By Jay Jamison

The announcement went something like: We’re in the fields. Everyone in the small meeting room took this to mean that harvest has begun in earnest on our friend’s family farm. When my family moved to Illinois from the wilds of New Jersey in 1970, I was a 14-year-old kid going through the teenage angst of moving to a foreign land. I took no interest in agriculture and often had a hard time communicating with those who farmed. At first, talk about the Orleans, Prentice or Chapin elevators left me puzzled. To a person like me, whose home used to be 30 miles from mid-town Manhattan, elevators are boxlike conveyances in tall buildings used to move people from one floor to another. So why give them names?

I had no idea back then what cable TV was until I first attempted to watch television in Illinois by deploying the rabbit ears antennae on the set and turning it on. Turning the dial, I was horrified to discover that virtually every channel on the VHF dial produced nothing but snow and static. Had we moved away from civilization to the outer limits of the frontier? Then I tried, for the first time, the UHF dial. Nothing but snow until I reached channel 14, the now-defunct Jacksonville station WJJY. A crystal clear image came on of two guys in bib overalls sitting on large sacks of something. The dialogue went something like, “You can get Sutan, or Sutan plus Atrazine, and Dia flea-mate.” What were they talking about?

That was 49 years ago. I still don’t know much about agriculture, but since then, I’ve taken a keen interest in the two frenetic farming seasons, planting and harvest. My interest was first aroused on the Old State Road. I was late for an appointment in Springfield some years ago, and when I came around a curve at speed, I saw a huge combine coming in the opposite direction. We were both about to meet on what was then a narrow one-lane bridge. With my brakes locked and tires shrieking, our vehicles came to a stop on the bridge a few feet apart. I was staring into the jaws of a large corn picker. Near-death experiences often focus one’s attention, and from then on, I’ve been focused.

My interest in agriculture was once again confirmed a few days ago when I noticed that the entire image in the rear-view mirror of my car was taken up with the grill of a truck. I was looking more at my mirror than the road ahead. I was descending the hill on Routes 67/104 heading west, just before the tight left turn onto Route 100 toward Bluffs. I made the turn and noticed the semi following me was also making the turn –too fast for safety, in my estimation. Many other grain trucks were also making that turn.

It’s harvest, and guys in little cars like mine need to beware. We need to keep an eye out for farm equipment in front of us, and for speeding grain trucks behind. Also, let’s not forget that being in the fields also means the deer population gets a little stirred-up by all this commotion, not to mention it’s bow season and also rutting season All this excitement gives our forest friends an insatiable desire to leap out in front of moving vehicles, often from the side of the road. So, to recap, if you’re driving these days, you need to look forward, look back, look sideways, and of equal importance, slow down.

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