About the Author
  • Anne has worked in agriculture since she was old enough to sweep the floor of the family machine shed. She writes about rural & outdoor life from the most remote county seat in the Lower 48, where she and her husband chase two children. Her experience ranges from picking apricots in 100 degree weather and working with Hutterite colonies, to discussing ag trade with the Ambassador of New Zealand and judging cured meats.
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Harvest Lessons in the Wheat

by Anne_Miller_mt ‎11-13-2013 01:38 AM - edited ‎11-13-2013 01:44 AM

Warren was the type of guy that could spend a long hot day in the field and leave grinning ear to ear….usually with his trusty scythe hanging dangerously from his back pocket. Although if you were privy to his actual age, you’d grant him the right to carry his own tools in whatever way suited him.


Known as Dr. Pope on campus, the talented wheat geneticist could quote Emily Bronte, modern poetry and the latest grain markets. To all of us at the ranch, he was Warren. Spanning several human generations (and nearly half a century of grain progeny), his wheat test plots had developed a special place of reverence along our field road. For him, the family's cookies and cakes had developed their own special reverence. Every summer, Warren came from the office to harvest his plots. And like clockwork, I appeared as the little gradeschool-sized shadow behind his scythe…waiting to gather my own harvest of advice from a grownup that took me seriously.


Of course, we discussed things like my new bike, our family’s unusual menagerie of guinea pigs and whether or not he liked pigtails in my hair. But we also talked about politics and good books. The professor (emeritus by this time) freely loaned his library to those interested with one catch...you had to sign your name and briefly note your analysis of the pages. Obviously, I reserved my best handwriting and favorite purple pen for the task. Often the books had been circulated so frequently that every square inch of open space had been signed and used. But what was most memorable to me as a child was that every reader came up with something different and often they seemed to argue with one another among the pages.


Confused by how a scientist could encourage such disorderly conduct, I asked him about it one day when I felt especially grown-up. His reply? “I like to know what others think in case I missed something.” This stunned me right to my little 7th grade core. He didn't want us all to write the same generic “I liked this book” piece in purple pen. Warren wanted to read things like, “I hated this book because they completely ignored the Depression Era of farming,” or “ I loved that on page 25 the writer talked about his first love.” Suddenly, the heavily scribbled flyleaves of his books became just as essential as the original chapters inside.


In the years since my pigtails, we lost Warren to the Eternal Chapter. However, his lesson among the wheat stalks that day is one that I strive to achieve daily. It is impossible to learn without an open mind and asking for additional perspective, even if it means a bit of chaos in the pages of your world.