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Published September 21, 2010, 08:22 AM

That special season returns

There’s nothing quite like harvest on the Northern Plains. If you’re a pragmatist, you enjoy harvest because it’s when the money rolls in.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

There’s nothing quite like harvest on the Northern Plains.

If you’re a pragmatist, you enjoy harvest because it’s when the money rolls in.

If you’re a philosophical sort, you appreciate harvest for the rhythm-of-the-seasons, cycle-of-life completion it brings.

If you’re both philosopher and pragmatist — and surely most of us are, if only to a small degree — harvest is as good as it gets.

Harvest is seldom simple and never easy, especially in areas with both small grains and row crops.

We see that again this September. What was shaping up to be a smooth row-crop harvest has been delayed by heavy, widespread rains. Harvest threatens to become a marathon, a months-long grind that drains mind, body and spirit.

That applies to nearly everyone who earns their living directly from agriculture. Agronomists, grain elevator employees and many others make vital, indispensable contributions during harvest.

Harvest leaves its mark

Whatever your role, harvest brings experiences that can leave lifelong memories — some good, some not so good.

I won’t tell you my most vivid harvest memories. If I did, some of my relatives might never speak to me again. But I will relate this story from long ago:

I was unloading barley from a truck into a small wooden bin. To make sure the entire load would fit, I crawled through the bin entrance on top, sat down on the barley and kicked some of it into corners of the bin that otherwise would’ve remained empty. Space was so tight that there wasn’t room to use a shovel.

When the job was done, I crawled out of the bin and climbed down the ladder, intending to restart the auger and move the final few bushels from the truck into the bin.

But by the time I reached the ground, I was shaking. Barley beards had gotten inside my clothes, and my body couldn’t tolerate those accursed beards.

I was sprawled out on the ground, shaking badly, when a neighbor happened to drive by. He saw me, stopped his pickup and rushed over to ask if I’d fallen off the bin.

“Nah,” I said, “I’m just really allergic to barley.”

OK, it’s not a great story, just one I feel safe in repeating.

Share your stories

No doubt many of you have much better harvest stories. Funny ones. Poignant ones. Ones that illustrate the need for safety.

Some of you may even have harvest stories that provide insight into a fundamental truth about life or the human condition.

Maybe they happened while you drove a combine. Or while you brought food to the field. Or while you repaired a farmer’s broken equipment.

Whatever the story, I’d like to hear it. Send me a little write-up — don’t worry if it’s not fancy or polished — at either my electronic or mail address. They’re listed on this page.

I’ll look over the responses and select a few to retell, in abbreviated form, in a future column. Be sure to include your name and address so you get proper credit.

Harvest on the Northern Plains is special. Take a few minutes to share a special memory of it.