“Would you like a combine ride?” a friend asked in late September. Would I? Would I? In over two decades of flatland living, no one had ever asked.
Later that week I perched in the cab of her family’s air-conditioned combine. Ripe canola, resting in neatly swathed rows, stretched clear to the horizon. A second combine and a waiting grain truck, also driven by family members, worked the same field.
The long-ago sounds of slapping belts and hissing steam may have vanished, but one thing remains the same, out here anyway: family still helps family at harvest time. Not much sweat required anymore, mainly endless patience.
Below me, metal tines on the combine’s rotating black header lifted long stalks of grain and fed them into the reel for cutting and stripping. When the on-board tank filled, my friend tapped the horn. Across the field, the white grain truck came to life, approached, and lumbered slowly alongside until the canola stopped spraying from our combine’s long chute. Then it lumbered off again.
Back and forth we went, swooping up the tidy rows of shorn canola. Overhead, hawks and ravens circled. A thumb-sized rodent scurried from under a swath row, frantic to escape machine and hovering predators. Life is hard, if you’re a mouse living on a grainfield. “Once one ran out in front of me,” my friend said. “He escaped the machine, but just a few yards out, a hawk got him.”
I rode until the sunset, hazy in the grain dust, air-brushed the land pink. “I had a great afternoon,” I said to the friend driving the grain truck. “Thanks for letting me share this.”
She chuckled. “Today was good. But it’s not always fun. The days get very long.”
I’d watched her. Sitting and waiting for her turn. Rattling to the combine. Rattling to the grain bins to transfer the harvest. Then waiting some more. Fourteen hours, some days, they’d told me. “I bring a book sometimes,” she said. “But often I pray. Go through every pew in the church, over and over.”
The harvest wasn’t suberb this year, turns out. At least that’s what the crop reports say. But considering the pray-er in that grain truck — and many others like her working the white fields — I suspect eternity will tell a different story.