Lone Harvest

I wonder if he’s lonely, the farmer I’ve just seen tending his combine harvester. I was glad to see he was back. It was past nine o’clock this evening when I walked along the by-pass, as I do at this time of the year, and saw a tractor, parked in a field of oilseed rape, its light on and a trailer behind.  Last time I saw it was several days ago, when the combine’s great dinosaur spout stretched itself high above the trailer and released a broad black torrent of winnowed seeds into it.

Then came the rain. The opening day of the Lord’s Test Match also arrived and the weather intervened, as it did with the harvest. I had an old colleague who equated cricket with a rain-making ceremony.

But there’s been a couple of full days’ play at Lord’s, and tonight the harvest was on again.

The grey-blue pastel of the wide sky and its clouds was tinged pink from the sunset and as I walked on, I saw the yellow harvester appear over the brow of the great field.  It came towards me as I watched.

It manoeuvred alongside the trailer and the long spout slid out from its side and extended over it. And from the spout came a great gush of seeds, dark as a twister.

The young driver of the combine climbed up on to the machine and made some adjustments. The neck slid back, down to its flank and he steered away,  to the brow of the field,  and he was off again to where the crop sloped down to a stream  and its willow-lined banks.

He will probably be out there half the night, back and forth, a lonely light shining above the machine, while the weather  remains dry.

Is he lonely?  I hope not. I hope he has the satisfaction of a job well done and that he will sleep well when he gets to his bed. But I have read that young farmers do suffer from isolation. There’s an old nursery rhyme about that.

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