As a child, I spent most of every August riding in the wheat truck with my Dad. It’s difficult to describe those summers and how my life was impacted by those yellow kernels.
Usually, I rode in the full back of the truck, with my bare toes and legs buried in the wheat, while he drove the truck from the field to the grain bins. He would back the truck to a hopper, and once in position, he used the truck’s hydraulic system to lift the bed of the truck, allowing the wheat to flow through a small opening into the hopper.
An auger would pull the wheat from the hopper up a long metal tube into the top of the grain bin. Dad would stand and watch as the wheat disappeared up the tube, adjusting the hydraulic lift and the opening so the flow of wheat wouldn’t be more than the auger could handle.
We would make several trips from the field to the bins before noon, when we went back home for my mother’s farm-style lunch. We stomped our feet as we walked across the concrete driveway, dust flying, before we went into the garage to scrub our hands with gritty, heavy-duty Boraxo hand soap. At this point, we were presentable enough to enter my mother’s sparkling clean kitchen.
As I rode in the back of the truck, I would eat wheat by the handful. I learned as a very young child how to pick fresh wheat from the stalk, roll it between my hands and blow away the chaff. I loved the nutty, chewy sweetness of the just-harvested wheat.
Wheat Farm Life
The wheat seemed clean and it didn’t matter to me that it probably had its share of dirt and grasshopper parts. (One summer, one of my flip-flops went up the auger, showing up only when the local Grain Growers Co-op brought a semi-truck to haul the truck away).
It also didn’t bother me that we drank water from a burlap bag swinging from the truck mirror. The water was fresh, clean and cool, with only a little hint of dust.
By the time summer was over, I always had a few fresh scars from scraping my legs against metal truck parts or shinnying through barbed-wire fences. My New Yorker husband is probably right when he says farm women are the toughest people he’s ever met.