A heart for harvest

Don Boe and his International 1460 combine have faithfully worked in the fields around Joffre for years.

Don Boe pilots his 30-year-old International combine over his son Norman’s barley crop east of Joffre this week.

Don Boe pilots his 30-year-old International combine over his son Norman’s barley crop east of Joffre this week.



Don Boe and his International 1460 combine have faithfully worked in the fields around Joffre for years.

The 83-year-old farmer has gradually given his son Norman the reins of the family farm over the years, handing over the last few parcels of land about three years ago.

Come harvest time, however, Don climbs up into the very same combine he bought new 30 years ago in Leduc.

Both man and equipment have needed some repairs over the recent years. Don underwent double bypass heart surgery four years ago and gallbladder surgery in June. The machine needed a new air conditioner early on and has since had the occasional tune up — yet neither seems ready to quit.

“Who knows?” Don shrugged when asked if this year would be his last year combining.

The family that joined him around the dinning room table — wife Ethel, sons Norman and Gary, and daughter in-law Cathie — were not at all surprised to hear Don hint that he may be back in the fields next harvest despite his weakening eyesight and arthritic knees.

“That’s where his heart is,” Norman said.

“Heart or habit,” joked Gary.

“It’s in his blood,” said Cathie. “He’s got to be in the dirt.”

Don has been living and working on the farm his whole life.

He remembers the dust storms and collecting cow pies to make fire during the Dirty ’30s, a drought that drove his family to Millet from their farm in Bateman, Sask.

The Boes settled on their Joffre area farm in 1944, where Don and Ethel eventually took over and raised five children.

Don remembers getting out of working with four diamond harrow horses because he had to complete some 200 hours in school in order to write his Grade 9 exams.

He also recalls praying for rain as an 18-year-old so he could take a break from the intense work while on a threshing crew.

Don has watched as the roughly 300-acres mixed operation his family started with has grow to 1,000 acres of canola, wheat and barley crops today.

His hog barn was struck by lightning and burned down in 1981 while he and Ethel were away on holidays.

“I said that was a sign to get out of pigs,” Don said.

He gave away his last five cows to Cathie when she married Norman, something the family jokingly refers to as Don’s dowry.

And after years of having to fix up and repair old used combines, he went out and bought himself his trusty International.

Even with all the years of work behind them, Don and the combine seem ready for more.

“I’m happy to farm, it gives me great satisfaction,” Don said, adding the only other thing he did to make a little bit of money was playing the drums in a number of bands such as the Rhythm Rascals.

“How has farm life treated me? Good. I’ve lived to be 83. That’s pretty good.”

ptrotter@bprda.wpengine.com