No matter how many years I spend in Kansas, I never tire of the slow dance the winter wheat provides as it gently bobs and weaves with the June winds. Part of my newspaper life in Topeka always included a search for an interesting wheat harvest photograph.
Since wheat needs to be dry for the harvest, I found myself driving in 1984 along gravel roads just north of the Kansas River and west of Topeka. I was checking to see how close the area farmers were from harvest.
The two red chairs shining brilliantly against a perfect blue sky made me hit the brakes first. If nothing else, I hoped to make an interesting feature picture. That is when I noticed the farm’s owner standing in his lush field checking the wheat’s moisture content by rolling the kernels in his hands.
When I submitted my photograph, the front page editor argued that this was not a wheat “harvest” photograph, and besides, the farmer was bare-chested. He wanted to bury it inside. That was until the executive editor took a look. He loved the fact there was a human element to the photograph and not another photograph of a big harvester working its way through the fields. The photograph ran on the front page and large.
Today, thanks to very warm temperatures and strong winds over the last two weeks, the Kansas wheat crop is drying out. The harvest is in full swing throughout the state. Many areas report record harvests. Despite heavy rains during the late spring that drowned some of the crops, the prospect remains positive for a bountiful wheat harvest.
There is a bicycle ride Laura and I make east of the city on the Scenic River Road. We can track the growth of the winter wheat on our rides. With the reports of the harvest nearing, I will make sure our weekend plans include a wheat ride. My hope is those crops will be as rich and golden as those I found once, way back when.