On the wall in our office hangs a picture, painted by my mother. She created it around 1970 while sitting at the kitchen table of our home on the farm. The view is from the south, looking northward to the house, across the sweep of golden wheat. In the distance is the grain truck we lovingly called, "Old Blumity" and closer to the observer's eye is my father on the cab-less Massey Ferguson combine.
My mother named this painting, "Panic". For any farmer who has ever tried to get his harvest in as a thunderstorm rumbles across the prairie, this title needs no explanation. I remember being in the fields as the sky darkened and lightning flashed in the distance, watching my dad as he fervently went around and around. Though my parents never showed much outward dismay, I knew that it was always a race against the weather to get the crops in.
Sometimes I would be on the combine with Dad, but mostly I remember riding in the truck. I would usually sit next to my mother, straddling the long gear shift as we rumbled along. My preferred place to be, however, was in the bed filled with dusty wheat kernels. We would bury our toes in the rich wheat, riding beside lazy grasshoppers as we barreled into town. The sides would sway with the weight as we drove up onto the hydraulic lift at the elevator. Most of the time, that was our signal to jump out while the wheat was being dumped.
One afternoon, my father told my sister and I that we could stay in the back of the truck while the truck was lifted and the back gate opened to let the wheat slide out. What fun we had slipping and sliding, and I can still hear our laughs and screams as we held onto the faded wooden bed! We thought we were defying the odds since a sign above the lift read, "Ride at your own risk", and I'm sure that we were pushing the rules. But it's a memory that my sister and I recall over the years and smile when we think about those treasured days on the farm.
When my mother used to draw or paint she would always say: "Remember, I'm not a camera!" In those days film and developing were an expense we couldn't always afford, so there are precious few pictures of my early childhood years. But I have only to look at this painting for perfect recollection of the smell of wheat dust, sunshine on my face and the wondrous feeling of what it was like growing up country.