Read This Before You Marry a Harvester
Last night, we had the opportunity to have supper with fellow custom harvesters. The group consisted of me and my husband, Jim, another custom harvester, his wife, two grown children and one “outsider.” I’d like to add, she’s a very sweet, cute and a professional “outsider.” Personally, I believe she will make a lovely addition to this harvester family!
As the evening ended and we hugged (who knows when we’ll see them again), I told the beautiful “outsider” “Good luck with all this harvest crap.”
Later, I had hoped I didn’t ruin her opinion of me or the industry. So, I thought maybe it would be best to explain what I meant.
I am the last one to discourage anyone from this way of life, but I don’t believe anyone should go at it blindly. And, we all know love is blind! So here’s some older harvester advice for the next generation of this unique breed of people.
“Whatever you do don't marry a harvester.”
My grandma must have been pretty upset with her harvester when she told me this. I can still hear the anger and frustration in her voice as she said these words. I wish more than anything I could remember what it was that made her even want to say this. The frustration levels between a harvester and his wife can sometimes get to the point of rocket-level blow power! I bet I could fully understand why she said what she said. I know there have been times I’ve threatened to hook the camper up, gather the kids and head for “home-home”. But, I didn’t.
“Harvest is just a party.”
Well, it is sometimes.
But, most times it’s pretty darn hard work! It’s been a really long time ago that Jim made this statement to me. I think it was one of those days I was killing time with one of my harvest friends, Linda. We would get our work done and then take off and do something fun, whether it was take the kids to Dairy Queen, to a park, or shopping in one of the little downtown stores. You just gotta do it! But make sure to take cover if you see the harvester roll through town!
You must be able to wear your “Julie the Cruise Director” hat with the first drop of rain.
Rain days are both a blessing and a curse. Rain days are the one time you can step out of the daily routine (unless you’re moving from job to job) for rest and relaxation. There may be some harvesters who can share this job description. Most times, however, it will be a difference of opinion on how the day should be lived out. If you’re lucky, the harvester will agree to spend the day doing more than just sleeping or watching TV.
If you’re not so lucky, you will create games to play (like seeing who can dangle a spoon on the end of their nose the longest), plan day outings, crafts or a trip to the local Dollar General, all while the harvester does what he feels is more important. Try to come up with something everyone can agree on or you will go crazy (and good luck with this)! Day excursions are the best. It gets everyone away from the job for a few hours. If, however, it looks like the sun might come out…forget it!
What day is today?
Be prepared to lose all concept of time and dates.
Days run into more days, weeks, and then months. The time between leaving and returning home will feel like a blur. Clocks are rarely referenced. Most days are run by whether or not it is raining. You will find yourself asking, “What day is it today?” If you're near another harvester, you will probably hear “I don’t know…let me look on my phone.” Every ten days, you’ll wake up wondering where you are. The t.v. channels will have to be reprogrammed and radio presets changed. Don’t be too concerned with the confusion this will cause…it’s normal.
Learning to read minds and understanding hand gestures is helpful.
If you can do this … would you please begin an online course to teach the rest of us? I’m getting close to mastering mind reading, but hand gestures and lip reading are still a work in progress.
You must be able to handle this unique way of communicating with care. If there are questions about what is being conveyed to you, wrinkle your forehead, respond with your own sort of hand gestures all the while exaggerating your mouth with the words you want your harvester to be sure to understand.
“Home” vs “Home, Home”
"Home, home” is the address listed on your driver’s license. “Home” is wherever your house on wheels is parked. And, while I’m talking about “home,” be sure you insist yours includes a washer and dryer. Loading up your littles and going to laundromats just isn’t any fun. Your harvester has his tools…you need yours!
Travel days require wine.
Packing and unpacking your home every ten days or so is just as stressful as loading the harvest equipment. Getting the house on wheels road-ready requires some preparation. Every loose item needs to find a secure home, the antenna must be lowered and cupboard doors shut.
After all steps have been taken to verify that you’re locked and ready for the road, check it once more! The very first thing you’ll want to do upon arriving at your new destination, locate the bottle of wine. This is the required first step as it will help with your state of mind after stepping into the house on wheels and finding several cupboards open, as well as the refrigerator door and contents on the floor. It’s never the doors that keep the paper towels or toilet paper in place! The items that have fallen out of the fridge are usually the stickiest and messiest items in there. The smell of pickle juice will eventually disappear. You can usually tell what kind of move it was by the amount of wine left in the bottle by the time everything is set up, cleaned up and it feels like home once again.
Walmart becomes as exciting as Disneyland.
It really does – for more reasons than one. Nothing against small-town, USA. I love supporting the businesses in small Midwest towns. You won’t find better customer service or people anywhere!
These communities count on the return of the harvesters to their towns for economic reasons. However, when you get the opportunity to make your way into a Walmart, it usually turns into a three-hour tour. After being away from the larger box store and grocery stores, anything that provides more items to look at creates a very real feeling of excitement! I guarantee you’ll find more “needed” items after wandering the aisles for any length of time.
Remember to take time for yourself!
When harvest is in full-swing, you will tend to put other’s needs first. If you have small children to also take care of, it only increases the need to remember this. After days and days of being in the harvest routine, you will forget some of the personal care items that need your attention. If you don’t, you’ll look in the mirror one day and realize your eyebrows have grown together. Your legs haven’t been shaved in such a long time, you can feel the hair blowing in the wind. Your toenails have grown overnight and are cutting holes in your tennis shoes. You’ve GOT to remember to take care of yourself! Just take the time…it’s OKAY!
You may have to wear a bag over your head and write Case IH on it.
The same harvest friend I mentioned earlier used to tell this story. A harvester’s wife will get to the point she will do whatever it takes to get a little of her harvester’s attention. She once threatened to write Case IH on a brown paper bag and wear it to the field – hoping her harvester would notice. It might help but in the long run, I think you will just have to settle with the fact that a great date night will be a trip to town for parts and Sonic.
Forced family time.
The greatest plus to this lifestyle is forced family time. The closeness of the family will be more than just the 40 foot of space you will live in for up to six months. No other job will allow you to have the time with your family as this one does. There are no outside activities pulling anyone away – except to the field. The ability to work together towards the same goal will create relationships like none other. At the time, it may feel like the opposite is happening but when your kids grow up and still feel the need to be on the road with you after they’ve moved out, you know you’ve done your best! The memories of the time spent as a family will outweigh any of the outbursts that once made you think it was the worst job ever.
Create relationships with other harvester’s wives.
This will help when you just need a female outlook on anything harvest or life related. They will be there for you to help shoulder the pain and will completely understand what you’re up against. Take the time to visit with them while you can. Learn from the older ones and share with the younger ones. We all know what you’re up against and will be your greatest cheerleader! You’ll be surrounded by plenty of men and once in awhile, a girl just needs a friend to share a glass of wine with and a good cry!
So, you say you want to marry a harvester? You’re in for a wild ride - one you won’t regret. Just hold on tight and always remember we’ve got your back.