Wheat Harvest Routine 1949

The Daily Oklahoman, Sunday 12 June 1949, pg. 22-A, by Staff Writer, Chan Guffey

Wheat Harvest Routine Is Always The Same for Experienced Combine Crews

They stop only when something becomes worn or broken. The lights in front of W. J. Ring, 20, Capron, as he sits on the combine, are used for work after dark when the weather is dry.

A tent furnishes few housekeeping chores for a crew of six. Clifford Murphy begins the evening routine by lighting the gas lantern. From the time the sun dries the morning dampness until the dew falls at night the combines run continuously. Murphy and Joe Locke check their specifications book for measurements of a combine part.

Somewhere on the Harvest front, June 11 (1949) - It's quite a life!

That is Clifford Murphy, Lambert, speaking of life with a custom combine crew during wheat harvest.

His statement was supposed to imply all the dirt, sweat, strange eating places and stranger sleeping locations a man following the harvest must learn to take.

Murphy, with Joe Locke, also of Lambert (in Alfalfa County) is making his first harvest with his own combine. Before, he went along as a hired hand -- a truck driver. Locke is a veteran. He has been following the harvest for six years.

Locke has his own combine, too. The pair also have a truck apiece and a pickup loaded with repair equipment that ranges from acetylene torches to monkey wrenches.

In wheat country, miles away from the nearest shop, they must be ready to repair broken combine parts in the field. Their pay depends on how many acres they cut -- $3 each is the price.

When Murphy declared, It's quite a life, he was sitting in the crew's tent a week ago. The tent is pitched in northern Oklahoma now.

But then it was on the Cleo Pickrell farm about 12 miles northwest of Frederick. It had a wartime air. Pitched on plowed ground, it was surrounded by the trees of a peach orchard.

The bathroom was over the hill or wherever there was water for a bath. The dining room was some restaurant in Frederick or Tipton.

In the tent-bedroom there were six cots, one for both Murphy and Locke, two combine operators and two truck drivers.

A gas lantern furnished the light. An alarm clock on a trunk was set to arouse them in time to be in the field when the sun dried the dew.

The routine is the same day after day -- just new fields and new towns -- from Texas to Canada.

On the way, Murphy and Locke will cut their own wheat. Murphy has two quarters near Lambert. Locke has 240 acres near Lambert and 600 more in Lane county, Kansas.

Murphy considers himself lucky to be making the trip this year.

Three weeks ago a tornado hit my farm. I was in bed. It blew all the windows out of the house and wrecked two barns. It's a good thing my car, combine and truck were all away from home or I wouldn't have had any equipment, he said.

Only the pickup we use for the repair truck was home. All the windows were broken and the front end was smashed. We put it in the shop on a rush order in order to catch the harvest.

Murphy spent some time several years ago in Oklahoma City. He went to a business college and thought he might like city life. But there's nothing like farming -- it's quite a life!