Big, Loud, Machinery…and Me

4 Oct

I love this shot. She was playing "baseball" with her bubble-wand.

I have told you before that I am neither a farmer nor the daughter of a farmer. My husband doesn’t farm, I have no relatives who farm, none, that I know of, who ever did. Well, probably small-time farmers, scratching their living in the Scottish highlands or the Wisconsin cheese-scented air, but they were not owners of the big, loud machinery that I’m talking about.

Nope, I’m not a farm-girl at heart, nor am I a fan of loud, jarring, noises. I don’t like motorcycles or jack-breaks, or smoothie-machines. I am, however incongruously, a big fan of the enormous combines that are taking over my little corner of the world at this time of year.

The inside scoop on corn oil.

I don’t know why I love them. If I was a logical, predictable person, I wouldn’t like them at all, loud, dirty, rumbling things that they are. But out here, where I have no neighbors within shouting distance and the corn fields aren’t much for conversation, I get a huge kick out of the gi-normous green combines.

"Dumping on the go."

True, they’re not all green John Deere varieties, some are red International Harvesters, or yellow New Hollands or gray Gleaners. (Yes, I’ve lived here long enough to learn a few things! Though, in the interests of complete honesty, it was my husband who remembered the Gleaner!) But the majority of them are green and yellow and sport a black buck sticker somewhere about their hoods. Around here, yellow and green doesn’t just mean the Green Bay Packers, or, even better, the University of Oregon, it mostly means what kind of farm machinery you believe in!)

Lucy got a ride last year. She LOVED it!

The thing, actually, that is the weirdest reason for me liking them is that they remind me of the army tanks I used to see in Berlin. I came up, one day, out of the U-Bahn station, expecting to cross the street uneventfully to the base, but instead came face to face (and ear to ear) with a convoy of tanks rumbling past me and blocking my route. I had no choice, really, but to stand there, hands over my ears, as tank after tank roared past. I. Hated. It.

It wasn’t just the noise, nor was it the inconvenience as I waited for a LONG time for them to go by; it was the meaning of it all. It was the images that flashed through my mind of just, exactly, what these things were for. It was living there, in Berlin, the war-destroyed city, where the tallest hill is made of rubble from the war. Imagine! A hill made of destroyed buildings and bombed churches and lost homes. That is what tanks like these (or at least their predecessors) rumbling past me had done.

And yet, as I stood there, tears pricking at my eyes and my ears blasted by roaring engines and creaking tracks, I knew that without those tanks, a terrible man would have been free to murder and destroy and tear his country apart. I was terrified of what those tanks represented; and terrified of what would have happened without them.

Told you it gets dusty.

But here I’ve done it again. I meant to write about combines! About the dust that rises behind them and fills your nostrils with brown-tinged snot. About the two times of year – planting and harvest – when I have neighbors to spy on. About the thrill of seeing them come up over the gentle hills at night, their headlights rising like the sun over the waving corn. About the way the kids love to glean any stray soy beans, popping their dry pods to reveal the small, tan beans – so gourmet, so hip.

Soy naturale.

Tofu, anyone?


8 Responses to “Big, Loud, Machinery…and Me”

  1. ceciliag October 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    That first shot of your daughter is fantastic, keep that one! c

  2. Kimberly Robertson October 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    Oh my, when you spoke of the tanks I too could hear the rumbling tracks under their wheels and smell the diesel smoke. It took me back to a place I haven’t been in a long time.
    Thank you.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell October 4, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

      I’m glad it’s a place you wanted to be! I wouldn’t want to be EXACTLY there again! Though, without the tanks, it was awfully fun to be at Oskar Heleine Heim (sp?) U-Bahn station again last February! I’m sure you can relate to that!

  3. Kathi Brunk October 4, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    Gretchen, I wonder what the “City” girls are talking about, Lattes, dance classes,recipes,make-up? I really identify with your subject but with an older view point. I reached an age where I am done chasing combines, hauling loads,unloading corn and beans til dark-thirty, but I will still take food to whoever is willing to be out there doing it.I too don’t like the dust and fear for the farmers that have lost machinery and crops to fires. I pray that all farmers out there will be safe and keep a close eye on those big beasts they drive.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell October 4, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

      Hey, Kathi! How nice to hear from you! I have it easy, not having to provide meals and such…I can just watch them when I want to or not if I don’t want to! And yes, this is a terrible year for fire, isn’t it? What with those huge beasts sparking rocks or whatever…kinda scary. Thanks so much for commenting! Oh, and I KNOW that everyone appreciates any meals you bring them!

  4. Neeks October 7, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    You have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. Congratulations! You can check it out here:

  5. Minnesota Prairie Roots October 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    That first image of your daughter is beyond precious. It captures the playful spirit of a child. Plus, it’s just a really good, well-composed shot that tells a story with that combine in the background. Well done, in words and photos.

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