The final harvest
I don't have many first-hand accounts of harvest season. Most of my experience is limited to the first eight years of my life, but this time of the year always seems to stir fond memories nonetheless.
I was raised with rather conflicting influences. My mom's side of the family was in the newspaper business, but my dad's side farmed. Some days I'd head up town to the office, but other times I'd head out to the sprawling greens of my grandparents' acreage. Both provided me a rather unique experience that has stuck with me to this day.
Obviously, I chose the news industry over agriculture. My decision was a matter of circumstance more than anything else – my grandparents sold their farm, consequently leaving me with no other option than to pursue my interests elsewhere. However, I always have a few distinct memories that come back each time harvest season rolls around.
Everything seemed so huge out at my grandparents' place. The tractors were enormous beasts capable of moving anything that crossed their path; the barns were spacious castles that provided endless hours of fun; and the machine shed had a fascinating item in every corner. For a youngster like me at the time, nothing was bigger and more impressive than the farm.
Like most little boys, tractors fascinated me. I had many toy models to play with, but nothing beat riding in the actual thing with my grandpa. I'd occasionally get to "drive" the tractor, which essentially meant he let me put my hands on the steering wheel. The experience was monumental for me nonetheless. Telling my farm friends that I had driven a tractor gave me a little more credibility on the playground, and that was key growing up in a rural community.
Chore time didn't equate to much by the time I was old enough to help. My grandpa had quit raising livestock and strictly stuck to farming soybeans and corn. However, there were still a few things to do each morning. It was always fun gathering eggs from the chicken coop or feeding all the farm cats. The cats weren't tame, but there was one particular hen that always let me pick it up and hold it. I felt like a big shot petting that chicken, as ridiculous as that may seem.
All of these ag experiences came to a close when my grandparents decided to retire. There was no final chapter for the farm until an auction was held to sell everything, but harvest time seemed to be the more poetic ending. I was somewhat oblivious to the significance of that autumn. The fields were as golden as they had always been and my grandpa was just as busy as every other season, but that harvest over 15 years ago was indeed a special time that I'll never forget.
I remember more family members were there to help out and take in the memories. I helped my grandma and aunts bring out a field lunch, and I think I rode along in the combine. I also remember that my sister, who is six years my senior, drove grandpa's pick-up with just her and me in it – a pretty big deal in those days. It was a fun time that brought the family together to share the final memories of the farm's last hurrah, and I'm certainly thankful I could share in the experience.
Maybe it didn't mean much to me back then, but it does today. Every now and then I'll drive past the old farm when I go home for a weekend. I think back to all times I spent exploring the grove, helping my grandpa or climbing around some old piece of equipment. I'm glad I got to experience a few moments of farm life, even if they were rather brief. I loved the farm and everything on it, and I know many other "city kids" aren't as lucky as I was growing up.
I may only have a few memories of harvest season, but I know that it's a special time of the year for many farm families – it marks an end to the growing season and all the hard work put in to a successful crop. That's certainly something to celebrate even if it's not your final harvest.
Nick Pedley is the regional news editor for the Hampton Chronicle, The Sheffield Press and the Pioneer Enterprise.