Amber Waves of Grain

wheatIf you take a trip down almost any rural road in Oklahoma you’ll come across some of the most American stories.  On this trip to a small farm north of Enid, Oklahoma I came across some men in love truly in love with the country, only they’re not from this country at all.  In fact Steven and Kevin Clarke traveled from across the pond to land in a sea of gold.

I came across this story in a newspaper article a year ago, and held onto with hopes the story would come back around…it did.  So we packed up and headed north from the city.  We followed the golden wheat fields to Delbert Joyner’s Centennial Farm.  Delbert’s family started farming just after the land run in the late 1800s.

Three years ago Delbert was bringing in his harvest a top a classic Massey Ferguson combine.  That’s when he saw a car pull up next to the field.  Two men stepped out, one started taking pictures.  The other man walked right up and got on the combine with Delbert.  “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Delbert says.  You see, it was the red combine with the distinctive white top that caught the Clarke brother’s eye.  It was just like the combine they used on their small farm back in Norfolk, England.  They were on something of a farming adventure vacation.  Two men in love with the land and the machines – just taking in the heartland.

Steven and Kevin Clarke are both farmers, but they seem to have something of an obsession with classic farm equipment.  The love affair began, according to Kevin, with a 1972 National Geographic article.  It introduced them to wheat harvesting.  In 1976, their passion was awakened with a documentary by the BBC.  “Yellow Trail From Texas” followed two custom harvesters from Oklahoma.  They spent an entire summer cutting wheat from Texas all the way to Canada.  The idea of spending six months in the fields was a dream job for the Clarke brothers, but they were too young to join a custom cutting crew.  Still they kept the dream alive and a few years ago made the trip to America.

After spotting Delbert on his combine, they asked to return the following year to help him with his harvest.  Delbert agreed.  Good to their word, the Clarke brothers arrived ready to work.  This is their second year helping Delbert fix up his old combines.  To them it’s not work,  Kevin admits some people may not understand why two farmers would want to spend their vacation working on a farm, “A lot of them think we’re mad, but this is what we love doing so we’re happy.”

The smile on Kevin’s face when he’s sitting on top of the massive machines is enough to make anyone love forget about the city and fall in love with the farm.  It’s true happiness found in the hearts of some international visitors in love with America’s fruited plain.