Shelli Mader: Road to Ranching 7-11-11 | TheFencePost.com

Shelli Mader: Road to Ranching 7-11-11

Shelli Mader
Hays, Kan.

As I watch the last of the custom cutters load up their combines and head west, I can’t help but remember all of the wheat harvests that I got to be a part of when I was growing up.

Harvest prep usually started near the end of June with a trip to Sam’s Club. My folks would load up on snacks like pop and candy bars. My brothers, sister and I loved this part. Candy bars and pop weren’t a regular part of our diet, so all of the treats were a special once-a-year deal.

My dad, grandpa and brothers would spend a good part of several days getting the combine, grain cart, truck and tractor ready. I wasn’t much help in that area, in fact I am a failure as a country girl when it comes to anything that involves working on or operating machinery (but that is a another story for another time). I helped by sweeping out the granaries and washing all the windows on the combine, truck and tractor.

My first memories of harvest are of making sack lunches, filling water jugs, washing combine windows every morning, making sure the two-way radios were charged and packing the snack cooler to put in the truck.

When I was about 12-years-old I got my first chance to play a big part during harvest – tractor and grain cart driver. My grandpa was still farming at that time and couldn’t find anyone qualified to help him, so he was left with his oldest, inexperienced granddaughter – me. It was an understatement to say that I was nervous about driving for him. I did lose some wheat that year and got chewed out over the two-way radios a few times, but it was a good experience.

Neither my grandpa or dad stopped to eat during harvest, but my mom would bring steak sandwiches to the field for supper. Those are still one of my favorite meals.

Recommended Stories For You

After I got my driver’s license, my brothers were old enough to help more, so I often got to be the harvest gopher. I liked driving into the elevator or going into town to get parts.

Looking back, the times I spent working with my family are some of the best memories I have. As a teenager I often didn’t want to help, but I see now how those experiences gave me some great life skills and a hard work ethic. That’s one of the main reasons I want to live the farming and ranching lifestyle – to instill those values in my kids. There is no better place than a farm to learn how to work hard and to appreciate the good things in life.

Follow Shelli on her blog at RoadToRanching.com.