Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Wheat Field Memories"

When I got home from work tonight I opened the blinds so that I could watch the birds at the bird feeders in my back yard. I saw a few birds, but the most surprising thing was--I saw something that made me think back to wheat harvest time on our farm.

We usually tried to cut wheat around Memorial Day, but it was most often early in June when the wheat was ripe for harvesting. Daddy, Grandpa Wallace, and Uncle Victor would rotate jobs in the wheat field: one would run the combine, one would drive a truck to the grain elevator, and one would stay with a truck in the field awaiting the next time the combine bin was full and ready to dump a load of wheat. Mom, Grandma Dovie, and I would share the work of preparing food for all the harvest hands, driving to get parts for a broken-down truck or combine, driving a truck to the elevator when they were short-handed, etc.

Harvesting wheat was hot, dirty work since it was in the days when neither a combine or a truck had an air conditioner. Daddy wore goggles to keep wheat chaff, straw, bugs, etc. out of his eyes. When he'd take his goggles off, he very often looked like a little racoon-in-reverse because his face was so dark with dirt, but he had white places where his goggles had been around his eyes.

I was always glad to see Daddy when he stopped to dump the wheat and get a drink of water. I'd run up to him and give him a big hug even if he was covered with dirt from head to toe. Very often there was the smell of grease on his hands and clothing because of all the work that had to be done on the old farm equipment to keep it running. All of that mixed with old-fashioned sweat made for a rustic blend of a scent I'll call "farm aftershave." I didn't care what he smelled like when I hugged him--he was my Daddy!

Sometimes Daddy would go to the small toolbox built in to the combine and I'd stand at his side in eager anticipation. Now why would that be something a child would anticipate with eagerness? Who'd get excited about seeing a greasy wrench, grimy pliers, or a dirty hammer? The reason for anticipation was not the tools that were in the toolbox, but what was sitting on top of the tools.

Daddy would barely open the toolbox with one hand and reach gingerly inside with his other hand. I'd be peering inside the box as best I could in order to see what treasure Daddy was going to pull out, all-the-while knowing what it was going to be. I wanted to jump up and down with excitement, but if I did it might scare away what was bound to be something that could move faster than me and rapidly disappear into the wheat field.

S-l-o-w-l-y Daddy would pull out the brown and white package and place it carefully in my outstretched, closely-cupped hands. I could feel the racing heartbeat against my palms and its fur was as soft as the velvet on one of my bedroom pillows. It's whiskers tickled my fingers and it's long ears twitched in the sunlight, showing how pink they were on the inside. Daddy couldn't pull a rabbit out of a hat like a magician, but he certainly could pull a young cotton-tail bunny out of the toolbox on the combine. I couldn't have been more thrilled to receive that bunny than if Daddy had pulled out a new bicycle from the toolbox. The bunny was mine to take to the house and take care of for a few days before Daddy and Momma would "help" me decide that I'd better let it go back home to its parents in the wheat field.

Yes--the surprise in my back yard tonight was a young rabbit, much too big to fit in a combine toolbox though. The only other time I have seen a rabbit in or near my yard was the day I came to look at this house when it was on the market, and that was in August 2007.

For several minutes I took pictures through my east living room window because I knew if I opened the door even a little that it would hop away. It stayed quite a while eating grass, stretching out in the dirt, and even closing its eyes for a few moments to take a nap.

I was sad to see it hop off, much like I was as a child when I returned my harvest bunny to the wheat field. However, the rabbit tonight came back for another wallow in the dirt and another nibble of grass. Maybe it knew that it was stirring up memories from deep within me and that I needed to be nostalgic a while longer.

My Grandpa Broyles was a rabbit ya know. But then, that's another story for another time.

Thanks for reading and have a "hoppy" evening! =o)
© 06-24-08 by Janet F. Broyles
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