“The old Kral place or Over East”, that’s how we know which field we are talking about when we look at the above picture. I hear it quite often about farmers, that most don’t label their fields by sections, or by roads, they label them by how they know them.
When I first started coming home to help out with harvest, after I had moved away, I found it very difficult to navigate. The grain cart driver in our operation (which is always me), is typically the last one left in the field. The combines get empty and dump their remaining wheat on the grain cart, and then the grain cart sits and waits on trucks to return before getting empty and moving to the next field. No problem, right? For me at this time, it was a huge problem. My dad was born and raised in the country that he farms in, yet typically he can’t tell you a road number or name, although, I have to confess that after being back and farming for him for 6 years now, I can’t tell you them either. We drive these roads on a daily basis, but it just doesn’t ever phase us to look at the road signs, we look at landmarks and that’s how we roll.
It was a blistering hot July day and once again I had been left behind to wait for trucks. When I finally got empty I called my dad on the phone and asked him where I needed to move to next. His answer, and yes this is very typical, was to head North for a couple of miles, then turn and go back East for a couple of miles, then you will see a trail and take that trail back North. “O……K…….What roads do I need to go down?” I asked. His response was “I don’t know, you’re just going to go a couple of miles past the old church”. At that time, this statement meant as much to me as it does to you reading it right now, absolutely nothing. I learned a very valuable lesson that day, however, I learned how to navigate using combine tire tracks on a dirt road. I started down the road, following a set of tire tracks that I only hoped would lead me in the correct direction.
After what felt like hours of driving on dirt roads by myself, I finally saw dust off in the distance (hoping this was harvest dust and not a car on the dirt road dust). I continued driving down the dirt road and a harvest crew came into view, but was it my harvest crew or was I going to be pulling into a field and joining a new harvest crew? As I turned and headed North down “a trail”, I finally met up with my harvest crew which had me breathing a huge sigh of relief. I can laugh about it now, but it was very stressful at the time it was happening. I didn’t want to get lost in a tractor and have to have someone come looking for me.
After spending the last several years with my dad farming, I understand the reason he has the names for each field that he does. Each field is named after an old homestead or an old family name. To my dad and the people in the country we farm in, these fields aren’t just fields covered in crops, they are fields filled with memories. I have sat down with my dad and some of the older generation who grew up in these areas and I have listened to their stories, their memories of these places. I can truly see now how the names my dad has chosen to keep for each piece of property are a “good match”.