He woke up at six a.m. just like he had done for the last forty years. Ready to go. Gotta hit the fields. Of course, you couldn’t harvest soybeans at six o’clock in the morning because of the dew, but his natural bodily alarm clock wouldn’t let him sleep any longer.
He gets up and puts on his 1970’s button up western shirt, even though it’s 2002, and his worn blue jeans and a cap. The cap being one of many of the farm related insignias on it from rice to tractors. He has a few from the co-op that are his favorites as well.
He reaches down and pulls on his suede leather work boots, puts on his camouflaged coat, and grabs his chewing tobacco from the shelf, sticking it in a pocket. He’s going to need it today.
After making sure the gas heater is off, he walks out the door locking it as he goes. His red 1997 Ford F250 pickup is waiting in the driveway to take him to McDonald’s for breakfast.
Occasionally, he and his friends, who consist of “the preacher” and “Robert” meet there of a morning for coffee and breakfast. Mostly to shoot the bull. They carry on so and cause such a commotion laughing that the manager says they are good for business and welcomes them to eat there.
After shooting the breeze, he drives back down the gravel road to his house and gets his equipment ready for the day. It’ll be time to start cutting after lunch.
He is a fifth generation farmer. He’s farmed cotton, rice, wheat, and soybeans. Even hogs and cows when he was younger. He’s gotten rich before off of crops and made thousands of dollars. Raised two children, bought vehicles and equipment. Lately though, the economy’s been so low that he’s not making enough to call it a decent living. Prices have fallen year after year and the cost of living keeps on rising. His dad tells him that back in 1946 the price of rice was $3.00 a bushel, now it’s $1.25. He himself remembers that in the 70’s soybeans were $10.00 or more and now they’re a pitiful $5.00 a bushel.
Finally, after getting enough of it, he’s decided to call it quits. He’s not going to be a farmer anymore. Chills go through him at the thought. It’s all he’s ever known. He was raised to be a farmer. He’s always been his own boss. It’s been a heritage in his family. When his own daughter was born he was overhauling a motor and when his son was born he was in the field on a combine cutting beans. He has poured more sweat into those fields over the years than it seems there’s water in the ocean. A self made man. The backbone of America. What kind of job can he do now with no job experience but farming?
At noon he finishes the last bite of his bologna sandwich and goes outside to meet his hired hand. This year has been especially blessed with rain, which has made a good crop, but left the field muddy. He’ll use the hired hand to haul grain in the grain cart to the truck, then they’ll both haul to the grainery.
As he climbs upon the 915 IH combine,(IH being short for International Harvester, a logo that has become an everyday part of his life), and gets inside. He starts remembering all of the other times before. He laughs as he slowly inches across his first and largest field of 125 acres, with 340 more acres to go. The first tractor he ever owned was a 706 Farmall that ran off of butane. It happened to be his favorite one because it was small and easy to drive. He had used it all summer this year watering beans and making levees. He had several others, an 806 and a 400 that he used to play with, and the 1466 and 1086 which were larger, to plant. Farmall’s were his favorite make of tractor as anyone could tell by his collection and red was his favorite color. If one broke down, he could fix it as fast as he could break it. He had always fixed his own equipment to cut down on cost. His dad taught him that. He could tear a tractor completely down and rebuild it from scratch. His hobby was restoring old tractors in which he had a 230 Farmall to prove it. It looked like brand new. To him it was a toy. Of course not denying the fact that back in the olden days it was a valued piece of machinery, but has now been retired by new models, to an antique collector. Some of his grain trucks were also antiques if you wanted to be technical about it. Two Ford F600′, a 1600 International Harvester Loadstar, and a Chevy C60. They might be antiques, but if you kept them running good, they’d get the job done.
So this was it. The last harvest. In a way it was exciting, but in another way it was sad. He would miss being on the tractor or combine all day until the sun went down on the other side of the field. The favorite part of his day was just before sundown because you knew the day was coming to a close and you could go home and relax. And he would miss his favorite time of the year, which was spring because he loved to smell the scent of the freshly plowed dirt under his feet. There’s not another smell like it in the world.
All of these thoughts and emotions would well up in him until he would feel tears come to his eyes and he would have to think of something else. He loved this job. It was who he was. Someone once told him that no matter what he done or what other occupation he might do in life, he would always be a farmer because that’s who he was. He marveled at the idea because he had never looked at it like that before, but it was right. It was in his blood. It actually made him proud.
For two weeks he harvested and reminisced. All of the grain got taken to the grainery and weighed, and he got his final check. It was hard to believe that after forty years it all came down to a sudden stop like this. He knew that he would never farm again unless the prices skyrocketed, but in the back of his mind he always had the option that he still could just to keep him happy. He’d be fine in whatever occupation he chose to do. After all, he had several skills he’d acquired. Maybe he’d be a mechanic or a shop foreman or take a maintenance job at a large facility. After long consideration he even chuckled to himself that maybe he just might run for president.