Saturday, June 23, 2007
That Family of Mine
I have an onery streak about two-miles wide. I come by it quite naturally - I got the onery and the curly hair from my father. My father is gearing up for the most important time of the year for him. Wheat harvest is probably either just started or hours away.

Wheat harvest, or any crop's harvest really, is a very stressful time for the farmer. My family takes that to the next level because we don't just bring the crop in, there's about a million other details to chase because we are in the seed business. We grow the seed that other farmers plant. That's just what we do.

Anyway, imagine if the culmination of a year's worth of sweat, work, and worry all came down to the success of 10 to 14 days' work. And I'm not talking 8 hour days. I'm talking about 10-14 days of 6 am to midnight or 1 am work. It is exhausting in a million different ways. It is difficult to explain to someone who has never been through it, but let's just say that it is serious work. And, nobody looks their best at harvest. It is impossible. You are covered in your own personal crop of grime.

For me, the first layer was sunscreen. Then came the windex mist of washing windows on equipment each morning. Then, there's always the diesel fuel fumes and motor oil from servicing trucks for the day's work. Fortunately, this all takes place before 10 am, so there's no sweating. But, Southwestern Kansas in June isn't exactly Wisconsin. It begins to warm up fast and the combines and trucks hit the field just as soon as the dew is off. By noon, dew is a novelty you wonder at because the temperature has reached the upper 90's or higher. The only good aspect of the heat is that it is a dry heat so you can do 102 degrees and it only feels like 97. The flies are out and biting. They are always there. As the heat rises the wind picks up on the high plains and before you know it, you are sweating and the wheat chaff is sticking to your skin like flour on a baker's wet hand. And, you get to sit in this state until the next time your truck is full and you can wash up at the house. It might be 15 minutes if you are the only truck driver. Or, if there is a breakdown in the field, it could be 3 hours.

Imagine how charming this story might be if I gave you all of the details of searching for a place to relieve your bladder out there in the wind and the sun and the no-place-to-hide. Because Kansas is pretty darn flat and as my husband never ceases to point out, there are not a lot of randomly growing trees. No cover for the daintiest of behinds to squat behind.

But I digress.

So, you are tired and nasty dirty and thristy and looking forward to a good two weeks of this. Now here's where the ornery part comes in.

One year, it was the middle of harvest and we'd been rained out of the field. This is both a blessing and a curse. Yay! You get to call it a night early for once and sleep a good 8 hours. But, it means that there'll probably be at least one more day of harvest. Anyway, on this particular day we all came in from the field and were informed that there were visitors on the farm. Visitors as in some distant relations of my Aunt who had chosen the absolute worst time to show up and gawk at the rednecks. Visitors in Bermuda shorts and tall socks and fanny packs. It was like we were a tourist attraction, I kid you not.

My father, the great ornery one, did not view kindly the "city folk come to look at the rurals in their natural habitat." He decided to put on a show for the tourists, one they'd not soon forget.

Now, as a sidepoint, you should know that this is a grain farm, a seed farm. Grain is a big draw for 4-legged rodents of the mousy sort, so there are always lots of barn cats around the farm. My father instructed my sister and I to round up the cats. When we got back, he had his boot off and his pocket knife out.

And I swear to you, those visitors got to see cat castrations. I think that put them off the romanticism of the big visit.

(Just in case you were wondering - the cat is pushed into the boot head-first with the back legs remaining outside. These are held open and then the job is accomplished quite easily and quickly. No muss, no fuss. The matter is done before the cat's had time to wonder what's going on. And, before my sensitive animal-lover readers start sending me hatemail, you have to castrate the males to keep them on the farm. A tom cat goes out tomcatting and you can't count on him. And sometimes they get very aggressive and mean and start killing kittens for sport. See, don't send me hatemail. I've lived on the farm. The realities are not going to mesh well with the romantic images some of you have conjured in your heads.)

Anyway, it has always been sort of a joke in the family. Not looking forward to your dinner guests? My sister would offer to go get the boot. I'd offer to round up the cats.

Someone acting up? I'll go get the boot.

Husband straying? Go get the boot.


posted by Phoenix | 9:53 PM


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