Bumper Crop

By Carol K. Laycock

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    According to your faith be it unto you (Matt. 9:29).

    The day dawned bright, hot, breathless. Perfect weather for planting, John thought as he jumped out of bed and dressed in his work clothes. It was the time of year he loved most. Days were getting longer, full of sunshine, and new things were beginning to grow.

    John struggled to fasten the clumsy metal buttons on his overalls. “I have to hurry—I hear Grandpa outside,” he said to himself. His sleepy fingers finally managed to nudge the last stubborn button through the buttonhole. John was Grandpa’s helper now that his big brother, Mark, was serving a mission.

    Today he and Grandpa were going to get the small south field ready to plant in wheat. After that, there would be weeks of work ahead for them—wonderful weeks of fertilizing, weeding, waiting. Then would come the biggest event of all, the harvest.

    After a quick breakfast, a whoop of sheer joy, and a kiss on Mom’s cheek, seven-year-old John grabbed the knapsack his mother had prepared and bounded out the back door and across the yard. He scrambled excitedly up onto the well-worn metal tractor seat and settled down next to Grandpa. He surveyed the waiting field, then grinned his mile-wide, I’m-ready-to-get-down-to-work grin.

    Today was a big day for John. Grandpa was going to let him steer the tractor all by himself for the first time. Grandpa trusted him to help with even the toughest jobs around the farm, and that made him feel grown-up.

    John anxiously double-checked his gear. Yep, everything was there. Mom had sent along one man-sized lunch, a thermos of ice water, a hat to help keep the sun away, and. … Thrusting his hand deep down into his pocket, John fingered the coins he had brought along so that he could surprise Grandpa by taking him to town for an ice-cream cone after their work was done.

    “Why, John!” Grandpa exclaimed over the noisy tractor engine, “I do believe you’ve forgotten something.”

    “What, Grandpa?”

    “You’ve forgotten your two front teeth,” Grandpa chuckled, tousling John’s hair and smiling into his freckle-splashed face.

    Now both of them were laughing, and John, reaching up, gave Grandpa a mighty hug.

    “You’ll be glad I lost those teeth, Grandpa, because the tooth fairy left me just enough money for …”

    “Enough money for what?” Grandpa’s voice boomed over the rattle and roar of the tractor.

    “You’ll see when we’re finished here, Grandpa,” John teased as they headed the tractor down to the field.

    After forty years of farming, Grandpa had retired and John’s dad had taken over the farm. All of it, that is, except this one small parcel of land. “I won’t ever quit working this field,” Grandpa told John as they chugged along on the trusty old tractor. “This is our mission field.”

    “Oh, Grandpa,” John giggled. “When Mark writes letters to me about being in the mission field, he isn’t talking about being out in a field of wheat.”

    “John, I can see it’s time I tell you the story.” Grandpa reached over to shut the engine off. “When your dad was ready to go on a mission, almost twenty-five years ago now, your grandmother and I couldn’t afford to send him. We’d always tried our best to live the gospel, and we knew we could depend on the Lord, so we prayed that He would help us make enough money to send our boy on a mission.”

    “Were your prayers answered, Grandpa?”

    “Yes, John. Heavenly Father answered them in a surprising way. This little piece of land came up for sale, and your grandma and I felt inspired to buy it. It was a small field, nothing to rave about. But we had read in the scriptures that from small things great blessings come. So Grandma and I hoped that if we remained faithful and hard-working, the Lord might see fit to turn this small field into a great blessing.”

    “Did you get your blessing, Grandpa?” John asked.

    “Did we ever!” Grandpa answered, beaming. “We received enough money from our first crop to send your dad on his mission, and for as long as he was serving in England, we had a bumper crop. When he came home from England, the field’s production returned to normal, but as each of our three sons served missions, it thrived again. To this day, Grandma and I call it our mission field. Why, this very field is helping support Mark on his mission right now.” Grandpa smiled, giving John’s shoulder a healthy squeeze.

    “And someday,” John whispered, “do you think that someday, Grandpa … ?”

    “Yes, John, someday you’ll reap the rewards of our mission field too.”

    It was time to work now. John and Grandpa dug right in, grateful for the fertile soil beneath them.

    Under Grandpa’s watchful eye, John steered the tractor around the field, carefully overturning the hard soil. He tried hard to set his sights so that the rows would be straight and to concentrate on Grandpa’s instructions. He wanted to do his best, now more than ever before.

    Dust swirled behind the tractor as John steered it, row by row, up and down the field. After the field had been plowed, they put the disk harrow onto the tractor and went over the field again to break up any large clumps of earth. Gophers, rabbits, and grasshoppers scurried ahead to avoid the harrow’s sharp disks. Seagulls swooped down from above in hopes of nabbing a succulent cricket or grasshopper as John and Grandpa made their rounds. Beneath him, John felt the soil break up, ready for them to plant the next day.

    John imagined how it would be in early autumn, when the field would be beautiful with tall, golden wheat, ripe for harvest. Grandpa would pull a handful of wheat from the stalk, as he always did, and rub it hard between his strong, rough hands to separate the kernels from the chaff. Then he and John would stand together in the field, the breeze blowing waves of grain around them, while they tasted the wheat. Grandpa would chew slowly, deliberately, checking for texture and flavor. John would chew his handful of wheat until it turned to gum in his mouth. At last Grandpa would nod with satisfaction and say, “It’s ready, John,” and together they would harvest the crop.

    John sighed contentedly as he and Grandpa climbed down off the tractor that day. This was going to be a most wonderful summer. John just knew it. There would be ice-cream cones to eat, laughter to share, and stories to tell. Best of all, he thought as he gazed out over the newly plowed mission field, this summer there will be a bumper crop!

    Illustrated by Dick Brown