Sacrifices of being a Wheatie during Harvest
I walked into the Chadron, Nebraska Walmart to pick up a few things before our move to Colorado. A young woman was headed in my direction and our eyes locked for a couple of seconds. She was tall and skinny with long, brown hair. My heart did a little flip and I could feel it in my throat. I smiled, she smiled and we kept walking in opposite directions. I felt my eyes well up with tears and told myself, “Don’t do this here”! I immediately texted our youngest daughter, Callie, “I just saw a girl in the Chadron Walmart that could have been your twin. It made my heart hurt.” Her reply, “Shoulda taken a pic.”
When we started this business in 1990, I had everything I needed with me. I had people ask me, “Don’t you miss being home?” Why would I miss being home? Home was with my family and we were all together May through September. Fast forward twenty-five years. The girls kept doing what they were supposed to do – they grew up. And then they started doing more of what they were supposed to do – they left the nest. Jamie was first, Jenna next and then all at once, Taylor and Callie stopped tagging along with us. We’re now on our second wheat harvest journey on our own … just the two of us.
You’d think I would get used to this. It happened gradually which gave me a false feeling that I could get used to it. There are seven years between Jenna and Taylor – almost like having two sets of kids. So when the oldest two began staying home, I still had the younger two here to keep this mama’s world “normal.” Maybe I put too much of me into my kids. Is that possible? Each summer when they would go back home early for school, it would take me several days to get used to the quiet. I would have to gather all the reminders of them and stash them away. I would break down and bawl after finding a toothbrush that had accidentally been left. And a hanging towel was the worst! Yes, I know, pathetic, right?
Now it’s just the two of us. Jim and I continue to do what we’ve done every summer for nearly thirty years; we pack up our trailer house, load the combine and hit the road. When we leave in June, we know we won’t be back home until the first part of October. Nothing new for us but it’s all new territory for my heart.
It happened again today while I was in the laundromat. A young mom walked through the door with her little guy trailing behind her, her baby in a car seat over one arm and carrying a bottle of laundry soap in the other. My mind raced back to when that young woman was me. I was the mama carrying laundry baskets, a walker for the baby and being followed by three additional little humans. I always felt like a mother duck with her ducklings lagging behind. That memory quickly faded when my ‘ole heart did that weird flip thing again. Now I was missing my grandkids. The little boy was the same age as Eli and the baby just a bit older than Ben (who was born this summer). I wanted to immediately just snatch that baby and hold her in my arms. Instead, I just smiled at the little boy and watched the three of them out of the corner of my eye. Yes…I was that crazy grandma!
Jamie told me she was expecting baby number 3 the night before Taylor’s wedding last November (that’s another story). As soon as she told me, I counted ahead nine months and realized that meant this baby was going to be born while we were somewhere in a wheat field. And my eyes filled with tears (it happens often). I started thinking about all the possible ways that maybe I could get home to be there for her. Maybe the farmer can drive the truck and Jim can drive the combine. Maybe it’ll rain and I’ll have time to sneak back home for a few days. Maybe one of our friends can come help Jim while I go home for a week. All these “maybes” that could happen but no guarantees any would. I had to face the fact this baby was going to be born and grandma probably wouldn’t be able to be there. If there’s wheat to be cut, that’s where we have to be.
God had another plan. Due to the lost acres over the summer (drought and hail) and no place to make those acres up, we were able to be home for nearly a week at just the most perfect time! All the different possibilities that once consumed my thoughts and wondering how to make it all happen was left in His hands. And He worked out every detail - perfectly. We were there when Ben was born.
I know this isn’t how it happens all the time for every harvester. There will be babies unheld, weddings and funerals unattended, and family gatherings missed. When a crop is needing to be harvested, it waits for no one. And when a custom harvester is hired for the job of getting the farmer’s crop to the elevator, those special occasions must be overlooked and missed. It’s just the way it is.
I mentioned to you about Taylor’s wedding last November. That girl! She wanted a June wedding. Can you believe that? After we reminded her that nothing had changed in our summer happenings and if she had a June wedding we wouldn’t be able to be there, she told us we were stupid. I know she was just frustrated because doesn’t every girl want a June wedding? I had to plan mine around harvest and so did she. Dang! She agreed on an early November wedding – even though I reminded her that most of the people she wanted to attend probably wouldn’t be able to be there due to fall harvest.
Yes, this thing called harvest is all consuming for the people involved with the job. It doesn’t matter who is in the hospital, who is getting married, who is having a baby, or who is breathing their last breath. We are completely ruled by a crop needing harvested. Those of us who are involved with agriculture have had to learn to deal with it but even that doesn’t make the ‘ole heart feel better when it’s reminded of all that’s being missed. The sacrifices we make are part of the job description and when you take on the job, you also have to know what will be traded.
I look forward to the phone calls, the Facetime with the kids and even the daily texts (as long as there’s cell service). It’s not the same, though. It’s not the same as holding your brand new grandson for the first time. It’s not the same as playing with the older ones at their “park”. It’s not the same as being there to help your daughter move into her dorm. It’s not the same as going shopping for paint for the “new” house. It’s not the same as attending a softball game or a volleyball match. It’s not the same but it will have to do for now…for a few more weeks.
And thank goodness for long holiday weekends! Why? Because Taylor and Callie are coming to visit and I can’t wait!