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     Tribune, Kansas
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Where The Days Are Long And The Fields Are Flat...

Tribune has always been a fun place to come to. First, you have to know some things about western Kansas. It's very, very flat. It's also at a higher elevation than the east half of the state. The days get hotter and the nights get colder. It's in the "rain shadow" of the Rocky Mountains, so it's fairly dry. And even when it does rain it dries off very quickly. Tribune is a big stop on the custom harvester's trail. I would hate to guess exactly how many crews are here, but I know that we fill up two good sized trailer park with all our camper trailerhouses. The farmer we cut for is Jim Shafer.

Wednesday, June 27th On The Road Again

We are all up and getting things ready to leave by 5:00. Well, most of us are up, but remember I said earlier if Mary ever decides to stay home I, will too. Not this time she is up by 5:30 so I guess Albrecht Harvesting is still in business. I always enjoy the trip to Tribune with the combines. The road is good and it is interesting to see how much wheat has already been cut in Kansas. This trip it seems like about half the wheat is cut.

 The first 100 miles or so Chris and I have to keep holding the trucks back or we will run away from Mary and Ben pulling the campers. By the time we get to Ness City where the climb to Western Kansas seems to get a little steeper the trucks are content to pull the combines at about 60 miles per hour and the pick-up and service truck are really working to keep up. One pit stop at Rush Center for fuel for the Pick-up and the Service truck. Oh Yea, and for Mary.

 We arrive at Tribune about 11:00 Mountain time. Some harvesters are already at the trailer park by the Ampride station. The town of Tribune always seems to about double in size this time of the year when all the harvesters get here. Chris and I park the trucks by the Ampride and Ben and Mary pull the campers to the campsite that will be home for the next several days. Lee and his crew arrive about two minutes after we did. Got the campers all set up by noon. Just in time for some of the “best hamburgers in Western Kansas” at the Burger Bar again. We were just finishing eating some of the “best hamburgers in Western Kansas” when Jim Shafer drove up and said that we should go to his home place to start cutting. I told him we would be there in about three hours.

 Got the combines unloaded, got some fuel, not quite as bad as in Frederick, and was on the road to Jim’s place in two hours flat. My crew is getting pretty good at that already. About 4 miles from Jim’s place, Ben called me on the radio from the tractor and said “It looked like one of the combines was leaving a trail of some kind”. By the time I got my combine stopped a red light was on in my display panel telling me the hydraulic oil was low. I climbed down and looked underneath and there was oil every place. Good thing the back roads of Greeley County are as wide as most highways in Oklahoma because I decided to just let that sucker sit there till I got Jeremy started with the other combine.

 We got to Jim’s home quarter and I rode one round with Jeremy to get him started and to cut out a few green patches of wheat. Then I went back to that combine setting on the road. Nobody had run into it yet so I decided to fix it. A little $2.00 brass oil fitting had broken. I took it off, set up the torch to do some brazing and fixed it right there in the middle of the road. Just when I was wrapping things up with my little repair job Chris called on the radio and said that he had a flat tire on his truck at the feed yard where we haul all the wheat. He said he had the truck unloaded so I told him to just drive it back the two miles to the field and I would change the tire when I got there. When I got to the field the truck was setting there with a flat on the left front tire. He didn’t tell me it was a front tire that was flat. But he did put some air in it before he drove it back to the field. Since the haul to the feed yard was only about 2 miles we just let that truck sit and hauled with one truck. When using a grain cart in the field it will often take the place of one truck.

 We finished the home place at about 10:00 P.M. Long day. Everybody is ready for bed. One thing before we go into town I should check to see if my middle of the road repair job is still holding. I see a little oil dripping from that fitting. I guess I better go to Sharon Springs in the morning to get one.

Thursday, June 28th Tribune, KS.

I’m up at 5:30. Mary is up at 6:00 to fix the lunches, fill the water jugs and fix Breakfast. While she is doing that I look in my combine parts book for that little $2.00 brass oil fitting. Where is that darn thing anyway? Who ever printed the Case-IH parts book doesn’t have the slightest idea what a combine looks like, not to mention how to print a parts book for one. Ah, this looks like that fitting. It has to be that fitting. Part # 201-351. Bet they won’t have it.

 7:00 A.M. Mary has all the lunches ready, the water jugs filled and breakfast ready. I go to wake the boys. These three boys get up faster than any other crew we have ever had. Even Jeremy the youngest is sometimes the first one in for breakfast, even though he hardly ever eats more than a few bites. All three are complaining about the short night after the long day. I inform them that they actually got an extra hour of sleep since we are in Mountain time now and it is actually 8:00 back home. They feel much better.

 After breakfast the boys go to the field in the service truck and Mary and I go to Sharon Springs in the Pick-up to get that infamous $2.00 fitting. The parts man informs me that they have never sold part 201-351 but that it is available in St. Paul MN. He could have it here on Monday by UPS or tomorrow, Friday by Next Day Air if I wanted to pay the freight. Than he said that he has something else coming by Next Day Air from the same place and they could just throw that little fitting in with it so the freight would not be that much. How lucky could a Harvester be?

 I get a five gallon bucket of hydraulic oil to replace that little dripping that is going on under that combine and leave the store feeling pretty good. Before dropping me off at Jim’s place Mary got the directions to the next field that we will be cutting so she would know where to bring supper. We move about four miles to a field that I have never cut for Jim before. It’s a half section. By 11:00 P.M. that field is cut. 300 plus acres. My old combines can still cut wheat. Even with a little oil dripping going on with one of them.

Friday, June 28th Tribune, KS.

Today we probably won’t be able to cut 300 acres. We have an eighty acre field, a sixty acre field, a 22 mile move, and then a quarter to cut. Oh yes, and a new grain cart driver to break in. I called the Harvest Information Office in Tribune when we were still at home and told them I was looking for someone to run a grain cart with minimal tractor skills and between the ages of 16 and 65. The girl sounded confident that she could find me someone. On Thursday I got a call from a man named Paul a retired farmer who was interested in the job. We discussed the details of the job and he said he would be at our trailer at 8:00 Friday morning. I introduced Paul to the tractor and grain cart and with in the first half hour I knew Paul knew what he was doing. I like working with young boys, but to hire a retired farmer and tell him, “here’s the tractor drive it,” that’s a pleasure.

At about 1:00 P.M. I call the Case-IH place in Sharon Springs to see if that little oil fitting is there. “Yea, it just came in”. “My wife will be there in about half an hour.” “Mary can you go to Sharon Springs to get that part?” “Yes, in just a few minutes when what I have in the oven is done.” “That’s fine, be careful.” About 45 minutes later Mary calls and says, “I have the part, do you need it right away?” “No that thing has been dripping for 2 days now and a few more hours won’t hurt anything.” “Hey Mary, what does that thing look like?” “Darn it, that sure doesn’t sound like the part I thought I ordered!” “Well, Mary sometimes has a little trouble describing things like that.

 At about 10:30 we finish the quarter. Not to bad a day. About 240 acres plus a 22 Mile move. Chris leaves the field with the last load of wheat from that field. He calls me on the radio to ask if he should go to the feed yard or stop in town and unload it in the morning. I told him that Ben had told them at the feed yard that one more load was coming so he should go on to the feed yard and get unloaded. Just when I walk into the camper, Chris calls again and said he hit a deer about 5 miles north of town. I’m not even very disturbed by the news because last year each truck hit a deer and very little or no damage was done. I tell Chris to stop and see if the truck is O.K. He calls back and says that the bumper is a little bent and two grill bars are a little bent. One of the first things I told these boys was never to try to dodge a deer with a loaded truck. It was just a lot safer to hit a deer than it was to try to dodge it and roll the truck. He hit this one dead center at about 65 mph.

 “Hey Mary, where is that part you got for me” “It’s in still in the pick-up.” “Hey that’s exactly what I need, except it is about ten times too big.” What I needed was a little $2.00 fitting. What I got was shaped exactly like the part I needed but it was much bigger and probably cost $40.00. Looks like I have a $40.00 paperweight.

Saturday, June 30th Tribune, KS.

Sure am glad today is Saturday. Even gladder, if that’s a word, that tomorrow is Sunday, and we don’t cut on Sunday. Should be a real easy day. Had a little shower last night just after we got to bed, and I can only find one 80 acre field that is ready to cut. I go back to the camper and tell Mary that I am going to Sharon Springs to discuss this $40.00 dollar paperweight she got for me. She claims innocence. I tell her to let the boys sleep till 8:00 and than get them up and feed them.

On the way to Sharon Springs I think about what I should say to the parts man about my $40.00 fitting that I do not need. “Keith there just isn’t much you can do because you looked up the part and you gave the parts man the wrong number.” I tell myself. When I get to the parts counter, parts book in one hand and $40.00 useless part in other hand, the parts man tells me exactly what I already told myself. But where in the heck in this @#*&$ book is the right part listed? He looks on his computer and I look some more in the book. A few minuets later I think I finally find it. The parts man says that the serial number on my combine should not have that part. Any way he doesn’t have it but somewhere in Ohio they have it and it could be here by next week Wednesday or Thursday for sure. “Wait just a minute", He Says, "My computer tells me that the dealer in Deerfield Kansas has one”. I waste no time getting is number from my handy Case-IH Pro-harvest hand book and call him to find out for sure if he has one. “Yes I have one.” “Do you have it in your hand or does your computer just say that you have one?” “ I have it right here in my hand.” “Could you describe it to me?” “That has to be what I need. Can you send it to Keith Albrecht, general delivery Tribune, Kansas.” “The Post Office is next door you should get it on Monday.”

 On the way back to Tribune I think again this should still be an easy day. Just 80 acres to cut. When I get to Tribune, Mary has the water jugs filled, the boys are fed, and they even have the service truck fuel tanks filled with combine fuel.

 Since it rained a little last night I tell Mary that we will go and get the combines ready, move them to the next field, then be in for lunch about 11:30. Mary agrees. Out at the field the combines are greased and fueled and we get ready to move 3 miles down the road to the next field. Then Jeremy tells me, “Keith last night about the last few rounds it seemed like my combine was doing a terrible job. There was a lot of trash in the bin and the grain loss monitor was going crazy.” “That doesn’t sound good, but at least you’re learning to pay attention to the little things your combine is telling you.” Lets have a look in the back end.” “Ouch, darn and darn again.” I guess I didn’t get everything welded back at Mike’s place last week and now things are really coming to pieces. I call Jim to ask if I could use his portable welder. “Sure, it will be just a little bit till I get it out but where should I bring it to?” “Bring it to town, just south of the trailer park, I’ll work on the combine there where I am close to town if I need any thing.”

We move the one combine and the grain cart to the 80 acre field and cut a sample to see if it is dry. 11.6%. Dry. We go back to the other combine and I drive it to town while the boys go on in to town and start eating so they can go out and start cutting. When I get to town with the combine I see that Jim already has his welder there ready for me to use. After lunch I send Chris and Jeremy out to start cutting and I keep Ben with me for little while to help take things apart on the combine.

 As near as I can tell there was a bolt that was broken way up in the front of the shoe that holds the front of the chaffer in place that I did not see when I was doing that welding back at Mike’s place. With that bolt broken it allowed the chaffer to start shaking, which soon broke the chaffer hanger. All that had to come out so I could weld it.

 At least Jeremy is getting use to cutting by him self and the other good thing is we don’t have too much wheat ready yet. About 5:00 Jeremy calls on the radio and says that he is just finishing up. I tell him to park the combine and come in with Ben who has the last load. I tell Ben that as soon has he gets unloaded I would be ready for him to help me put the combine back together. A few minutes later Ben calls on the radio and says he blew a tire about a mile north of town. I tell him to go ahead and drive slow to the feed yard and get unloaded. Then he calls back and tells me both tires are blown on the right back tandem. I drive over to the Co-op service station to see if they have two new tires and if they could go out and put them on.

 In less than five minutes the new tires are loaded onto the Co-op field truck and their service man is on is way to the truck to get it fixed. That Mexican knows what he is doing when it comes to changing and repairing truck tires, even if his knowledge of the English language is limited. He had that fully loaded truck jacked up and two new tires on it in no time flat. No pun intended.

 Well instead of Ben helping me put the combine together Chris and Jeremy helped me. About the time we get it together and start it up and run it a little bit, Ben finally gets back from the feed yard. I ask him if the two blowouts were loud and if it scared him. Both affirmative. “But that was not all that happened.” “When I got out of the truck at the feed yard to get my ticket I closed the door and the window in the truck door shattered.” “What! How hard did you slam it?” “I just closed it like always.” And today was going to be an easy uneventful day! Boy, am I glad tomorrow is Sunday!

Sunday, July 11st Tribune, Kansas

Work on this report all day except for about two hours off for church and lunch. Hope you find it informative.

Sunday, July 8th Tribune, Kansas

Although very busy, this past week was comparatively uneventful to the things that happened the previous week. Perhaps biggest challenge was finding ripe wheat to cut every day. That alone caused us to make several 15 to 20 mile moves with the combines, sometimes twice in one day. But moving is better than sitting. Last Sunday night we did get a pretty good rain in the area. North of town they had as much a 2” some places and south of town as little as a ¼” some place.We were able to start cutting by noon Monday on a field 5 miles south west of town

 Just in case you’re wondering if I ever got that little oil leak repaired on my combine. Yes, that little $2.00 fitting was in the mail early Monday morning, and it was the correct one. On Friday morning we were able to get the window in Ben’s truck replaced also. He was glad to be able to close the window and enjoy the A.C. again. I located a “paint and body shop” in Horace, in all these years of working in this area I did not know existed.

 Horace is a small town just 2 miles west of Tribune. It has a rather interesting history. In the same way that the railroad was instrumental in the development of my home town Moundridge, it was very instrumental in this community also. As anyone who has traveled in Western Kansas knows, most towns are 20 to 30 miles apart. So why, are Tribune and Horace only 2 miles apart? The railroad needed an overnight and train crew changing place in this part of Kansas. And they wanted one with all the conveniences of home. They also wanted to be able to serve alcohol in this establishment. The citizens of Tribune did not want alcohol served or sold in their town, so the railroad built their own town Horace, just up the road or up the tracks. Until just a few years ago when there were 12 to 15 trains roaring through Tribune every day and night, the railroad was still the main industry of Horace. Now I’m not sure what it is. The joke in Greeley County is. There are only two black top roads in the county and they end at the liquor store in Horace. Really, it’s no joke it’s the truth. But I would rather have Greeley County’s gravel roads over some of the black top roads in Harvey and McPherson County. I hope this little history lesson about Horace, KS is at least partly true because that’s the way it was told to me.

Well, back to the business of harvest. As I was saying earlier we were busy this week. We cut well over a thousand acres. And that didn’t come without a few minor breakdowns. I now have more hours on these two combines than any other combines I have ever owned. The one I drive has over 2500 engine hours and 2000 separator hours. Jeremy’s combine has slightly less. So breakdowns are inevitable.

 On Tuesday afternoon, about 3:00, during the hottest part of the day, of course, Jeremy called on the radio and said his A.C. was not working. I let him run that way for about an hour, but from the few remarks that I heard coming over the radio from him I could tell he was not very happy, so I asked him if he wanted to trade combines. It did not take him long to decide to trade with me. The rest of the day Keith was not very happy. But you will remember there is nothing in our motto that says Keith has to be kept happy, just Mary. When we shut down for the night I did a little investigating and found that the A.C. belt was shot, and that was rapidly replaced.

 On Thursday afternoon the drive shaft that drives the left side of the header on my combine broke. Two hours later, and $500.00 poorer, that was replaced. The most frustrating breakdown came on Saturday afternoon when a small pulley that keeps a belt tight broke and flew to pieces on Jeremy’s combine. I sent Mary to Sharon Springs for repairs. I guess they thought harvest was already over because they were closed. She spent 30 minuets trying to find the owner to come open up the store to no avail. Finally I told her to go on to Goodland another 30 miles farther, to get the part. What would I do without a wife like her, and what would we do without cell phones? When she finally got back to the field a little over two hours later it only took ten minuets to replace the part.

 This morning we attended Church services in the park. The Tribune Ministerial Alliance always has a joint Church Service in the park on 4th of July weekend. We have attended many of them over the years. Harvest is rapidly winding down in Greeley County. The trailer park where we are staying looks like a deserted place now. With the exception of one or two other campers we are the only ones left. We should finish in a day or two if all goes well.

Monday, July 7th 11:30 PM Tribune, KS. 

We just finished cutting the last field for Jim. On the way back into town my crew is questioning me on when we are going to clean and load the combines and start for home. They seem real eager to get home now that we have finished. We decide that I will get them up at about 5:30 AM so we can have every thing cleaned, washed and loaded by noon before it gets to hot. I even decide to let Mary sleep in, and take the crew to the Ampride for breakfast. They were a little surprised when they came into our camper in the morning and there was no breakfast on the table and I told them “let’s go to work boys.” But like the good crew they have always been this summer, they got into the service truck without complaining ready to go to work. But they were sure glad when we stopped at the Ampride to eat before we went out to bring the combines into town.

We didn’t quite make it by noon but by 12:30 PM both combines were cleaned washed and loaded on washed and fueled up trucks ready for the trip home. Oh no, we did not leave for home then. We still had one important thing to do with Jim and Kathy. Eat homemade ice cream! We started this little ritual with Jim and Kathy many years ago and now we do it with most of our harvest customers. But of all of them I think Jim likes homemade ice cream more than any body. Maybe he likes it almost as much as I do. We each had three big bowls full.  It is always fun to sit and talk with Jim and Kathy as well as our other harvest customers over ice cream. This is the time we can really get to know the people we harvest for. And I am convinced that we harvest for the nicest people in the world.

Tuesday, July 8th, 7:00 AM, Tribune, KS.

With the words “ Unit 2 to all units, is every body ready to go?” I put my truck in low gear and lead the way out of the Ampride parking lot, and trailer park that as been our home for exactly two weeks now. We arrive home at 11:59 AM after only one stop in Rush Center for fuel.

Cleaning Up The Corners

Was this a good harvest? Well it wasn’t the best, but by no means was it the worst either. Let me put it this way. It was much better than I expected by about two fold. With the reports I heard early in the spring of poor wheat yields and reduced acres, I was expecting a real disaster this year. We were down in acres this year with the loss at Hunter, OK. and the loss in South Dakota, but we were able to cut more than we ever have here in the Moundridge area, and at Tribune also. So that helped make up for some of the lost acres but not totally. But most importantly we had no serious accidents, no injuries, and I had a real good and fun crew to work with. I hope they can say the same about their boss.


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