Because he needed us

February 2, 2007 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

Today would have been my grandfather’s 83rd birthday. I never knew him; he died when I was four months old–and yet I catch glimpses of him from my mom’s stories.

Though my mom is an Oklahoma native, she comes from a family of German wheat farmers whose lives revolved around the annual agricultural cycle of planting and harvesting.

wheat.jpgEvery summer, excitement would build as the wheat ripened and harvest time drew nearer and nearer. My grandpa would monitor the wheat, watching and waiting, waiting and watching, everyone brimming with anticipation, until the kernels were fully ripe and fully dry.

At last, a test would show that the wheat was finally ready. Grandpa would give the signal, and the fields would explode with activity. Harvest had arrived!

Once the fields were ripe, it was imperative to harvest the wheat as quickly as possible, meaning that everyone needed to do their job very efficientlyj. Uncle Tom and Uncle Dan operated the two combines, and Mom drove the big wheat truck. Grandpa ran around with his toolbox and the fuel tanks keeping all the machines in good working order, and Grandma made sure everyone was well-fed with home-cooked meals trucked out to the fields.

combine1.jpgEveryone knew their duty and moved in perfect rhythm: My uncles would pull up next to Mom’s wheat truck in their combines, engaging the augers on the machines as soon as their spouts were over the bed of the truck. They would unload their wheat as fast as possible, then lurch back out to the field as soon as the last kernel had fallen from the spout. This was the continual rhythm from dawn to dusk (and sometimes later) for several weeks every summer.

Every year at harvest, a battered little red pickup would come bumping down the dirt road, turn into the field, and park. It was great-grandpa. He’d have the bed of his truck completely swept out and spotless, all ready to haul wheat. He wanted to help.

Never mind that his was a measly little truck that could only carry a tiny load of wheat; nevermind that the wheels had to be jacked up at the grain elevator just so the pickup could be unloaded. A little old man past his prime still wanted to help.

In Mom’s words:

Every year, Danny and Tommy would complain to my dad: “Tell him we can do it faster ourselves! He’s not helping!”

But Dad, pointing at Grandpa’s little truck, would say merely, “Fill it up.”

Not because we needed him, but because he needed us.


My grandfather had his priorities straight. I wish I’d known him.


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profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

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