Thursday, June 25, 2009

In The Field…..

My daddy was a wheat farmer. Wheat farmers do lots of field work. Usually farmers had a son or two to help out when they get old enough. My daddy had three girls! But I remember mama saying that daddy was always so proud of his girls. He taught us everything we needed to know to help out around the farm just as if we were boys. And this was great for us. We grew up knowing many things that our girls friends knew nothing about.

We started helping daddy when we were very young. When daddy would go out in the early spring to start working on the tractors or combine to get them ready for the work ahead one of us girls were always with him to help out. Our job was to fetch daddy tools when he was under or on top or inside of the machinery. And during the time when tools were not needing fetched we had a putty knife and we scraped grease and dirt off of the gears and other parts of the tractor or combine. This was not only to keep us busy but also help keep the machinery running better to not have all of this build up of gunk. At least that is what daddy told us! I always thought this was fun to make everything look clean again. And by fetching tools I learned the names of all of the different wrenches, hammers, pliers, and bolts. This was helpful information most girls did not know.

During harvest time I remember when we still had the old combine that had to be pulled by a tractor. Daddy would drive the tractor and Shirley Jean would drive the steering wheel on the combine. I think she also had to lift the front of the combine up and down.
Then later daddy had a combine that could be driven by itself. This was very modern and much nicer for cutting wheat. Daddy would drive the combine and Janice and I got to take turns riding in the bin where the wheat was being dumped into. I am not sure why we thought this was so much fun. Maybe because it was sort of like swimming. You could wiggle around and get down into the wheat and have it cover you up to your waist. As a kid I never paid any attention to the dirt, the itchy chaff, or the squished bugs. It was fun to have a big yellow grasshopper crawling on you. But don’t squish one of those green stick bugs! They smelled yucky.
After a few times around the field with the combine daddy would stop to dump the wheat into the truck. Each of us girls had our turns as we got old enough to drive to help with this part of harvest. We drove the truck under the auger on the combine so the wheat would land in the center of the truck. Then we had to climb into the back of the truck and take the scoop shovel and scoop the wheat towards the corners of the truck. The wheat had to be spread out level before we drove it into town to the elevator. You couldn’t drive real fast because the wheat would blow out of the back of the truck. Every piece of grain was important so you tried not to lose even one.

Harvest time was an exciting time but also a big worry to daddy. Once the wheat was ready to cut it had to be cut right then. If you waited too long the grains of wheat would fall out of the head of wheat and be lost. Daddy was always worried it would rain. You couldn’t cut the wheat when it was wet and you couldn’t get into the fields when they were muddy. Many times I remember daddy cutting wheat and having to make big circles around patches where there was a mud hole. And boy it was big time trouble when the combine got stuck in the mud when daddy would get a little too close to a mud puddle. It would take a tractor to finally get the combine out.
Once the wheat was all cut then it was time to plow the fields. Again all three of us girls did this as we got old enough to learn to drive the tractor. The first tractor I remember daddy having was a small red one. It had a wheel on the side of it that turned around and around when ever the tractor was running. I realize now it was used to put the belt on that went to the threshing machine. That was used in earlier years before I was born.

In my years of growing up daddy always had two tractors. First Shirley and daddy each drove one. Then later on it was Shirley and Janice or daddy and Janice. And finally it was my turn. Janice and I drove the two tractors. After Janice left home it was daddy and I. Usually he did one field while I was over in another field. Many times it was just me because daddy was also working as a television repairman and had to do those jobs too. But it was always a family event in the early morning. After we had a big breakfast, on the farm I grew up always having a big breakfast, then all of us headed outside to get the tractors ready for the field. You had to fill them with gas, water in the radiator, and grease all of the zerts. Mama would get the big tin ice jug filled with ice and water to take along out to the field.
I would start the tractor up and head out to the field. Daddy would usually open the field. This meant that he did the first two rounds. The first round was a little hard because you didn’t want to run through a fence. All of the fields that we had you could see our farm house from the field. It would be really far away but you could see it. When the sun got high in the sky I would be looking toward the house because mama would get up on the cow lot fence and wave a big white tea towel to let me know it was time to come in and eat dinner. After dinner I had to put gas in the tractor again and check everything out. Then I would work in the field until the sun would set and it started getting dark.

I remember one time when I was all most finished with this one field. There was just a little bit left in the middle. I thought I could go ahead and get it done before going home. It was starting to get dark. But just one or two more rounds and it would be done. It was getting darker. Maybe just a couple of more rounds, it is just a small area. Finally it was getting dark enough that it was hard to see but I was so close and I was thinking how proud I would be to know I had finished this field. Pretty soon I saw daddy walking across the field. He stopped me and asked what I was doing. I told him I was trying to finish this field, I was so close to being done. We didn’t see daddy smile very often, he was usually pretty serious. Daddy smiled at me and told me that it was okay, I could go on to the house and he would finish it. That smile let me know that he was proud of me that I was trying to finish my job. It gave me a warm feeling.

When my sisters and I were still living at home and plowing time was over, it was time to have a celebration. This was one of only a few times that our family would go do a fun thing as a family. It would be in the hot time of summer and daddy took us all down to Bluff Creek south of town for a picnic. This was a great adventure for us. Here we would take our shoes off and go wading. And once in a while there would be an area where it was deeper, almost up to our knees, and we would sit down in the water and play. After playing in the creek for a while mama called us over to the car where she had the blanket on the ground and we had a picnic. One time I remember daddy teasing mama, I don’t remember anything except seeing mama running around the car laughing and daddy chasing her. It was so neat to see them doing this because this was not a normal occurrence with daddy. We were all laughing and having such a grand time.

I use to get so bored just sitting on that tractor doing field work. You just go around and around and around. And on those hot days I would sunburn so easy. Daddy fix up the tractor with an umbrella for me. After we did plowing we had to disc the fields, sometimes twice before it was time to use the spring tooth. I enjoyed the time to spring tooth. You didn’t have to worry about staying in the lines! You went across the fields from corner to corner instead of around and around and it didn’t matter if you messed up where you were. This time of the year was getting close to fall and so many times I didn’t get to use the spring tooth much because I would be back in school. Then later still daddy would get the drill and plant wheat back onto all of the fields. And it would all be ready next spring for us to start all over again.

All of this field work was a chore and we grumbled many times, but all three of us girls were very lucky because daddy and mama would pay for our tuitions and other things to go to college. All three of us never had to worry about money while in college except to pay for our clothes and meals on weekends.
This was our pay for being daddy’s Sons!!!