I squint my tired eyes as I look down the end rows, waiting to catch a glimpse of the home lights burning.

The clock says its 9 p.m. No doubt she is frantically ushering the kids to bed, making sure papers are signed and clothes laid out. She probably has to remind the youngest one several times to spit the toothpaste into the sink and not onto the floor. She will leave a covered plate for me in the microwave, and the porch light on.

I’ll love her through the harvest.

When the next day starts and we begin to roll down the acres, she will drive into the yard and hop out of the old farm truck. One hand will hold Dr. Pepper and a bag with my field lunch, the other tightly holding on to our two-year-old caboose. As I get near enough to see them, they both smile and wave and wait for me to stop so they can hand-deliver dinner.

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I’ll love her through the harvest.

She asks grandma to watch the little one for awhile, and comes to find the harvest crew in the field. Without saying a word she will put on her old ballcap and fire up the standing tractor and cart and take her place in line to help haul the crop to the bin. She makes jokes with all of us on the two-way radio, teasing that she won’t spill her load on the ground. Sometimes I worry that she carries more of a load than a woman should, but she never complains.

I’ll love her through the harvest.

As harvest season rolls on, she spends a couple of days a week in town working at her “other job”. I send her text messages about breakdowns and needed parts. She knows the drill. She knows that after work she has to hustle to John Deere and other places and hurry home to deliver them so we can keep plugging along. Sometimes she delivers to the field before she has even had time to change out of her work clothes. If she sees nothing but feet sticking out the back end, or hears frustrated voices, she will drop the parts and leave.  

I’ll love her through the harvest.

When its time to move on to the next field, and help is urgently needed, she will respond to short texts or crackly phone calls. She will load kids, and come find us. She will haul people around and run her flashers, or drive the big rigs in order to keep the wheels turning. Sometimes we all forget to tell her thank you.

I’ll love her through the harvest.

As November nears each year, we frantically pick up the pace to stay ahead of Mother Nature. She keeps on finding new recipes to try, and brings special treats to the field, along with a lot of caffeine to keep us going. She offers encouragement and support. I know she starts to pray more and more for our safety and our health.

I’ll love her through the harvest.

When the kids were born, she asked that we could create our own special tradition. We call it the victory lap. When I plant, and when I help harvest, I call to tell her and the kids to come to the field so that we ride that final lap together. We crowd into the cabs, we let the kids drive some. We make plans to order pizza, and we talk at length about what it means to live this life where we get to raise the crops and animals that feed the world. I kiss her and embarrass the kids. I tell them that we are pretty fortunate to be the fifth and sixth generations doing this job. My wife and I compare tired eyes, and talk about how many gray hairs popped up over the past weeks.

We all climb down out of the combine and tractors together, usually bracing against a cold wind and staring out over the empty space that tells the story of struggle and victory.

I put my arm around her, and tell her, again after 18 years and counting . . .

I’ll love you through the harvest.

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Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.