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Harvest Tales - Clark County 01

Harvest stories submitted by Kansans for the online exhibit, Wheat People.
Submit your own at kshs.kansasmuseum@ks.gov.

Kendra Weddle Irons

Wheat Harvest and Meals in the Field

My sisters and myself often were assigned to drive the two wheat trucks in addition to helping with meal preparations before going to the field. So, as soon as the call was sounded, we rounded up our water jugs, filled them with ice and water, grabbed our swimming towels (to keep the hot seats from burning the back of our legs) and raced to the field. Driving the wheat truck involved sitting for what seemed to be long periods of time by oneself, and occasionally having the opportunity to drive to town for the dump. I always liked dumping at the Co-op better than in our own storage bins because the process of moving the grain from the truck to the bin was a long, hot affair, and there was also that sometimes frustrating prospect of trying to interpret anxious sign language through the mirror while backing the truck to its appropriate place.

When the wind was blowing, as it has a tendency to do on the Plains, it usually took two of us to operate each truck because we had to tarp the truck to keep the grain from blowing. I remember fighting with the heavy tarps that the winds blew like paper sacks and the increased stress it caused when either placing or removing the tarps took too long.

We usually had two combines working each field. One was ours and the other one was owned and operated by a family friend as his summer job. As the combine grain bins filled, we had a grain cart, pulled by a tractor and driven by either my cousin or myself, that would pull alongside the combine and receive the grain while the combine continued around the field. A slight turn in the wrong direction resulted either in spilling the grain, or a collision of the header and the tractor tire, or both. I remember being extremely nervous everytime I had the job of grain-cart driver.

The best part of harvest, next to securing one's income for the year of course, was the food. Obviously we did not have time to stop this production to eat! Thus, Mom brought our meals to the field. She always prepared for everyone working, and usually for enough who might be "dropping by" to see how things were going. This frequently meant meals for over ten people, all with very big appetites, I might add.

Now, these meals were simply outstanding! I remember fried chicken, large hamburgers, meatloaf, porkchops, etc., all served with a full round of vegetables, and couple of marvelous salads, rolls, tea, and pie! All kinds of pie! My mother would often rise early in the morning to make at least two pies for every meal! When she ran out of pies we enjoyed frozen fruit slush (which I still routinely make every summer) and "monster" cookies.

As if preparing these two feasts per day was not enough, she had to pack it all in the trunk of the car and haul it out to the field. There we would create shade by arranging the trucks just so. Our picnic was not enjoyed leisurely by any means, and was even more hasty when a vehicle whizzed by on the nearby dirt road and covered everything with a layer of dust. While my Grandmother and Great Aunt were able, they would help with the noon meal, driving out from the nearby town with dinners from the café or supplements to Mother's preparations. To be sure, harvest was a family affair, with responsibilities shared by all.

The goal each year was to be finished with harvest by July 4th so that we could go to Ashland to watch the fireworks. Often we missed it, but the feeling of euphoria that we had when the job was complete was like none I have experienced since.

Kendra Irons also submitted Preparing for Harvest.

"Harvest Tales" is part of the online exhibit, Wheat People:  Celebrating Kansas Harvest.