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LyricsAmericaBeautiful

Did you grow up country? Can you picture a Dad, brother, or uncle toiling under the torrid July sun in the wheat field?

If so, you know that farmers always wore hats with brims. The ruddy-faced farmers I knew in the fifties probably didn’t use Coppertone or any other sunscreen, but they always wore hats with bills, revealing a totally white forehead when the caps came off.

The medieval French farmers in the drawing below in what looks like undies and sandals shield their anonymous faces from the sun with straw hats.

Grain field in Medieval Times: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Grain field in Medieval Times: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

(You may be stifling a giggle at their odd attire right now!)

My dad farmed land in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, so he was a farmer too, but he was known first as a farm implement dealer. As the owner of Longenecker Farm Supply, he sold farmers tractors, bailers, or combines for grain harvesting, and they called him often in a panic when their equipment broke down: In the middle of the field. At the worst possible time. When storm clouds loomed.

Howard Longenencker, one of Dad’s cousins, and Best Man at Mom and Dad’s wedding, is pictured here in a movie clip taking his new Minneapolis Moline harvesting machinery for a whirl around the field, enjoying every minute. Watch for his jubilant wave! I’ll call the clip “Grainy Amber” because it was filmed in the 1950s with much less sophisticated technology than available now.

Another relative, Esther Mae Longenecker Hiestand, has captured images of her family’s grain harvest in her 489-page book, all about the Longeneckers descended from the line of Ulrich Longenecker, who emigrated from Switzerland to America. She and her family collected over a dozen images of hay and wheat harvesting in her portrait of a Lancaster County family entitled Pitchforks and Pitchpipes (454 – 457).

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So great a blessing was an abundant harvest that the warmth and productivity of the season was interpreted as an allegory of spiritual plenty. The ninth-century theologian Hrabanus Maurus writes that summer sun expresses the heat of Godโ€™s love, and that the season signifies the blessedness to come in Heaven (Medieval Book of Seasons, 1992.)

School children of all races and creeds sing lustily about the bounty of harvest in a patriotic song we hear often during the month of July:

Did you grow up country? Share your experience with summer harvesting of all kinds. Or add an impression, a quote. Whatever!

Up next: Purple Passages with Rainbow Colors

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