Wheat People - Part 6
Nature is a constant source of tension for farmers. Some of Kansas's most dangerous weather strikes in June and July when harvest is in full swing.
"Hail and wheat harvest [go] together like a glove on a hand."
--Paul Conrardy, Kingman, 1998
Every farmer has stories about being hauled out or burned up. The memories are painful, but farmers remain optimistic that "there's always next year."
Some farmers take a very matter-of-fact approach to bad weather during harvest. Many find it an extremely stressful time. All have stories about storms that wiped out fields before they could be harvested.
"It was in the early 50s . . . we chopped wheat for 20-25 days with two old combines. . . . Oh, it was hot that day at noon, and Colby had just put in a new swimming pool down there, and anyway I told my dad, 'Let's just go down and go swimming.' We only had like 40 acres left. We could've got it cut that afternoon. . . . So we went to Colby and went swimming all afternoon, and we was coming back home and man, there was a big old black cloud out in the west, and it just came in and mowed that wheat. You know, it never even bothered my dad. He just went out and gathered up the ice and made ice cream."
--Jesse Craft, Brewster, 1998
"My parents would be so upset, and I wasn't old enough to know. Now I understand how they felt. If you get hail, you could lose a year's income."
--Enola Dreier, Hesston, 1998
"The memory of the season is one of vivid blues and golds: the blue of God's vast sky and the gold of His sun and bounteous wheat."
--James R. Dickenson, Home on the Range, 1995
Working outdoors brings many pleasures during harvest. Wheat straw gives off a clean, hot smell as it bakes in the sun. Uncut fields resemble oceans as they ripple in the wind. Grain tastes warm and nutty when it's cracked between teeth. Just the sound of wheat pouring into bins can give a farmer a feeling of contentment that's almost physical.
It's tempting to romanticize country life, but farming is and has always been hard work. Twelve-hour days aren't unusual, and during harvest they can stretch up to 20 hours. Farmers cut into the night until wheat straw gets tough from dew.
Wheat People: Celebrating Kansas Harvest is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.
- Wheat History - Corn used to be "King" in Kansas
- Gearing Up - Getting ready for harvest
- On the Run - Everybody moves quickly
- Family - Coming together in the fields
- Fast Food - Meals are a social event
- Nature - June is a stormy month
- To Market, To Market - The local grain elevator
- The Season's End - Harvest festivals
- Business or Way of Life? - Farming is both
Contact us at KansasMuseum@kshs.org