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Posts Tagged ‘Wheat harvest’

I had just been

On an amazing adventure

I worked on

The wheat harvest

To follow my Dad’s path,

To walk in his shoes,

To find out

What had led him

To change his whole life

And reclaim

His soberness

His family

His job

His life.

 *

Combine cutting wheat

I had returned to Houston

After spending the summer

From Oklahoma

To North Dakota

Following the wheat

Living a nomadic life

Exploring new worlds.

Combine moving to next field

*

I had been writing letters

To a number of friends

To stay grounded.

I had called

Whenever we stopped

At a place where

There was a phone.

One of my biggest

Supports was Donna.

We’d been friends

For many years

And she had been there

Whenever

I needed her.

 *

So when I got home,

We planned to spend time.

She wanted to hear

All about my experience

What it was like driving

A big truck,

Pulling a wheat combine

Combine on a trailer behind grain truck

On a trailer.

I had described it

In letters,

But it wasn’t the same

As being able to

Spend an evening

And tell someone

All  about it.

*

I called her.

She said

And I remember

This vividly:

“Say, I’d love

To get together.

I’m house sitting

For some friends,

I have to watch their dogs

I have to do a couple of

Loads of laundry.

I’ll cook you dinner,

And get a couple of movies

And we can watch those

While we visit.”

*

The whole thing

Just felt wrong.

Too many moving parts,

And no place to

Really talk.

I had presence enough

To say

“Donna, that feels

awfully busy.

Why don’t we do it

Another night

When there’s more time

To just sit and visit.”

*

She acted sort of surprised,

And a bit put out.

Like she had been

Doing me a favor

To offer me the time slot.

We never rescheduled.

She never found out

What my journey

Had been like.

 *

The only thing

I can figure out

Is that she didn’t

Really want to know.

Ouch!

Why?

I couldn’t guess.

*

We were never the same

After that.

**************************

Photo credits:

Photos by Dan L. Hays Copyright, all rights reserved.

“Good Question” e-magic @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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My Dad disappeared

For about a year

When I was seventeen.

The last I saw him,

We left him

Passed out drunk

On the living room couch.

Relatives came and got

My Mom, sisters and me

Leaving Dad

Who wouldn’t quit drinking

Who wouldn’t accept help.

I thought

I might ever see him again.

 *

Later

He returned to our lives

A changed man.

He sobered up

Got back his old job

Built back his old life.

*

But twenty years later

After he died

I realized

I never knew what happened

When he disappeared.

When he was on the edge

Of killing himself

With the drink.

Rumor had it

That he worked

The wheat harvest

Something he had done

In college.

Wheat Harvest

*

I started to write

The story of what I thought

Might have happened.

I realized

The piece I was missing

Was what it would be like

To work on

The wheat harvest.

*

I said to a friend

“Someday…

Someday,

If I ever want to

Really explore

My Dad’s story.

I might just have to

Work the wheat harvest.

My friend Pat

Listened quietly.

 *

Later he said

“You’ve talked about

working the wheat harvest

three or four times.

I just want to mention

Someday – if you want

To work the wheat harvest.

I have relatives in Oklahoma

Who do that each year.”

*

I did what I do

When hit with

The unexpected.

I sat there

Numbly,

Quietly.

And then said

“Thanks for telling me.”

Talk about upping the ante

On a spiritual quest

To walk in

My Dad’s shoes.

My friend had

Certainly done that.

Now I was left

To put it all out there,

Or leave it as “someday.”

*

I finally called Pat

And asked if he would

Do me a favor.

Check with his relatives

To see if I might

Join their harvest crew

For the summer.

*

Meanwhile,

I tried to figure out

If this was

Completely nuts.

Quit my job,

Go off and work

On a harvest crew

To find out about

My Dad’s story.

I checked it out

With Scott – a good friend

Who was really grounded.

He’d give me a solid answer,

Besides, he was

An accountant.

Logical, linear.

I later realized

I was secretly hoping

He’d tell me

“This idea is crazy”

So I could give up

The whole thing.

Instead he said

“Makes a lot of sense

I think you ought to do it!

It will be part of

Your healing.”

Major gulp!

*

Two months later,

I was living in a trailer

In Lone Wolf Oklahoma

With six high school farm kids

Learning to drive a huge truck

Used to haul grain.

And following

My Dad’s story.

*

Bunk trailers and work pickups

Cara - the grain truck I drove on harvest

It was the adventure

Of a lifetime.

We followed the wheat

As it ripened.

Living like nomads.

It was a world

I had never seen before.

Living in an old house trailer

In one place for two weeks

Then moving,

Trailers, trucks, combines

A caravan

To the next farm

As the wheat ripened

From Oklahoma

To North Dakota.

Combines and tractors

*

Combines dumping grain on trucks

I learned many things.

I grew up in the city

But had the heart of a country boy.

I love driving a tractor

Or a wheat combine.

I don’t do well on little sleep.

Living in a trailer,

Farm boys are not

Particularly neat

When Momma’s not there

To clean out the tub.

When pulling wheat from

A plugged up combine

The dust really itches,

When it gets down your neck.

 *

And special things happened.

    I got to visit the filmsite

From Dances With Wolves.

We saw Mount Rushmore,

Me at Dances With Wolves filmsite

My first pic of Mount Rushmore

Both affected me deeply.

All in all

It was a magical summer.

*

It gave me the truth

About what I believe

Happened to my Dad.

How he had

A spiritual awakening

And realized

He had to return

To clean up his past.

I finished the story

I wanted to tell.

I wrote it as a novel.

It will be called

“Nothing Left To Lose.”

 *

But as I look back

What Pat said

When the idea

First came up

Turned out to be the truth.

He had said

“Dan, you think you’re going

On the wheat harvest,

To learn about your Dad.

I think this trip

Will be about you.

You will learn about

Yourself.

Heal yourself.

Claim your own power.”

*

He was right!

I often look back

On the wheat harvest experience

As a turning point in my life.

When I claimed the truth

Dan the writer

Of my path

Not to follow the business world

   Of my Dad and my friends,

But to claim my birthright

As a writer

Dan the writer

A teller of stories.

And a country boy.

I am completely convinced

I did the right thing

In going on harvest

To walk in Dad’s shoes.

Because I found – myself.

********************

Photo Credits:

Photos by Dan L. Hays Copyright – all rights reserved.

“The Wheat Harvest” the slowlane @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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In the fall of 1990, I had a vision – I wanted to write novels of hope. I had taken a 19th Century American literature course, and the teacher had said, “in 19th century American novels, you expected a happy outcome.  In 20th century novels, you typically expect a negative or unhappy outcome.”  I didn’t like that trend, and wanted to do something different.

The movie Dances With Wolves had just come out, and it really sparked something in me.  I realized that I wanted to explore a time in my Dad’s life I knew little about.

In 1967, when I was 17, we were living in Oklahoma City when my Dad’s drinking hit bottom. My aunt and uncle came and picked up my Mom, my 3 sisters and myself, taking us back to Fort Worth to live with my maternal grandmother. Dad disappeared for a while, then later returned to Fort Worth, somehow changed.  He sobered up and got into recovery, and reclaimed the world he had lost.  I never knew what had happened to him during the time he was gone, other than a vague comment my Mom made about him going and working on the wheat harvest, which he had done in high school.  I never thought I would see him again, and later wondered what his life had been like during the time while he was gone.

He died before it ever occurred to me to ask him about it.  I began working on how to tell that story, and after I wrote the first two chapters, I suddenly realized – if I explored this thread fully, I had – a novel of hope!  It was a tremendously empowering moment.

In the spring of 1991, I quit my job, went up to Oklahoma and worked on the wheat harvest, to try and imagine what my Dad’s life was like after we left, and what might have happened to him.  How I got there is a story of its own: Dances With Wolves Filmsite.

The book I wrote in 1993 was my best guess as to what happened.  It was entitled Nothing Left To Lose.  It was a novel,  written from a very loving and generative perspective.  But how did I get to that loving place in describing a man who had been violent toward me when I was a teenager?  I later realized that I needed to flesh out the back story.  I will do so in several books, beginning with my first published memoir, Freedom’s Just Another Word, about the time around his death and my healing process.  The reason I never published this novel will be the topic of the second book I will publish – Healing The Writer; writing that book freed my creativity!

I now plan to publish Nothing Left To Lose, the novel about my Dad written from a loving and healed perspective.

The novel begins like this:

Chapter 1
Eyes downcast, he trudged along, conscious of the uneven surface along the shoulder of the highway, stumbling occasionally on chunks of gravel or small pebbles. He looked up periodically at the cars speeding past, as if to keep his bearings. His face was lined and weary and his entire body ached. He was wearing a worn brown corduroy jacket, a wrinkled plaid flannel shirt, dark blue polyester pants, white socks and cordovan loafers.

It was about 5 pm and the sun had just set. Night was approaching rapidly and the chill of February in 1967 was harshened by a brisk wind which picked up in gusts as he walked. He tried to walk faster, his hands deep in his pockets, but had to step carefully so not to turn an ankle on the uneven surface beside the roadbed. His vision was limited by the flash of oncoming headlights.

He had been told there was a boarding house in town where he could get a room for the night, and he plodded on, the directions vaguely held in a corner of his consciousness.

“We’re sorry,” they’d said at the detox center, “but all we can do is provide you a place for 5 days. We just help people dry out. Then we have to give the bed to someone else.” They had directed him to the boarding house, wished him well, given him back his clothes and money, and sent him on his way.

His feet hurt, his whole body ached, he craved a drink but knew that he must make the most of this chance. There was another pain, too, an emotional void when he thought of all he had left behind, all he had lost. He wondered where they were now, but he knew he could do nothing for them. Yet he longed for their voices, for any source of warmth and comfort to relieve this coldness, and the blackness in his soul.
——————————–

Sitting and looking out the big picture window at the front of Miss White’s Boarding House, Peter Sanders watched the occasional car pass, and a few blocks away he could see the busier traffic on the main street. Busy, he thought, for our town. Cornell, Oklahoma wasn’t exactly New York, he chuckled to himself, but it was rush hour here, with cars heading home to supper.

At the corner of the main road where it intersected his street, he saw a figure hesitate, look at street signs, and uncertainly begin to walk toward him. Another drunk out of the center, he thought to himself, betting that the man was headed here. This was where they mostly came when they had nowhere else to go.

Peter got up, stepped to the door of the kitchen, cracked it open. “Miss Vera,” he called.

“Yes, Peter?” she replied.

“I think we got a visitor coming in.”

“Alright. Send him through to me.” Miss Vera stepped wearily into the living room. She had seen so many come through her doors that the novelty of it had long since worn off.

Peter sat in one of the overstuffed chairs in the living room, extending his feet toward the large space heater in the corner. Miss Vera went back into the kitchen. The man opened the door.

Ben Hays, my Dad, in 1971.

“Step in and warm up, stranger,” Peter called. He stepped quickly and gratefully over in front of the space heater, holding his hands out over it, shivering slightly. Peter studied him. He was about six feet tall, slender yet sturdy, with dark circles under the eyes, sunken cheeks. He had dark brown hair, cut short, rumpled and uncombed, and his clothes weren’t heavy enough for February. The clothes looked of good quality, but were tired from overuse. His hands looked soft. There were no calluses or marks, so he was probably not a laborer. His shoulders slumped wearily, hands twitched, and he had an almost nauseous look on his face. Peter imagined him to be a businessman gone to seed – gone down far and fast, too. Peter knew the look – he’d had it himself recently enough.

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I had a remarkable radio interview tonight with Kate Loving Shenk.  We explored my healing journey, and my upcoming book Healing The Writer.  Listen at the end, when Kate gives me a direction that had been sitting there in front of me, but I hadn’t seen it yet.  Helping other people with creative blocks, based on my experience. The picture is me at age 19 – and I’m reclaiming that creative soul!

Here’s a link to the radio show:

My Healing Journey

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“I Am A Published Author.” In spite of significant obstacles due to deep and damaging messages by his grandmother, an author has his book published, and begins to absorb that reality.

Published in Life As A Human.

Photo Credits:

Crossing The Finish Line ©  Dan Hays. All rights Reserved.

Feature Image – Microsoft Office Clip Art Collection

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“I Capture The Writing Vision.” An author realizes that there are several books that need to be written to fully explain the healing novel he wrote about his father.

Published in Life As A Human.

Photo credit:

“God is a farmer” h.koppdelaney @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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“I Abandon A Book – Again!” An author has several agents interested in his novel. He works hard to revise his manuscript, only to be crushed when it needs further work. He walks away from the book.

Published in Life As A Human.

Photo credit:

“Self Portrait, Walking Away: On one of the jetties at Gräsvik” Misteraitch @flickr.com Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

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“Ghosts Of The Wheat Harvest.” A man decides to explore his dead father’s pain, in order to resolve a relationship which still bothers him. He decides to work the wheat harvest to walk in his father’s shoes.

Published in Life As A Human.

Photo credit:

“The Wheat Harvest” the slowlane @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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Note: This was written in June 1992, Brandon, Colorado.  I was working on a wheat harvest crew to Explore my Dad’s story – to “walk in his shoes”, if you will.  This was an allegory about my experience, that helped me see what was going on.  My old boots, like the ones my Dad wore, had physically worn out, and I needed to buy new ones.

——

Once upon a time a Young Warrior was commanded by his King to go on a Vision Quest, to see what he could see, to learn new truths and see reality more clearly.  The King was concerned because the Young Warrior, though a very brave and fine lad, knew not of his own strengths and powers.  The King felt that by venturing out on his own, the Young Warrior would discover his true self, and be better able to undertake some very bold adventures the King had in mind for him.

But the Young Warrior could not see himself as he really was because he was trying to follow in his Father’s footsteps, to gain his Father’s approval.  He did not feel he had measured up in his Father’s eyes, and this was the cause of his blindness about himself.

So when the Young Warrior prepared for his Vision Quest, he thought to himself that it would be a fine thing to follow the path that his Father had taken many years before in his own Vision Quest.  With that end in mind, he decided to wear the boots that he had acquired many years before, boots that were the same style as the ones his Father had worn.  The boots were now quite old, and since he had first gotten them, had never fit properly, being too loose fitting.  They were of heavy construction, with steel in the toes, and not really very comfortable.

But he wore them anyway, on the first phase of his Vision Quest.  As he turned toward home he noticed a nail that protruded through the sole and pricked his heel.  He took tools and pushed the nail down, but it kept popping up and bothering him.  The boots had grown quite worn from the heavy use during his Quest.  So he put them in the closet for the winter, as he meditated upon what he had learned on his journey.

It had been a very long and tiring road for the Young Warrior, and to the King it was evident that the lad had claimed his true self, but the young man saw it not.  The King, being old and wise, knew this was possible, and so had prepared the lad to take the trail once again, to let the lesson sink in.  The King also knew of the strength of the expectations in the young man’s mind that he must live up to his Father’s standards.  The King had also watched the Father’s Vision Quest, and knew that the young man had the ability to far transcend what his Father had accomplished.  But to do this the Young Warrior would have to lift his eyes from his Father’s path and seek his own way.  So the King’s preparation in sending the Young Warrior out a second time was fitting and wise, thought the young lad could not see it, and did not understand the need for a second Quest.

As the young man once again prepared to go out, he knew that the previous year’s journey had changed him in some fashion, but he could not see what had occurred, because the road had been too tiring.

The young man felt it was time to let go of the old boots and purchase some new ones, but he was not quite ready to do so, for some reason he could not quite explain to himself.  So he went to a cobbler and had the heels repaired, to mend the nail that had kept pricking his heel.  The cobbler assured him that the problem was solved.

As the young man ventured back out onto the trail of a year ago, he was startled to see how bold his previous venture had been, and how brave and fine a lad he truly was.  This was as the King had intended, and upon hearing reports of the Young Warrior, he was well pleased.

After a short time the young man also saw how different was his path from that of his Father.  He could not explain how he knew this, but it was so.  He grew more and more confident in his steps, and began to fully feel the powers he had been given, but which had lain dormant while his eyes were fixed upon his Father.

About this time the cobbler’s work failed.  Several nails started popping up and pricking his heel, and try as he would, he could not fix them.  He grew frustrated because the cobbler was now many miles away to the South.  The Young Warrior grew dissatisfied with the boots that were like his Father’s.  They were still heavy and cumbersome, fit poorly, and of course, there were the nails.

So one day, being close to another cobbler’s shop, he ventured in, and saw a new pair of boots which he liked greatly.  The were lightweight, of newer and improved construction, they fit his feet well, and were just the right type for the path he walked.  He purchased them.

Like a flash of lightning, as he put on the new boots and put the old ones back in acorner out of the way, it came to him that he had worn the old boots to be like his Father, but that they did not fit and did not suit because he was different from his Father.

At that moment, he truly became the Bold Warrior, and struck out on the Vision Quest path to see what he could see, not to see what his Father had seen.  The new boots became the symbol of the new man that the Young Warrior had become, and he knew he was comfortable with the change, and felt ready for the bold adventures he sensed the King had been preparing him for.

The Young Warrior felt grateful for the wisdom and insight of the King, and turning to look back at the old boots and bid them goodbye, he set out on his true path.

Photo Credit:

“Work boot” by Bigbadvoo @ flickr.com.  Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

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In August 1991 I visited the Dances With Wolves film site. How I ended up there was as interesting as being there.

In 1987 my Dad died, and it hit me hard. My first published book, Freedom’s Just Another Word, chronicles the events around the time he passed away, because it was such a critical time for me. Several years later, I became very curious about a certain time in his life. When his drinking hit bottom, I was 17 years old, and we were living in Oklahoma City. My aunt and uncle came and got my Mom, sisters and I, and we went back to Fort Worth to stay with my grandmother. My Dad disappeared for a while, and I realized many years later, I never thought I would see him again – I thought he would die from his drinking. The rumor was that he had gone and worked the wheat harvest, which he had done in college one summer. My Mom said he had told her something about having a spiritual awakening during that time. He returned to Fort Worth, sobered up and began quietly reclaiming everything he had lost, including his family. He never talked about that time, and I never knew what happened. Then he died.

I realized in around the fall of 1990, that I wanted to explore what I thought might have happened to him. I wrote the first two chapters of a novel, and suddenly realized two things: first, I had a powerful story here. I could feel it. And second, this was a story of hope, which was the theme I had wanted to explore for several years. I sat with that awareness for a while, and mentioned it to my creative buddies. During that same time, I had started getting together with a couple of friends to explore our visions, dreams, and destinies. They were in support of the concept, but for me there was a missing piece.

“Someday, if I’m ever going to fully write this book, I’m going to have to go on the wheat harvest, to be able to describe that part of the story well. I think it will also help me figure out what had happened.” One of my friends told me later that he waited until I had made similar statements 3 or 4 times, but then he quietly mentioned one night at dinner “Dan, someday, if you ever want to go work on the wheat harvest to finish your book, I have relatives in Oklahoma who work the harvest every year. I could probably get you on with them.” I did a huge mental gulp at hearing that, and reacted like I usually do when I’m in shock, and sat there with a stunned look on my face, saying nothing. I thought about that for a long time, because I felt like the spiritual ante had been greatly upped on this whole book project!

The whole thing just took on a life of its own, and by May of 1991 I was living in a trailer with 6 farm kids in southwest Oklahoma, learning to drive a grain truck. (I do want to mention here that I am planning a book entitled “Then I Went to Find My Father” about the whole experience of me ending up on harvest. So if I compress some details here, I’ll pick them up there.) We heard all summer about how our trip would take us to Sturgis, South Dakota by August, and we’d be not far from the area where the movie Dances With Wolves was filmed. Of course, I thought – that would fit right in with the amazing summer I was having, following in my father’s footsteps and finding out where he had gone, and what he had gone through.

I remember vividly being on a dirt road north from Rapid City, driving a huge grain truck, pulling a trailer with a combine on the back of it, my fears of driving such a rig many miles to the south, now in a comfort zone and able to look around and enjoy myself. We came to a T intersection, where we were to turn left to go over to Sturgis, and the landscape looked incredibly familiar. When we got to Sturgis, I found out I had been looking down over the valley where they had filmed the Indian village scenes from the movie. Of course!

About a week later, after rains had stopped the cutting for a while, I got to go to the film site! The movie had affected me powerfully, all about finding your true self, and getting outside who you thought you were. I had seen it several times in the fall of 1990, when I was just fleshing out the idea for the book about my Dad. So to actually be on the ground where the movie was made was like a spiritual experience, within the larger setting of a vision quest to find out about my Dad, and walk in his shoes! I savored the experience, and the effect of it stayed with me long after we had gone back south at the end of the summer. So that’s how I ended up having the picture at the top of my blog page. (The book about my Dad on harvest, entitled “Nothing Left to Lose”, had several agents interested, but I haven’t yet published it – long story, which is the topic of my next book, “And Then I Stop.” I plan to publish both books)

 

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