Rural Reflections: For High-Plains Harvest, Everyone Pitches In

From kids to a great-great-grandpa, family members and neighbors join the harvest in northeast South Dakota. The author steps into “semi retirement” to lend a hand.

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Life on the High Plains takes on a whole different flavor this time of year. Everyone who can be is involved in the harvest.

There are pre-teen boys and girls coming home from grammar school and climbing into equipment worth six figures to spell mom or dad. There are great grandfathers in their 80’s running combines and semi tractor-trailers. The family farm takes on an entirely different meaning during these weeks. I have a neighbor (a young man today) who has been driving tractors hauling grain carts since he was 6 years old. I worked with a great-great-grandpa who pulled a 125,000 pound twin trailer semi truck at the age of 89.

Author Rick Skorupski.
Author Rick Skorupski.

At home, things are different too. Mom may be cooking, but not for the table. Everything she prepares is packed and taken out to the folks in the field. There is no sit-down supper. Everyone eats on the fly. Local restaurants set records for take-out orders in October. This happens when the cook is in the field too.

Each year during this time I come out of my retirement and drive a semi tractor-trailer for a neighbor. That’s right, for six weeks I am semi-retired. (OK – I had to do it, sorry.)

I drive loads of grain to the local elevator or the farm for on-farm storage. I get to travel across the two lane roads of Middle America and see the great ballet in action. Large, mostly green and red combines are moving in slow motion across the fields. They look like modern-day prairie schooners cleaning and gleaning the fields. I watch the grain disappear into large tractor-towed carts, then to hopper-bottom semi trucks. I see the fields, bright green just weeks ago, give up their bounty to the men and women who studied, researched, tested, and labored all year to get the best possible results.

Day after day for the next four to six weeks I will watch the food come out of the fields. I will watch as people, young and old, work to feed not only America, but the world. When it is over, the fields will be bare and ready for snow cover.

Life is cyclic almost everywhere. But here, in farm country, the cycles are much more defined. Thank you, neighbors, for allowing this not-so-country-boy to become a part of feeding the world.

Rickard Skorupski is a writer and the author of three novels about rural America. He is enjoying rural living with his wife, Cheryl, in northeastern South Dakota, where he has lived for 12 years. You can find him on and



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