A storm cloud on the Montana prairie during harvest.

Something Wicked This Way Comes


Earlier this week, I promised a post about an explanation of farmers & their coffee table conversation about weather, as well as a game-show themed example for non-farmers to help them understand how a severe weather day feels for an ag producer.  I hear lots of comments about farmers ‘complaining’ about the weather.  In fact, it’s the butt of many jokes & was even mentioned in the sermon in our church last week.  I thought I could help shed some light on this phenomenon.

Our harvest weather this year in this part of the country has been nothing short of bizarre.  We’ve had rain, rain & more rain.

From phone 8-27 002

And if you go to any grain elevator, coop, or parts store in any of the small ag communities in the area, you’re likely going to find a group of farmers talking about it–complaining, if you will.

You see, the up side to all this rain, is that we’re going to have an above average moisture base in our soil for next year’s crop– which is important for farming.  The down side, is that the timing could have been better.  It’s pretty tough (read: impossible)  to harvest a crop when it’s wet.  Thunderstorm and rain sweeping across a Montana prairie. And if a crop can’t be harvested, there’s no farm income.  No means to repay the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt aquired seeding & growing the crop.  It doesn’t have to be rain or hail either. It could be a snowstorm– like the one that devastated so many South Dakota ranchers in a freak early storm last fall. So you can understand how continually rainy, wet, cold weather during harvest season could be of concern, & a cause for complaint.

But if you listen closer

to those coffee table conversations, what you’ll really hear, is a therapy session.  You’ll hear grown men, feeling helpless.  Captive to Mother Nature, unsure of their fate & their ability to provide for their family.  Looking to each other for solace.

Listen even closer– you’ll also hear words of encouragement… and of faith.  Reminders that this crop is in Another’s hands, and that they are simply the stewards.

Maybe it will sound different to you next time you hear a farmer ‘complaining’ about the lack of rain, too much rain, the heat or the cold.  And rather than commentaries on a list of ails, you’ll hear simple observations of harsh realities.

Last Wednesday, a series of late season thunderstorms swept across the region and brought heavy rain, high winds, hail, &  reports of funnel clouds.
from phone 9-3-14 070 Crops were mowed down, windows were broken out of houses, and semi’s were tipped over in their tracks. This was the type of weather day you’d expect in July. Or even August. But September? Almost unheard of. Combine and storm clouds on a Montana prairie during harvest. Watching it come at us that day, knowing the potential for devastation it was bringing with it, we couldn’t help but marvel at its power and beauty. You can’t be an ag producer and not have a quiet respect for the weather.

It really is like some sick version of a real-life game show though. Waiting, watching the wheel spin. Knowing that if it lands on the right square, you’ve hit the jackpot– you’ll have a crop to harvest. But if the little arrow stops on the wrong square– game over. Storm clouds and rain against a country road on a Montana prairie. Imagine it like this. You work at a desk job in town. It’s a great job. You love what you do & the people you work with. The pay is good, you can’t imagine doing anything else. There’s just one little hitch. A couple times a year, the game show host rolls his wheel into your office, & everyone takes a turn giving it a spin.

You can see it coming, working it’s way from cubicle to cubicle. The sweat beads up on your forehead.

It’s almost your turn at the wheel. You know if you get a good spin– if luck is on your side this time, you’ll get a vacation trip, or a little extra cash.

But if you hit wrong– oh geeze, little Jimmy just got braces, & Susie goes to college next year. Your stomach starts to churn.

If you hit wrong– you still have medical bills to pay from last year. You can’t catch your breath.

If you hit wrong…. half your yearly income can be gone. In 2 minutes flat. Forget about insurance, it only covers a small portion. Forget savings, you used that last year when the wheel hit wrong. Forget a loan at the bank, you’re still extended as far as you can be there from hitting wrong 5 years ago. You can’t feel your fingers.

And now it’s here, it’s your turn. Spin the wheel,…watch,…wait,…hold your breath…. Hail in a September thunder storm on the Montana prairie.
People ask me all the time why we do it– year after year– knowing the September storms are always looming, that the wheel is always waiting. And there’s no simple answer. Why does anyone love the job they love? Maybe it’s about the adrenaline, playing the odds. Maybe it’s about having something to complain about at coffee. But I think for most ag producers it’s more than that.

It’s about this. The grace & majesty in a crop still standing. Montana wheat field at dusk.

And this. Watching as a legacy passes from generation to generation. Watching grain run out of an auger in Montana at harvest.

And it is most certainly about this. A faith, …even when the heart rate rises, the stomach churns & the wicked looms. It’s about a promise. From the One who holds the lease. Rainbow after a storm on a Montana prairie.

Certainly our profession isn’t unique. We’re all alike that way. Everyone, from every walk of life has challenges, every day. Some much larger than others. But regardless of the magnitude, we all, in some way, need to share the burden of those challenges. We each choose our own way. Some quietly in a pew in church, some in a talk with a good friend, & some… ‘complaining’ at the coffee table.

We’d love to have you pass this along to someone else who would enjoy it. And make sure you leave a comment, & tell us how you share your challenges!

I’ll see you on the farm. -Shauna

4 Responses to "Something Wicked This Way Comes"
  1. What an inspiring piece of work! You are a gifted and oh, so thoughtful, writer. For a person who didn’t grow up on a farm, you’ve really captured the essence of it

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