March 24, 2023 at 7:26 p.m.
The Day that went Awry
A harvest day they would rather forget
“No matter what happens, you’ve got to have a thankful attitude,” Klaphake said. “Until 3 p.m. that day, things had gone pretty well.”
In October 2019, Klaphake and his brother, Dan, were in the middle of combining soybeans. The pair run a dairy farm together near Sauk Centre, milking 80 cows in a stanchion barn and farming 500 acres of corn, soybean, oat, wheat and alfalfa.
“I know it was a Wednesday,” Klaphake said. “We wanted to get a bunch of our soybean acres out because they were talking rain for Thursday and Friday.”
Klaphake had one field already done and was set to tackle another by 3 p.m. As he entered the 40-acre field, he planned to first combine around the outside of the field during daylight so he could see better when going near poles, trees and fence lines.
“I wasn’t in the field a minute and was close to the road, going parallel to it, and another farmer was coming down the road toward me with a tractor and a gravity box,” Klaphake said. “As soon as he was straight on with me, next thing I knew, my windshield on the combine completely busted out. It shattered. I thought, ‘What the heck just happened?’”
The farmer did not see what had happened and kept going – as did Klaphake. Some glass had come into the cab, but most had fallen outside of it.
“I never even stopped because I thought, ‘Well, that busted out, but I still want to keep combining,’’ Klaphake said. “It’s not like you can’t drive a combine without a windshield. It’s just not as nice.”
The cab became a bit less comfortable.
“The biggest thing was that, instead of having the protection of the glass to keep out the dust and dirt and the noise, it got a lot louder and a lot dirtier inside.”
Luckily, Klaphake had sunglasses to shield his eyes from the dust. He radioed an employee who was hauling to bring a dust mask and noise-canceling ear muffs on his next trip to the field.
“I combined for another four or five hours like that,” Klaphake said. “The hard part was that the wind was blowing due south and the field goes north and south. When I was going to the north, the wind would swirl around and come right into the cab, so I couldn’t really get out of the dust because the wind would blow it back at me.”
The temperature was a comfortable 60 degrees, but wind speed was a steady 15 mph. Still, Klaphake had impending rain to beat and kept going. By around 8 p.m., he finished the field and was ready to dump the last load.
The employee had pulled a 500-bushel gravity box into the field a little way so that Klaphake did not have to drive as far to dump the load. Once the soybeans were unloaded, they were ready to head back.
“Next thing I know, the (employee) can’t move the gravity box,” Klaphake said. “It had sunk right in. Apparently, where the box was parked was too soft.”
Combining was put on hold for a while.
“We went back and got a bigger tractor, but we still couldn’t move it with that,” Klaphake said. “I got another gravity box and pulled it alongside the other one, and two hired men and I scooped out around 200 bushels of soybeans into the other gravity box using 5-gallon pails.”
The now-lighter gravity box came unstuck but not without damage. The tie rod was bent so that the wheels did not line up right on the journey home. Klaphake said he was glad to get all the soybeans home and into the shed to avoid getting them rained on.
“It wasn’t the end of the world,” Klaphake said.
By now it was getting dark. Dan took over the combine with the busted-out windshield to harvest a 10-acre field behind his house.
“He hadn’t been five minutes in the field when our bean head broke,” Klaphake said.
The sickle had broken in the middle so that the 25-foot head was only cutting with one half of the head.
“Once that happened, we thought, ‘Well, we’re done combining for the day,’” Klaphake said.
They called their brother, Chuck, who dairy farms about 10 miles away, to bring a trailer they share that would allow them to more easily haul the bean head to Midwest Machinery in Sauk Centre where another brother, Paul, works. Paul was going to meet them there to open the shed. Then, they would not have to haul the bean head in the rain the next day. Plus, they could also pull the trailer with the combine so that the windshield could be fixed as well.
However, the day was not over.
Klaphake’s dog, Pepper, had been a great farm dog but was now old and hard of hearing. He often lounged around the farmyard, and the Klaphake’s would have to drive around him because he would not hear their approach.
As Chuck pulled into the yard with the trailer, it was completely dark outside, and Pepper was a black dog.
“Chuck felt something under his truck and thought, ‘What was that?’” Klaphake said. “He looked and saw it was the dog. He accidentally (had driven) over its hind legs, so (the dog) couldn’t use its back legs anymore.”
The dog was in pain, and they knew he would have to be put down. They made him as comfortable as could be, knowing he would need to go to the vet the next day.
“We decided after that to go to bed, wake up tomorrow and see what tomorrow brings,” Klaphake said.
Chuck had offered his bean head for his brothers to use if they wanted to keep combining that night, but they declined.
“It was not a day that was going to let us do anything more, nor did we even want to attempt to do anything more,” Klaphake said.
Like with most unfortunate events, Klaphake can now look back with humor and take the long view.
“Farming teaches a lot of things in life,” Klaphake said. “No matter how bad it is, it could always get worse.”
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