Field Trip

There is no machine cooler than the combine.

I’ve known that since I was a very little girl, and I’m delighted that Alex is now old enough to agree with me. Ever since wheat harvest ended (in mid-July), he has been asking when Grandpa would get the combine out so he could take another ride. The combine came out last weekend; we have been counting the days all this week. And today was the day.

It was a beautiful drive from Columbia to Moberly, a drive lined with cornfields half-harvested and soybean fields spangled with gold and red. When we rounded the last corner on “the bumpy road,” there were the two grain trucks and a tractor and grain cart lined up along the edge of the “hundred acre” field. Alex could barely contain himself. It was everything a boy of two could ask for.

Autumn is my favorite of all the seasons. It’s the colors, the bracing air, the sense of fulfillment—“the crowning of the year.” Although I know this every day, every fall the wonder overtakes me again as if I’ve never felt it before. The air today was cool, filled with the smell of corn stubble—sweet, in a way that you can’t equate with food. I got Alex out of the van, and he shrieked as the big red Case 2100 came toward us, chewing up the rows with a roar and spitting out chaff behind it. He fairly danced in place, giggling without self-consciousness or self-control.

We rode (and played, while Grandpa fixed the combine) for nearly two hours, all three of us, with my dad. Alex loved it. Julianna looked around with placid disinterest at everything but me. (I got smiles.) After lunch, Alex went for a solo ride with Grandpa while I nursed Julianna. As the combine slowly sank over the hill, the incessant bellow faded to a muted roar, and then to silence—a brief, perfect stillness. Up sprang a tricksy little wind, and a funnel of long dead leaves and stubble went swirling into the air. A miniature tornado, there on a perfectly clear September day, whirling its way across the cut rows, then spinning over the tassled heads still standing.

And then came the subsonic rumble, and the outermost row of corn at the top of the hill began to thrash. A moment later the dark fork point of the header emerged, then the Big Top riding above the brown rows, and at last, the cab clearing the tall stalks.

We got back on the road about 2:30, and the first time I turned around to glance at my children, they were both fast asleep. If only naptime were this easy every day.