Purchase photos

Farmers begin harvest ritual





PFEIFER -- As storm clouds loomed on the horizon, Ellis County farmers rushed to their combines and tractors.

Rushed might be a bit strong as far as the combines were concerned, although a small number of farmers Wednesday clambered aboard a mix of machines to kick off the 2014 wheat harvest, reporting what they long expected -- below average yields on a drought-stressed crop.

"We're going to get this little bit cut down and then wait until we see what the weather does," Keith Leiker said of a 50-acre field of wheat northwest of Pfeifer. Sitting on a pickup tailgate, he watched as lightning danced in the distance, wondering aloud if the storm might bring hail.

He has insurance for that, he said.

Even with three Massey Ferguson combines -- piloted by sons Bradey, Colten and Paden -- in the field, the single waiting truck was slow to fill.

"This is my first truck out of this field," he said.

Leiker said until he takes the truck to the elevator, he won't know what the field's yield might be. But, he guessed it would be close to 15 bushels per acre.

Short of stature, the combines had difficulty getting reaching down low enough to reach all of the wheat heads, and run through the machine. That left a number of heads on the ground, although many didn't even contain kernels of wheat.

While he's just getting started with harvest, he already has an inkling as to how the harvest will go.

"I had one patch of fair wheat," he said of a field cut earlier. "The rest isn't worth a damn. I'd say 10 to 20 (bushels per acre) is going to catch most of it."

Up the road, northwest of Schoenchen, farmer Gary Werth was pleased with what he was seeing.

"This patch here is probably the best I've cut so far," he said.

He was hoping it might yield 30 bushels per acre.

He had already cut a 40-acre field west of Schoenchen, but that field only produced somewhere between 10 to 15 bushels per acre.

"It's better than nothing," he said. "Just as long as I've got enough to pay the rent and a few expenses. And have enough to buy a beer."