Mike Bromiley keeps an eye on the outside row of standing wheat as he slowly drives his huge combine up and down hills, around rock formations, and through the wispy stands of golden-colored grain.
He keeps track of the angle and height of the cutter, oil and hydraulic pressures, and the hopper that continually is being filled with grains of wheat.
After cutting half the circumference of the 160-acre field, he slows to empty the hopper into a grain truck. A large tubular arm swings out over the truck and the kernels shoot into the truck bed for a few minutes until the hopper is empty, the arm goes back, and Bromiley puts the combine back in gear, continuing his job of getting this year’s crop in.
The Bromiley family has been living on the gently sloping plateau of Badger Mountain for 125 years now. It began in 1888 when Frank Bromiley homesteaded in a small house just a few miles from where his great grandsons were cutting wheat last week. Frank Bromiley came to the area and settled on 160 acres given him by the government. It would have been a hard life isolated in these dry hills, but he started and sustained his ranch and with it family traditions that have been handed down now to the fourth generation of Bromileys, today operating the Bromiley Brothers Ranch.
The struggles on this day are being handled by Mike’s brother, Doug Bromiley, who is standing and watching the machinery inside one of the two combines at the field.
It’s running rough and he thinks the problem is a damaged muffler. He puts in an order for a replacement that will be shipped from the Midwest that night and be in Wenatchee the next morning. After over an hour of working on it, the combine limps along the rows trying to keep pace.
Every little bit helps. They’re racing to get the crop in before a weather event. High winds could knock the wheat down. Hail could knock the wheat from the stalks. Rain could cause the wheat to sprout, still in its head. Lightning could start a fire.
This year’s wheat crop isn’t as big as past ones says Jeff Peterson, a hired hand. He says it’s because of heat that came on early in the season and shriveled up the grains in the head of the stalk.
But the Bromiley brothers don’t seem to be worried as combines travelling through the fields bring in the harvest for another year.