Taking dinner to the harvest field isn’t my idea of a relaxing experience. Yet there it is in bold print––an article in a farm magazine suggesting that I, (the farm wife) might like to get some nice fresh air and a few minutes of relaxation by serving an occasional meal in the field.
“It would be a wonderful opportunity to check on the progress of your husband’s work,” the article states.
It is three o’clock on a mid-summer afternoon when I pick up the magazine and, thumbing through the women’s section spy the article. The temperature outside hovers near 100 degrees. I have just finished cleaning the kitchen after taking a meal to the harvest field for the eighth time in four days. Along with my sister-in–law, with whom I share cooking chores, I was in the field for two hours from the time the first man filled his plate until the seventh had swallowed the last crumb.
In roughly one and one-half hours, I will start to prepare my share of the evening meal. It, too, will be served in the field. I take a closer look at the photo accompanying the article. The setting is a lush, green field. Clean, handsome men are hazily out of focus in the background. A colorful bandana tablecloth is spread over a station wagon’s tailgate. Arrayed on it are a china platter heaped with crispy fried chicken, bowls of green beans, corn on the cob, fresh cantaloupe slices, a plate of artfully arranged tomato wedges, half a watermelon, a pyramid of cornbread (piping hot I’m sure), sparkling glasses of iced tea, and a delicious-looking cake.
Apparently, all these goodies have just been taken from a charming wicker basket which stands nearby. Casually draped from one corner is a sunny yellow cloth napkin that matches those on the ‘table.’ I reread the part of the article about getting some fresh air and a few minutes relaxation. And although I doubt that the writer intended the article to be humorous, I haven’t had such a good laugh in four days.
I’m still chuckling when my sister-in-law arrives a couple of hours later. I show her the article, she joins me in a quick chortle, and we’re off. It’s 6 p.m. Outside the temperature still nudges the 100-degree mark. Already loaded in the old jeep are a granite roaster filled with fried chicken, half a chocolate cake, and a large plastic container of iced tea.
We load my corn, creamed peas, sliced tomatoes, the slightly battered remnants of a banana cake, a second large container of iced tea, and a plastic laundry basket filled with serving utensils. Over all we throw a threadbare, puce–colored chenille bedspread to keep out the dust.
Five miles to the field. Dust fogs from beneath the wheels and fills the open-sided jeep.
“My, how nice it is to be out in the fresh country air,” my sister-in-law says. I agree.
We enjoy another chuckle.
Upon arriving in the field, we see one of the combines is broken down––again. Finding our husbands beneath it, wrenches in hand, we express our interest in the progress of the cutting. Our guys seem unimpressed.
My sister-in-law pulls into the shade of a grain truck. Down with the jeep’s tailgate, on with the threadbare, puce-colored tablecloth. We brush off two lumps of dried-on baked beans left from noon, then set out the kettles to await the hungry hoard.
It’s a short wait. Pulling opposite the truck first one, then the other combine unloads. Dust and chaff drift over our dining area, ourselves, and the food. Never mind a few shredded grain husks and beards. Five hungry boys fill their plates and hunker in the shade of the truck to eat. Now is the cooks’ opportunity for relaxation while enjoying our own meal in the fresh country air.
Eating downwind of five teenage boys whose anti–perspirant stopped working three hours ago is not a relaxing experience. But at last, all seven crew members have eaten. We load up and hit the dusty trail. Eight field meals down, some 16 yet to go this season. We plan tomorrow’s menu.
It is 8 p.m., and I am alone in my cluttered kitchen. The air conditioner has quit working. I now notice my own anti–perspirant has quit working as well. Even the air freshener I mistakenly applied as hair spray earlier in the day has quit working. My attention falls again on the magazine lying open on the kitchen table. Looking first at the attractive meal in the field layout, then at my own stack of greasy, dust-begrimed kettles and table appointments, I sigh.
I must be doing something wrong.
Originally published in The Daily Oklahoman’s Sunday Magazine, Orbit.)