A farmer I hadn't seen for a long time saw me at a field day recently. The first thing he said was how he will never forget my story about "the legend of the last round." I wrote that story about 30 years ago, and it was about holding your breath that nothing will go wrong when you get so close to the end of harvest. It featured memories of one fall on our own farm when I wasn't sure everything would hold together until the end.
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Here's a recap of the "legend of the last round."
Ten acres to go – that's all that remains between me and the end of harvest. Today's combines take 12 rows at once in many cases. In my day, 30 years ago, we took three. The combine pictured, the Deere 7700 like many of you may have once operated, took four to eight in most cases. Even at three rows at a time, 10 acres wouldn't last long.
Wow! What was that noise? I don't remember hearing that noise before. Well, I don't hear it now so I guess it isn't important. Everything still seems to be working.
Just eight acres to go now, I glance at the fuel gauge. Man, it is going down fast. And my brother already took the pickup with fuel back to the barn three miles away. Surely there will be enough fuel to finish.
Six acres are all that remain now, surely we'll make it. Just then I noticed a few drops of rain coming out of the cloudy November sky and hitting the windshield. It's just a few drops and then it stops again. Oh, just give me another hour or so.
I'm down to four acres. I haven't heard the noise again, I still have fuel and there have only been a few more scattered raindrops on the windshield. Screech! There, it's coming from the corn head! Not a breakdown now! Turns out some damp stalks got caught up in the gathering chains. I clear it and am off again.
The end is in sight. It looks like there are two acres or so left. I lift up at the end, make the turn, and hit the lever to lower the head. It goes down in jerks. Nuts! That could be a hydraulic problem. Just let me get done and we can fix it later. At the other end of the field it goes down just fine. Maybe it was my imagination.
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Finally! I pull in on the last set of rows. If I make it to the end of the field, harvest is over for another year. I feel like a fighter pilot in World War II movies with a bullet-ridden plane. Come on Bessie, just get me home!
Eureka, I made it. The last stalks are gone and the last grain spills into the grain tank behind me. I pull up to dump the last hopper of the season into the gravity wagon. Remember, it was 30 years ago.
I look at the wagon. It's not sitting level. You've got to be kidding! No joke, a rear tire is flat. We will have to fix it before we can dump the final hopper. Is that poetic injustice or what?
And that's the legend of the last round – at least how I remember it. Good luck on finishing your own harvest this year!