Harvest means Juicy Fruit

It’s unmistakable. It’s special. It’s fall. And something’s in the air. And that something is dust.

Array

Array

It’s unmistakable. It’s special. It’s fall. And something’s in the air. And that something is dust.

And it’s not just any ordinary run of the mill dust. It’s harvest dust. Which means runny noses, itchy eyes and stuffy sinuses for anyone within sneezing distance of a field or a farm. Which is pretty well everywhere in Central Alberta.

A snuffling haze has descended on the prairie landscape once again, as it does every harvest, when farmers spend all day every day and most of the night every night out in their fields going round and round in circles in machines the size of your average apartment building.

They stay out in those fields for days on end, other hard-working family members delivering heaps of scrumptious farm food on a regular basis, the machine only slowing down enough for lunch or supper.

Heaven forbid the farmer should have to stop the machine, it would not only mean that he might not get his crop off, it would mean there would be a break in the production of the vast clouds of dust that cover the nearby towns and cities in a proverbial blanket of purple haze.

Not that I’m complaining. I like farms, and farmers — some of my best uncles were farmers. And I don’t even mind the dust — it reminds me of my dirty youth.

In fact, I spent a huge hunk of my growing-up summers on my Uncle Wilf’s farm east of town, in the Hillsdown Valley Center district.

In those ancient days when the tractors and combines were only the size of a small house and air-conditioned cabs had yet to be invented, my cousins and I would ride up with my Uncle, rattling along, standing beside the driver’s seat hanging on to various fenders and metal bits for dear life. It was a place of honour and it meant that by the end of the day, the three of us kid-cousins would look like four-foot-high piles of dirt, trudging back through the hot dry sun and the stubble to the farmyard.

Even Dodger the dog, a seasoned harvest veteran, would sneeze every time he came near us.

There we were, stumbling statues of grime, grabbing the pumphandle together, heaving up and down, taking turns sticking our heads under the waterfall whoosh of ice cold water right from the pump. Washing enough dirt from our hair alone to grow a hill of potatoes.

But Uncle Wilf and my older cousins would stay out on the tractors and combines from dusk till dawn and then some, and in particularly dry harvests, the dense clouds of grain dust and black dirt would engulf them until they looked like giant lumps of coal rumbling around and around the back forty by remote control.

One year, during an impossibly dry harvest, I was sure we’d go out to the field to make another gourmet farm food delivery and instead of finding Uncle Wilf and his combine, there’d be a humongous stationary pile of black dirt the size of a haystack, and my Uncle would have to dig his way out from the inside of the massive dust ball using the spade he always kept under the seat for just such emergencies.

I can remember one fall in particular, on a rare lull in the action when my Uncle had to gas up the combine in the farmyard, sitting with my cousins in the full hopper of the combine, up to our scrawny shoulders in grain. Sitting right in the barley, like swimming in tiny marbles. The dust around us thick as Rogers Golden Syrup.

The farm boys showed the city slicker (me) how to make “grain gum,” which is exactly what it sounds like, only tasting way worse than you might imagine. We’d scoop up a palmful of grain from around us in the hopper, blow off all the dirt and debris and any random insect bits, and jam a chaw into our gubs and start chewing like there was no tomorrow.

The trick was to get the right consistency of spit and grain, and it took some practice, that’s for sure, and after a while you’d give up and gob the mushed-up mess over the side of the hopper. At least I did. My cousins seemed to be able to keep at it until they were chewing expertly away on grain “gum” that had about the same taste and consistency as chewing on a pair of dirty socks.

But it was all part of that special time of year when the leaves turn every colour in Mother Nature’s book, and the farmers are in the fields, and the enormous dust balls and the dense clouds of harvest dirt come drifting into town for an Indian Summer visit, priming the dense air molecules so that they will be ready to turn to the icy crystals of winter.

And it’s funny, every year at this time, I find myself stopping regularly at what my farm cousins used to call the Corner Store. Where I buy a package of Juicy Fruit Gum. For me, nothing says ‘harvest’ quite like Juicy Fruit Gum.

Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance columnist.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Jason Kenney struck back at unruly protesters who chanted ‘lock her up’ in relation to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Monday. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Alberta Premier calls for ‘unhinged conspiracy theorists’ to stop threatening the chief medical officer

Spreading misinformation, making threats is ‘beyond the pale,’ said Kenney

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Patient information breach at Red Deer hospital

3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Air Canada agrees to $5.9-billion aid package, giving Ottawa equity stake in airline

$1.4 billion earmarked to help reimburse thousands of customers

Innisfail RCMP say Brandon Pitts is missing. (Photo contributed)
Missing central Alberta man

Innisfail RCMP request public’s help

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Yukon Premier Sandy Silver as Liberal on Wednesday February 8, 2017 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon headed for minority government as two main parties in a tie

Liberals came into the election looking to build on their surprise 2016 majority win

Hindu devotees wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers inside a temple dedicated to goddess Kali in Jammu, India, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. New infections have surged in the past month and India has now reported over 13.6 million cases — pushing its toll past Brazil, and making it second only to the United States. In the past 24 hours, over 160,000 new infections have been detected and experts fear that the worst is yet to come. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Johnson & Johnson delays shot rollout in Europe

BERLIN — Johnson & Johnson says it is delaying the rollout of… Continue reading

Restaurant workers and restaurant delivery workers wait in line to sign up for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine site, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in the Sunset Park neighborhood of New York. The mobile vaccination effort includes two buses equipped with four to six vaccinators each, delivering the COVID-19 vaccine directly to communities most in need. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose… Continue reading

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Canadian actor/producer/director Jay Baruchel is photographed at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont., ahead of the premier of Baruchel’s movie Random Acts of Violence, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Jay Baruchel to host Amazon Prime Video’s ‘LOL: Last One Laughing Canada’

Final comedian left standing wins a grand prize for a charity of their choice

Letters
Letter: Leaders like MLA Jason Stephan should work towards greater good

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan talks about the devastating social and… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Women, hit hardest by pandemic, key to economic recovery

Events of the past year have laid bare the many disparities and… Continue reading

Most Read