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Harvest time, crazy time

The air feels crisp and clean compared to the lush softness of summer breezes. The birds congregate on electric wires, discussing the travel plans of the next day. The warmth from the sun disappears earlier in the evening, reminding us that sooner rather than later, the snow will begin to fall.

'Tis the season for apples and squash, for corn stalks and hay bales, for sweaters and bonfires and s'mores. And the harvest. Those never-ending days worked by farmers throughout the country to beat the impending frost, to gather their goods for sale to market, to store their wares to feed trusting and hungry animals.

Bumping along as a companion to my farmer in his tractor, I'm jostled by the uneven earth, I feel the tilt and slope of a field I drive by without a thought. From the road it looks so flat and wide, so pastoral and gentle. In the middle, though, it's a sea of black soil into which I sink up to my ankles. My muscles must work for each step, my legs pulling high to my chest as I would through a few inches of snow. From that vantage point, 30 acres looks immense, as if I could never walk the distance to cross the field that vanishes in a blink from my car window. I see each row, each furrow, each stalk, each footprint, each tire mark. I see the individualism of a crop that collectively will dump into a bin to provide nutrition and sustain a herd for five long months.

The lights of the tractor cut through the darkness hanging around us. It's 11:30 p.m. and while I feel a warm shower calling my name, my farmer resists, compelled to push on and get the job done while nice weather permits. He won't arrive home until gone 2 a.m. He will wash the grime off and collapse into a deep sleep for three hours until his "real job" beckons with the tone of his alarm. He will do this for a week, maybe more--day job, farm job, harvest. He will do this quietly, secretly enjoying the monotony of the trek along the field, the methodical rumble of the engine, the peace of the night. He may harvest the crop, but he reaps the benefit in his soul.

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