family these past 100 days. We are truly blessed because we live in a trailer house for 100 days following the ripening wheat north. We are fortunate to have been a part of so many different people’s lives, places and events. But most of all, we’re blessed to have been a part of the segment of agriculture that has become the cornerstone in the foundation of our family. Only those of you who live our life understand what it is I’m trying to explain.

And the hunt begins…

On the hunt…for more acres to cut, that is. It always sounds like such an easy plan – make some phone calls, talk to the locals, drive from town to town, etc. Sometimes, though, it’s easier said than done. When the wheat’s cut, it’s cut! The Denton area is looking pretty bleak for finding more acres. So, the decision would be now to move to a different area or get your mind geared towards the fact that the summer wheat harvest may be over. We still have plenty of time to be out here cutting more wheat before fall harvest is ready but would we have enough time after moving equipment to another destination? I know all these things are swirling around the inside of Captain Combine’s (Jim) head. It will take us two trips to get everything home and we’re already close to 1,000 miles away. Yesterday afternoon, we created some flyers to hang up in stores, elevators and gas stations. We took a drive to surrounding communities and placed them where we hoped the right person might see it. So far, we haven’t received any calls.  Unfortunately, the weather’s too good. Maybe if there was rain in the forecast things would be different. I took just a few pictures of the elevators we stopped at: Denton, MT elevator

Moccasin, MT elevator

Oh, geez, Jim…did you REALLY need another cap??

 Moore, MT elevator

We were invited for supper at Terry and Coke’s house – if we made it back in time. We weren’t gone that long so we headed north of Denton for supper. On the way to their house, I convinced Jim to stop and let me get out to look at the old school house that was near our destination. I love looking at these old buildings but it gives me a sense of sadness to think how alive they used to be at one time. These buildings once meant so much to someone. When I visited with Coke about the school, she said one of the teacher’s that taught there was planning to come visit the building one day very soon – she’s 93. Oh…the stories she would tell. I wish I was there when she walked into that building again after so many years have passed! Supper was really yummy but the visit with friends was outstanding!

Caught up

Two days ago, we put in a pretty big day! The field in Benchland was close to 300 acres so we didn’t have any moves from field to field. This meant a full day of cutting and hauling. There were three tandem trucks moving constantly all day long. It was 95 degrees and the wind blew 35-40 mph all day. By the time we finished that evening, “Frank” had travelled 115 miles (8 trips to the Moccasin elevator), there was little down time and one very tired driver! By the time we got back to the trailer house, ate a little bit of whatever we could scrounge up, and took our showers I was in no way going to sit down in front of the computer. I have a few pictures from that day and will share them now. After the pictures, I’ll fill you in on what happened yesterday.

Moccasin, MT

From being around the truckers in Jordan, I’d always hears about the elevator in Moccasin as this is where they haul to. Now I know where it’s at and can say I’ve hauled there too.

Terri’s truck getting unloaded.

Trains really did use the tracks. This was the one and only time I saw a train go through Benchland.

Nearly 300 acres in this field.

Ok, now let’s get caught up on yesterday. To begin with, the day began later than usual. Ed had a few things to do, the field was nearly cut and it would give more time to dry some of the green wheat berries. So, we had decided the night before to begin around noon. Jim and I treated ourselves to a breakfast at the cafe for something different. The Shade Tree Cafe is such a nice place to eat! It’s almost as though you’re eating in someone’s kitchen. It’s small and quaint and the people working there just make you feel so welcome – they’re very hospitable! We were two of four when we got there. The other two gentlemen sitting together were discussing the fire that had occurred the day before and how it had gotten started by a combine. They thought it had burnt 5 miles or approx. 1,500 acres. The other issue they had a lot to say about was the work that was beginning on the sidewalks in town. There are 100  year old cottonwood trees lining the street. These trees were pulled from the ground by men over 100 years ago while working on the railroad. They were brought into town and given to a resident who proceeded to plant them. Now, however, they are about to meet their demise. They are in the way of the updates. I’m a tree lover and just can’t see that new sidewalks are more important than the trees that have been growing there for 100 years. One of the men said it will be nice to be rid of the cotton that flies every year. If these trees are removed, the entire look of the town will change. If I think of it, I’ll try to take a picture of all the trees that may be on their way out. While we were still sitting there eavesdropping the men’s conversation, several older women came in and took their places at the larger table. I would be willing to bet they’re there about every day for coffee and talk. It just made me think how important this little cafe is to the lives of the people who frequent it. If I lived here, I think it would be a great place to work! It would be like welcoming friends to my home every day.

We finished the field near Benchland with plenty of daylight still in the sky. We moved the combines back to Ed’s airport and then Jim and I decided to take a quick trip through the Bear Springs area that we cut last year and jet over to Winifred via the Judith River Basin. It’s such beautiful scenery and smells like vacation – pine trees. During the trip, I was able to experience three of the very best smells in the world:  wheat straw/chaff being #1, freshly cut hay, and alfalfa in full bloom. Oh…if I could bottle those smells up and pull them out in the dead of winter, it would be awesome! One reason I don’t like winter – no summer smells. I was hoping to see elk on our trip but it didn’t happen.

Once we got close to Lewistown, we decided to go ahead and go into town for supper. We headed to the chinese restaurant that we frequented quite often last year. It tasted so good! After supper, I talked Jim into taking me to the Albertson’s grocery store for some fresh fruit and items the little store in Denton doesn’t carry. Going into a large grocery store after being only in small ones is like being a kid in a candy store! You just don’t realize how much you take for granted when you have a grocery store with so many options. Got back to the trailer house about 10:30 last night. Here’s the pictures from yesterday:

Ed and Terri

Headed back through the two valleys to Ed’s airport near Denton.

Jim in a relaxed state contemplating what to do next.

Probably what he was looking at. 🙂

Judith River Basin

These pictures do no justice of just how deep and wide this basin is!

Judith River

Montana Sunset

That brings us up to date on our happenings. We finished with what we had rounded up near Denton. We’d really  like to find more to cut, if possible. That’s what’s next on our list of “to dos”. We’ll make a few calls and post some signs and see if they lead to anything. If not, I guess we start thinking about making the long trek home.

This a.m., we got up and met Coke and Terry for breakfast. Coke and Terry are the people we cut for last year – good friends! The best part of our job is meeting some of the finest people in this great country and getting to call them friends!! We are truly blessed!! It was so good to see them and get caught up on the past year. Coke and I even had to take a quick walk to the trailer to get the pictures of Curt and Jamie’s wedding. Hopefully, we’ll see them again before we leave this country.

Three months today, Hank and Catherine Hamil lost their two little boys and everything they owned due to a devastating Oklahoma tornado. I think of them so very often and pray that things are becoming somewhat “normal” once again. I know you can never get over the death of a child but I’m praying that God is providing them with the necessary strength to get through each and every day.  Catherine is pregnant with a little girl who is due to arrive October 17. “God giveth and taketh away”. If you’re familiar with this story, please take a couple of minutes out of your day and offer a prayer of strength and peace for this family!