Chuck Terrill: Remembering the Wheat Harvest of 1964

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

My family moved to Valley Center, Kan., in 1957. I was 3 when they bought the house at 418 N West Street. In those days there was nothing on the West side of our sand road except a wheat field bordered on the far side by the Little Arkansas River. The Adsit family had a red brick house at the South end of their 80-acre wheat field, next to the river.

I grew up watching the wheat grow. I would see the field plowed, planted, and harvested. The combine would kick up all kinds of dust. Sitting on my front stoop,  I would watch the grain being loaded into a truck for the short trip to the grain elevator at Main and Ash.  

In the Summer of 1964, right after the harvest, my two younger brothers and I took a couple of rakes to the center of the field and raked up a huge pile of straw. It had to be twenty feet across the base and at least 12 feet high. To us, it was monster pile of straw. From where we were we could clearly see the Adsit's house, and it soon became evident that Mrs. Adsit could see us. We watched her get into her car, and when she turned onto West Street, she was headed in our direction. The three of us burrowed into the straw, and I told Michael and Kenneth to be quiet. “If she can't see us, she can't prove we are here!” I told them. Mrs. Adsit stood by the edge of the field and called for us to come out. We didn't move a muscle.

We knew she didn't like trespassers and the field was posted. It was hard for us to understand that her field was not our playground. We had a fenced back yard that was about thirty feet wide and thirty feet long. It was far too small to play in.

Mrs. Adsit finally drove away, and when she didn't go back home, we thought it was safe to come out and play again. In just a few minutes, though, we saw her coming back down our street. We dove back into the pile and hunkered down. What we didn't know was that a Valley Center Police Department car would soon pull up behind her.  

We were lying in the haystack, giggling to ourselves when the siren went off. Hearing a siren, unexpectedly like that, will make you jump. When you jump, some of the straw falls off. We peeked out and saw the patrol car. The bubble gum machine on top was whirling red, and an officer was motioning for us to come out.

“I can see you!” the officer shouted.

We came out and walked, trembling, to where the officer was standing. I was 9, Michael was 7, and Kenneth was 5. We knew we were in big trouble.  

“Mrs. Adsit doesn't want you boys playing in her field,” the policeman said. “I want you to go back out there and spread that straw back out, just like you found it and don't play out there anymore.”  

“We are just trying to have some fun,” I meekly offered.  

“You are going to catch that field on fire!” Mrs. Adsit exclaimed, “I don't want my house to burn down!” 

Little brother Kenny, age 5, retorted, “We don't even smoke!”  

The officer laughed. Mrs. Adsit glared at the officer.

We spread the wheat straw back out. Disaster was averted. It is now 2021. Mrs. Adsit lives in a forever home now, but her earthly house is still standing.

Chuck Terrill, who has doctorates from Master Theological Seminary and Trinity Seminary, is the senior minister at First Christian Church in Cassville. He may be reached at 417-847-2460.