The Harvest Season
Where I come from, it’s harvest season. That means many hard working farmers and laborers are spending long, cold hours in the fields and at the grain elevator – often all day and well into the night, seven days a week. I sometimes think I work fairly hard, myself. But what I do is nothing compared to those men and women at harvest time. I know because I grew up working summers, and harvest seasons, at my family’s grain elevator in Elk Mound. I saw the farmers bring in load after load of corn from their fields to our dryer and storage facilities. Though personalities varied, each farmer exuded a sense of pride in their work, and at this time of the year, they also carried a frequent fog of fatigue to match. Later on when I was going to college at UW-Eau Claire, throughout October and November, I’d drive a semi truck out to these fields after class, pull up in just the right spot, and wait while their (often antiquated) equipment slowly filled my trailer with the fruits of their labor. Then I’d drive it back to the grain elevator, empty it out, and head right back to another field, repeating the process several hours past dark. The daily and nightly scene at the elevator, to this day, is exciting to me. Farmers and truckers from the region line up for their turn to be weighed and unload. The lights of the trucks, equipment, and structures glow across the night. Huge plumes of steam rise through the cold air above the grain dryer. With engines and augers at full throttle, it’s a very loud and extremely dusty scene. But it feels rewarding in a way that many other forms of work do not. It feels as though you’re more a part of the land. And though the technology has changed, this work still makes you feel like you’re a part of a centuries-old way of life. A part of Wisconsin. And on many fall nights, I think about what it would be like to be back there, working alongside my dad. At 72 years old, he’s still making the harvest push like he always has. He sometimes has that fog of fatigue, yes – but that strong sense of pride cuts right through it. And after it’s all done for the year, Thanksgiving is all the more meaningful.