Karen Schwaller

Perhaps there is no greater scope of opposites than is present during harvest time.

Harvest time presents some of the longest days of the year for the farm family, and it clashes with the shortest amount of time to get laundry and chores done, get field lunches made and dishes done, and even answer Mother Nature’s call when the combine is waiting for the grain cart or trucks to catch up.

But there are plenty of things that don’t last long during harvest season — and one of them would be sunsets. Harvest sunsets feature some of the most beautiful paintings God has ever created, but they certainly don’t last long. It’s a good thing too, because I could see myself so engrossed in the beauty of a fall sunset that we could revisit an incident we had a couple of years ago involving a damaged combine and grain cart tractor, a frustrated husband and a wife who was considering revisiting her 100-yard-dash capabilities from her junior high track years.

We don’t want to go back there.

When you’re a kid, a ride in the combine or tractor is never long enough. When our very young grandson came to ride with me one fall, it came time for him and his mom to switch to the combine for a ride, and amid his tearful angst, we had to peel his little fingers off of the steering wheel so he could make the move. Yet, once in the combine, he staked his claim there as well, and it was just as unfortunate when it was time for him to leave there and go home for supper. We can all learn something from little kids who live in the moment, for the moment.

Sometimes progress and patience are in short supply during that very hectic time of year. When the combine driver has to wait for the grain cart to return; when trucks are backed up at the elevator; when breakdowns occur and we have to wait for parts; when the rain lasts too long; when computer technology fails us; when there isn’t enough help; and even when political news intrudes and rears its ugly head.

Nights are some of the shortest of all during harvest season. Before I used to help with harvest I would hear my husband say, “All that’s left is to fill the trucks and then we’ll be home.” That always sounded like a short-term effort … until it would take forever for them to come home.

When I became part of the harvest team (out of a lack of work force and sheer desperation), I came to understand how long it takes to ‘just fill the trucks’ — especially during the soybean harvest. It takes some time to fill the trucks for the night, especially depending on the wind speed, blowing dust, yield levels and how much coffee was consumed during the day.

Many farm women have full-time jobs in town, so their days are as long as they are short when they have to hold down the home fort while the guys are in the field.

When I was doing that, I would get home from work around 5:30 or 6 p.m., toss the field supper into the oven, change into my chore clothes and take care of the hog and sheep chores for an hour. I would then return to the house, change out of my chore clothes, pack up supper and haul it around to wherever everyone was working, bring it home and put it away, get field lunches ready for three or four people, and prepare what was going to be for supper the next night for eight to 12 people. Those days dragged and yet whizzed by, and it confounded me that I never lost a single ounce of weight in all the time I did that.

Sometimes the help doesn’t last long in the field or in the hog barns — especially if it’s a husband-and-wife situation and things aren’t going well. Maybe it’s best you don’t ask my husband how he knows that.

There are many other things that aren’t around long at harvest time, including bread and mayonnaise, Rice Krispie treats (especially when young grandchildren are passengers in the combine), clean clothes, and yes, even whiskey.

Ask my husband, and he’ll tell you it cures what ails you … especially at harvest time.

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