10.14.2008 | By: Alisa Callos


I wonder if the word ‘harvest’ has much meaning for most Americans in our society today. I imagine that most would envision fall, Thanksgiving maybe, Halloween and pumpkins, autumn colors: green, gold, orange and red. For me and other gardeners and farmers however, the word conjures a completely different meaning. Namely, lots of hard work.

My grandfather was a farmer. He grew wheat, potatoes, mint, alfalfa, flowers and gardens. For my grandfather, harvest was a backbreaking, never-ending, daily grind. As a child, I remember harvest times as great fun. Mint harvest was my favorite. It meant riding on the combine behind my grandpa, watching great rows of green as they were picked up and shot into the truck we were towing. April would drive the truck and sometimes she would let me ride with her. I felt so grown up riding with her because she let me shift the truck as we slowly wound our way up and around Haystack Butte to the mint still. I remember the sharp, eye burning, nose tingling, overpowering smell of mint when you went in the still, the ancient refrigerator where everyone kept their lunches and the drizzle of gold coming from the trucks into great metal barrels. One summer, my aunt and uncle stayed in a travel trailer out back of the still. They had a cocker spaniel puppy named Tuffy who loved to bite my toes. That summer my aunt and I painted the still doors a lovely pea green. I was six. It was 1974.

My grandfather has been dead for many years and harvest has new meaning for me. I’ll probably never know it as the chore it was for him, but I can now more fully appreciate the work it entails. The harvest work that links me to every ancestor who harvested before me is part of my family’s legacy. It links every mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather who harvested, canned, or froze the fruits of a summers’ garden. It links my family as we get together to share the labor of canning salsa and shucking corn with all those who came before. And despite all the hard work, I realize how lucky I am to have such a wonderful gift from them.


Alisa Callos said...

Clarification: Auntie Roxy lovingly pointed out that we used a 'swather' to cut the mint. A 'chopper' then cut the mint into small pieces, and blew it into the mint truck for transportation to the still. Even though I probably knew that at the time, my faulty memories of when I was six have them all as combines.

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