I received an email from a gentleman in August asking me if I’d consider doing a presentation about custom harvesting at a meeting (involving agricultural engineers) at the AG CONNECT show the end of January. I remember where I was and what I was doing the very instant I received this email. Why? Because it instantly made me sick to my stomach thinking about talking in front of anyone, let alone educated engineers! I was sitting in the buddy seat of the combine with Jim in Montana. I read the email to him and his next words were, “Maybe you should see if Jon would do it”. Incentive enough to reconsider the idea that I couldn’t do it and show Mr. Jim I COULD do it. I was hoping for a little encouragement but he probably knew how I was feeling (terrified) and was trying to make it better the only way he knew how. I thought about it for a while before I answered with my “yes, I think I can do this”. I decided God had opened this door for me and I needed to walk through it. The end of January is nearly upon us! Where did that time go? It seemed like such a long time before I would have to worry about it. I knew Matt (my brother) was coming for Christmas so I asked him if he could stop by Dad’s Quonset and pick up Grandma’s old pictures as he was headed East. It would give us something to do while we were sitting here over the holidays. We didn’t take much time to look through the albums but long enough to find some really great photographs representing the beginnings of our nomadic way of life.
Now I’ll begin with the beginnings of me and why I am the way I am. My harvest Grandpa (Elvin) is behind the wheel of the Farmall Tractor. This was taken in 1929 which would have made Grandpa 17 years old. The pull-type combine is a Rumely and the man standing there is his brother-in-law. Grandpa and his brother, Lowell (Bucky), used this combine for their first adventures into the world of custom harvesting. Grandpa’s first experiences with custom harvesting, though, had him in Minnesota picking corn by hand.
I had no idea when I found this old beauty last summer she was just like the one Grandpa would have had as his next step from the Rumely pull-type. The model of this stately machine is a Massey-Harris 27. Grandpa and Bucky used a machine like this to custom cut in Kansas.
This is Grandpa in front of his Massey-Harris 82. Dad and I decided the year must be about 1957 just prior to heading south. I see chains around the front tire but I have to wonder how in the world that combine didn’t fall off the truck! Dad shared some of his memories of going with Grandpa in 1958 and 1959 (while in high school). He said they slept in the box of the truck on a half load of wheat. He remembered one day it rained all day and they spent the entire day under the truck. What would they have done if it rained more than a day? When they did the South Dakota harvest, there were harvester camps with public showers set up. It was usually late when they got in from the field and they would be covered with dirt from the day. Rather than wait in line for their shower, they bathed in the river. Their eyes filled with so much dirt each day, they could hardly open them in the mornings. The M-H 82 had a 45 bushel grain bin and a 14′ header. Dad said he remembered once it took nearly a full day to get the header off the combine for repairs.
This is my harvest Grandma (Pauline). I found a postcard among the pictures that was written by her to her mom in 1963. She wrote about how she had been helping Grandpa and she had just got all the ironing done. Bless her heart – ironing. 🙂 She also informed my Great Grandma that she had decided she would start going full-time the next summer. How I wish I could sit down with her and Grandpa and learn more about their early days of harvest! Finding a picture of the person always taking the pictures was pretty difficult!
The next model of combine Grandpa had was the Massey Ferguson 410. He had four of them. I’m not sure who this is – a hired man, no doubt. This picture was taken in 1968. I included this in my presentation because it represents Grandpa and Grandma’s persistence and love of the industry. 1967 was a tough year for them and would have been reason enough to call it quits. They were away from home (probably in Oklahoma) when they received word of a major flood in Grand Island which filled their basement with water. They had to go home to clean that up. Later that summer, a hired man rolled one of their combines. He must have been ok as I don’t remember them talking about anything other than the death of the combine. The final straw for them that year was Grandpa being admitted to the hospital in Omaha with bleeding stomach ulcers. He was so sick he nearly died. I remember Grandpa being in the hospital and knowing that he was really bad. The one thing he “craved” and was allowed to have…a beer. Do you suppose doctors would allow such a thing now? With all that tried their will and their marriage (I’m sure) that summer, it didn’t bring them down enough to ever consider quitting-they were back on the road next summer. I think I must have inherited their character trait of being persistent. It flat-out has to be proven to me that it’s not going to work before I give up!
I LOVE this picture! It’s a perfect example of how important harvest has been to us throughout our lives. That’s me in the back of this pickup between my two younger brothers, Mark and Matt. My Dad is looking out the passenger window and Grandpa is in the driver’s seat. I was nine, Mark would have been seven and Matt was four. A couple of my favorite combine memories include standing next to Grandpa in the cab of the combine while he was picking corn-there was no “buddy” seat. I loved watching the corn “dance” in the header – it was hypnotizing. Another great memory was being small enough to crawl on the ledge behind the combine seat and take a nap. Nothing better than having the hum and movement of the combine lull you into a deep sleep! I grew up knowing Grandma and Grandpa would be gone during the summer months. Grandma was always so good about sending us a box of goodies throughout the summer. I can still feel the anticipation of seeing that box and wondering what great items she had sent just for us! When Grandma asked me if I’d like to join them the summer of 1974, I JUMPED on the idea. I’ll turn that part of my story into Part 2.