Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Moments of Harvest

I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the world, but just outside this sleepy old town things are absolutely beautiful. Finally, the bold sky dances with timid clouds and the leaves are painting the edge of every field. 

What happens within those golden fields tends to make me smile and count my blessings a bit more often this season. I didn’t grow up in crop production. Dad  has always cash-rented all of our crop ground; we kept all rolling pastures for the cattle. But my memories of riding in a combine started early, back when I thought our neighbor Kevin was Garth Brooks. His shoulders were broad, and he knew every word to Garth’s The Dance, so he had to be the real deal. How he worked ground, sold seed corn, raised two boys plus Angus cattle and kept a marriage strong I never knew. But he was Garth, so I never questioned it. Ever.
Harvest harbors this certain stigma in my life. It’s beautiful, and it’s new; just this week I rode along in a combine and asked some pretty entry level (are you smarter than a 5th grader?) questions. I learned, he didn’t laugh and I loved it. And I lived
Last week a college friend sent me a link to a story coming out of southern Indiana, telling the story of a community pulling together to harvest a man’s crops as he recovered in the hospital from a farming accident. 
“We had 11 combines and probably 30 trucks hauling it,” friend and farmer Mike Sprinkle said afterward. “In just a little over six hours time, they harvested over 700 acres. Everything was all wrapped up by 3:30 today. It was a great effort.”
You can see the full story here.
There is something about stories like that one that make my throat tight and my eyes water. It takes me back to two harvests ago when my good friend had a community step in after she lost her Dad in late November in a farming accident. 
Today I rely only Tim’s daughters to tell the incredible story of how an entire community came together to Harvest a man’s legacy....
Katie says, “This is what I remember....Dad passed away during the best time of year (and busiest for a farmer), the fall harvest.  We still had lots to get in from the fields due to a late start to the harvest.  He had planned several loads to be hauled to a certain elevator as well.  The day of his funeral was sunny so we knew he was probably pissed that we were all sittin' around talking about him instead of working.  The day after his funeral was dreary and rainy.  There was a flat tire on one of the semis and one of the combines broke down too!  (Dad's way of telling us we should have worked the day before when it was nice, sunny and dry.)  The elevator agreed to take all the loads that were scheduled for the week during that one day.  So what happened?  Several farmers and friends showed up with their semis to drive loads.  Someone made black flags to put on each of them.


When they arrived in the morning, Mom, Sarah and I were not there.  But when they returned we saw them all drive into the farm and line up single file.  It was a real site and I forgot that it was raining and gloomy out.  I watched as each driver climbed out of their semis and thought, “Is this real life?  Are these people farmers or angels?”

 Mom wanted to thank all of them so we headed to the barn where she gave her thanks and gratitude for their time, effort and love.  She told them a story of when she was a little girl  riding in the backseat of her parents' car.  She said they passed an empty dirt field and she pointed at it, looked at her sister and said, "I want to own one of those one day."  
And now she does, several of them, as she took dad's place as a partner in the farming operation.  I watched, trying not to cry for her, and witnessed old men and young ones holding back tears because they had just lost one of their own, a farmer.  And he was a great one who meant so much to our entire farming community and other workers of the land.”

I don’t know why those things happen. I don’t know why daughters lose fathers, and fathers lose sons and wives lose husbands in farming accidents. I do know that there are lessons learned in every single one. I know that it’s in the moments of fear and sadness that small towns across America step in and put personal needs aside to aid someone else. I also know that stories like Katie’s have helped me appreciate rural communities even greater, and even made me look for, and appreciate, the “Moments of Harvest”.
In the month that follows, from Jean’s Boots look for photographs that tell the story of the local American Farmer, showcasing the profession I’m proud to be a part of. You'll see rural scenes and rural folks. Agree with our practices or not, you cannot help but appreciate the people that put in long, dangerous hours to put food on your own dinner table.


  1. Simply beautiful! I am assuming that this farmer was the father of the two wonderful Thomas sisters I met after your cattle sale. What a touching story. We farmers do look out for each other - especially when things are tough. Thanks for sharing this story.

  2. Very moving story. Knowing the family makes it even that much better.

  3. I don't know what to say as tears roll down my face. Thank you Katie for sharing and thank you Mr. Thomas for raising 2 great girls I am happy to call my friends!

  4. We lost a good friend in 09 to a tractor roll over. My dh wrote about it when it was still raw.
    Your post reminded my of that time.

  5. I knew Tim Thomas from Indiana Farmers Union, I remember distinctly the day he died, I remember stopping what I was doing at the grain bins at the time and saying a prayer for his family, crying, calling a mutual friend we had to pass along prayers and thoughts from our family to theirs, calling my husband, my Dad, my FIL and brother (who all farm) telling them I loved them and to please be careful.

  6. I was lucky enough to meet Tim at my sister's wedding. What I remember most about him is his smile and how he always greeted me when he saw me at a farm show. A stark reminder of how short life can be. Thanks for sharing.