By Doris Schroeder.
Kansans will soon be “rushing for the gold” as the heads of wheat turn into a gleaming golden color. Combines will rumble out of storage and will deftly extract the grain from the heads. Trucks will motor down the roadways hauling the kernels to the elevators. The sunshine of promise will glow out to the world in all her glory. Our state is “the breadbasket of the world” and is the largest wheat-producing state in the nation. According to the Kansas Wheat Commission, nearly one fifth of all the wheat grown in the U.S. is grown right here in Kansas!
Many of our ancestors came to this area in the latter eighteen hundreds, bringing buckets of a hardy Red Turkey Wheat that they had painstakingly sorted through. It was not easy to till the soil with horses and plows but they did it, along with settling their homesteads. My great grandfather planted the hardy wheat between Buhler and Inman, followed by my grandfather and then my own father.
On my page of remembrance, I especially recall one harvest in 1945, as that was the last one we were able to work the harvest before we had to move off the farm and back to town. We were hoping, as did all farmers, that this year’s crop would be good. We did need some of that harvest money to break us a little above even. I had been told by my teacher I needed glasses. That wasn’t too hard to figure out, since I had to sit at the teacher’s desk in order to see the blackboard.
We held our breath through the spring season, praying that the Kansas tornadoes and hailstorms would miss the farm on the hill. To my twelve-year-old mind, harvest was the golden epitome of all our dreams, the glowing fruition of all our labor, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The spring season made itself known in all her beautiful green covering and the wheat sparkled with an emerald enameling. Each day Dad and I would walk out into the field to see how the wheat was doing.
Dad would walk a little ways, stoop down and feel the wheat heads development as he tested the hardness of the kernel. His eyes would get a far away look and I wondered of what he was dreaming, should a good wheat crop present
I had my own dreams and wondered “what would it be like to be rich?” To have a nice car, a refrigerator, an electric washing machine, a modern bathroom, and oh, yes, a telephone that always worked? Would I feel like a queen? If we were able to buy me the glasses I needed, would I see better but look ugly? Would I enjoy the world even more?”
It appeared to be a good year. The weather had been good, no major hailstorms, and no tornadoes had taken our garage as it usually did. This could be the one!
Dad’s eyes took on a new sparkle as he eagerly greased the old John Deere tractor and got the aged combine into working condition. I followed him around like a little puppy so I could hand him the things he needed. He was happy so I was
The dawn had just painted the sky a rosy glow one perfect June day when Dad walked out to the field to test the wheat. “It’s ready!” he announced.
The world on the Kroeker farm had been waiting for those very words. The old tractor was started by turning the flywheel and driven out to be hitched to the combine. We called our hired hand so he could come help. Mom started mixing up her dough for all the food she was going to make.
The tractor had a twelve year old driver…me. Dad got on the combine and managed the controls. The hired hand hauled the wheat in an old pick up and
“Everything is going well!” I thought as I bounced along on the tractor seat singing “Home on the Range.”
Sweat poured down our faces as the sparkling Kansas wheat poured out of the spout of the combine into the trailer again and again. Soon we had a steady rhythm going spelling K-a-n-s-a-s G-o-l-d.
The afternoon of the second day, the sky began to darken just a bit. A cloud briefly blocked out the sun’s rays and it felt good. The white clouds began to resemble steel wool as they grew darker and after awhile began to scratch at my Dad’s temperament as he began to realize what was happening and what a storm would do to the crop now.
Finally the dreaded rain came pelting down like bits of steel. The men hurriedly drove the load of wheat for the day into the garage so it wouldn’t get wet.
I felt I was watching a silent movie as I saw the driver back the trailer in the garage, and my Dad stepped over to straighten the hitch. In horror I saw my Dad’s face contort with pain as the load went over his foot.
There was more than an ache in my Dad’s eyes. The hurt to his foot was more than torn ligaments. Our wait for harvest had again ended in vain.
Everything had gone so well until now. Why did this have to happen?
We had been on the verge of fulfilling our dream but at the last minute, it had tottered back to the beginning again.
The sky cleared and as the sun peeped out of the clouds, a rainbow appeared, casting the wheat field with a golden glow. We felt better. After all, we did harvest some of the amber waves of grain and we still had the rainbow of promise that God gives to those who believe.
And that, my friends, is truly why we rush for Kansas’s gold!
Doris welcomes your comments on harvest and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org