Harvest had been going well for the Hansons.
“Haven’t had a year like this with no breakdowns for a while,” Jeff Hanson mentioned to his father, Dale, one morning when they were out in the yard getting their two combines ready to go.
“Don’t talk like that, you’ll jinx it,” Dale said.
Sure enough, before mid-afternoon, one of the combines was down for repairs, with at least a two-day wait time for the parts to come in.
“I told you not to talk like that,” Dale said.
“I wasn’t even in the combine when it broke down,” Jeff said.
“Doesn’t matter,” Dale said. “You don’t tempt fate.”
With just one field-ready combine, Jeff’s wife Elaine took advantage of the situation to take a day away from the farm. Their two kids needed to be taken to the city for some school shopping.
Connor’s pants are halfway up to his knees,” she told Jeff, “and Jenny’s almost worn the soles right off her running shoes.”
Jeff was happy to take over Elaine’s spot in the combine cab. Running the combine had always been his favourite job on the farm — watching their grain flow into the hopper as the machine steered itself down the field, keeping one eye on the yield monitor and turning back to check on the straw flowing out the back every now and then. It was a great experience.
“The kochia out here is worse than I thought,” Jeff told his dad after he’d made his first full round of the field.
“I thought we had the kochia under control,” Dale said. “Just took one dry spring to bring it all back to life. With all the water out here a few years ago, I sure didn’t think we’d be complaining about a drought so soon.”
The spring had been cool and dry, and the herbicide they’d used on the lentils hadn’t fully activated. The kochia was rampant. And of course, the lentils were right next to a busy road.
Having the neighbours slow down to take a good look every time they drove by made the problem even more irritating.
They’d considered spraying with a desiccant to get the kochia out of the way before harvest, but Jeff had decided there weren’t enough weeds to make it worthwhile. Now he was regretting that choice.
“Glyphosate’s on the way out anyway,” Dale said. “Might as well get used to life without it.”
“Easy for him to say,” Jeff thought, as he kept the combine moving slowly during the second round and still taking in enough kochia that he had to stop and reverse the feeder and unplug the rotor three times before lunch.
While Jeff was eating his egg salad sandwich, the rotor plugged again. “I’d better bring it to the yard this time, Dad,” he’d told Dale over the phone. “We’re going to need to pull the concaves out.”
Back in the field, Jeff hadn’t finished his homemade brownie before he’d had to stop twice more to clean kochia plants off the table.
By mid-afternoon, Jeff had run out of curse words. After spending more time outside than in the cab, grabbing at kochia plants stuck on the table, he was covered with sweat that had mixed with the lentil dust to turn into a greasy mud.
“Those people that want to eat hamburgers made out of lentil protein would change their minds in a hurry if they could smell me right now,” Jeff said to Dale, when Dale drove over in the grain truck to help uncover the table again.
“Why don’t you take a break?” Dale asked. “I’ll run it for a shift. Go to the yard. Get a cool drink.”
Jeff thought Dale sounded like a parent soothing a toddler in the middle of a grocery-store tantrum, so instead of arguing, he let his dad take the combine and drove one of their two grain trucks home for a break.
He parked in front of the house and went in. He cursed again as he took his boots off in the porch. Since nobody was expected to be in the house all day, Elaine had remembered to save some power by turning off the air conditioning before she left for Regina. “Can’t cool off in my own home,” Jeff complained.
He found the pitcher of iced tea Elaine had left in the fridge and poured a glass. But when he lifted the glass to his mouth, he saw the mud and dust on his arm and smelled his sweaty T-shirt.
“I’ll feel better if I put on a fresh shirt,” he thought.
But in his bedroom with a clean shirt in his hand, he looked down at the sweat on his chest and realized there was no point putting on a clean shirt without cleaning up first.
“I’ll take a quick shower and get straight back out there,” he thought.
In the bathroom, once he’d stripped down for a shower and stepped into the tub, the label on Elaine’s bubble bath caught his eye. “Calm and relaxing,” it said. “That couldn’t hurt,” Jeff thought. “Not with the day I’m having.”
In a few minutes, Jeff had the bathtub filled nearly to the brim with warm water and minty-smelling bubbles. “The label’s right,” he thought. “I’ll just soak for a minute. Then I’ll get back to Dad.”
On her way home from Regina with the two kids and several bags filled with the clothes, crayons and notebooks they’d need this new school year, Elaine stopped by the lentil field to see how Jeff was making out. She was surprised to see Dale in the cab when the combine pulled to a halt.
“Jeff took the red grain truck back to the yard to take a break,” Dale said. “I thought he’d be back by now. The truck he left out here is full and I’m going to need to unload again soon.”
“He’s not answering his phone?” Elaine asked.
“Nope,” Dale said.
“I’ll take this load home and bring the other truck back,” Elaine said.
Seven-year-old Connor saw his chance and climbed into the combine cab with his grandfather before Elaine knew what he was up to. Jenny wasn’t quite as interested in the combine, but she did take a good look at the kochia plants that rose up above the lentils.
Back in the yard, Elaine saw the grain truck Jeff had brought home parked in front of the house. She went in to see what Jeff was doing. She called his name from the porch but got no response. Inside, she found Jeff’s phone on the kitchen counter. It was lit up with unanswered messages.
“Jeff?” she called, starting to worry.
Jeff came out of the bathroom. Wrapped in her fluffy bath towel, with stray bubbles clinging to his hair.
“I, uh… I fell asleep in the tub,” Jeff said, blushing. “I’d better get back out there.”
“You should probably put on some clothes first,” Elaine said, trying not to laugh.
“I like your weeds, Daddy,” five-year old Jenny piped up. “I think they look like Christmas trees.”