Harvest was plentiful, and so were laborers

In the days after my dad died in late August, friends and family members started asking how we would get our crop out of the fields. My dad had been a farmer almost his entire life, growing up on a farm, going to college and coming home to farm by his father’s side.

In the last few years, my brother had started to learn the tricks of the trade and was getting into the family business.

So as people were asking those questions, my brother, at his young age, had the answer — and a plan — in his mind. He was having conversations with my uncle about farmers with 36-inch corn heads and those who might be able to help.

My husband began planning the days he would take off work to drive the grain cart.

Living in Nebraska, though, it never came to that.

A few weeks ago, some family friends approached my mom about hosting a harvest bee to get our crops out of the field.

Meetings were held and posters were plastered in several communities asking for help.

By the time the farmers started to arrive on our two farms around 7:30 a.m. Monday, a dozen combines, more than a dozen grain carts and another two-and-a-half to three dozen grain trucks and drivers had assembled. When I stepped outside at 8:30 a.m., there was already at least one combine harvesting the corn that my dad and brother had lovingly planted five months ago.

My mom and I spent the morning at the grain elevator with a few other ladies setting up tables, filling coolers with water and pop and organizing the many trays of desserts that were already piled on the tables there, each coming from the kitchens of women in the community.

Within 30 minutes, three or four grain trucks had already come through. I was in charge of thanking each driver by giving him a handshake and a freshly made apple prieska still warm from the oven.

While I recognized many of the drivers from their faces or the names on their trucks, there were many others I did not recognize.

When I wasn’t sure who the person was, I would rush over to the crow’s nest where a sample of the crop was from the truck.

There I would stand as the driver would identify him or herself, oftentimes simply saying “Dan Graves” or “truck for Dan Graves.” It was a heartwarming feeling hearing other people — whether I knew them or not — saying proudly and lovingly that they had brought 800-1,000 bushels of corn to the elevator in my father’s name.

I knew those trucks represented the kind combine and tractor drivers who were still in the fields picking that crop.

Throughout the day, I was able to thank many of those farmers who had taken time away from their own fields to help us.

I walked the line of more than a dozen trucks and talked to the drivers waiting in line to get to the scale and empty their load.

A few moments during the day, I reflected on the magnitude of the day’s events, and I’ll admit I became overwhelmed.

My mom, my brother and I have said more than once, “How do we thank all of these people?”

The answer each time was that there was no way we could thank them all.

I think the elevator manager said it best when he explained that most of the people were there because they just wanted to find a way to help us.

Those who asked days after the funeral how we would get the crop out were many of the same farmers who showed up Monday driving their tractors, combines and trucks.

In the next few years as my brother takes over the farm on his own, I know my father will be smiling down, watching as those same farmers help him along the way.

My mom’s two sisters who created gift bags for each farmer said it best in the message they lovingly wrote on each sack:

“The true harvest of life is good friends.”

Shay Burk

Veteran Tribune reporter Shay Burk writes whatever is swirling around her mind each week. Read her columns on Tuesdays for her humorous thoughts on everyday life.

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