Archive for November, 2015

It was a large rock, and it rested in the point of grass where our driveway reconnected with itself after making a loop in front of the garage and barn. When my mother first discovered it on a farmstead across the road, it took my great uncle using a bucket tractor to deposit it in our yard.

I was drawn to that boulder like any young child with an active imagination would be. It was big enough to sit on with my legs outstretched. Big enough to become a fort to hide behind. Big enough to anchor hours of resourceful playtime involving Breyer model horses or bows and arrows made of willow branches and string.

Of all my memories of the driveway rock, the one that stands out most is of how it served as my grandstand seat for autumn’s glorious spectacle: corn harvest.

Once a year, on a sunny fall afternoon after school, my time would come: the farmer who owned the field across the road would come with his combine to pick the corn. I’m sure he grew soybeans some of those years, but in my memory it was always corn harvest that I watched.

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The greatest thrill for me was when the combine reached the end of the field, right at the end of our driveway. I would gaze expectantly, watching and waiting for that moment when the points of the corn head, then the whole machine, would emerge from the end of the rows. The shining behemoth would swing around, cobs spitting from its hindquarters, straightening itself for re-entrance into the golden rows. I would continue to stare at its receding hulk as it shrank into the distance across the field.

Eventually, as the combine’s roar faded to a distant hum, I would occupy myself on and around the rock. Although the evening air might be cool, my sunbaked rock would still be warm to the touch. It became a game to see how long I could play behind my granite fortress and still emerge in time to watch the combine return for another round.

Watching harvest was irresistible to me then, and it still is now. There’s a grandness, a kind of glory to harvest that just grabs me. Part of it is the weather: the shining intensity of late September and early October skies that are bluer than they ever appear at other times of the year. Part of it is the colors: red and gold leaves, expanses of glowing fields. Yet another facet of harvest splendor is the machines: huge combines, tractors, and grain carts gleaming even through a layer of dust. The reds, greens, and blues of the machines reflect the intense sunlight and stand out in sharp contrast to the fields and sky.

Even the sounds of harvest have grandiosity: the combines, tractors, and semis all emit a powerful roar. As I putter around the house on a Sunday afternoon, I am often conscious of a working combine even a half-mile away. After night falls on a quiet fall evening, the hum of grain dryers radiates across the landscape.


As a kid watching harvest from my rocky perch, it never occurred to me that I might one day ride in a combine. Thanks to the patience and generosity of several area farmers, I’ve had that experience a number of times since coming to work in agriculture. While I always thought harvest was grand from a distance, it’s AWESOME from the cab of a combine. All of the sights, sounds, and aromas of harvest come together in that small, high space. Added to this swirl of sensations is the view of golden ears being swallowed up by the spinning auger below, the rush of grain flowing into the hopper behind me, and the flicker of constantly changing numbers on the yield monitor.

Even as a non-farmer, I realize that the grandeur of harvest goes well beyond sights, sounds, and smells. It’s the sense of satiety, of satisfaction. It’s the culmination of another year’s work and worry. As the hoppers, carts, trailers, and bins fill, so too do our hearts. And, indirectly, our bellies.

Harvest is over. It’s time to give thanks.

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Photo credit: Cherie Sanderson


This post appeared as the “Stray Kernels” column in the November 2015 issue of DeKalb County Farm Bureau’s Connections magazine.

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