Combine ride is on 87 year old's bucket list

Kelly Patz
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

CONWAY, AK (AP) - At a farm outside Conway, an 87-year-old man climbed onto a combine to harvest corn for about an hour on a September afternoon.

Bernie Samuels, 87, climbs down from a combine after harvesting corn.

It's an event Bernie Samuels had been anticipating for at least 15 years, since the day he turned to his wife and said, "Before I die I want to see how they harvest corn now."

After spending time working in a cornfield in Wisconsin as a teen, Samuels thought about returning to the harvest often. But he did not know how he would manage it until a few weeks ago, when the Fayetteville resident got a call from Kevin Van Pelt, an extension agent for Conway County.

Van Pelt said he had heard about Samuels through his nephew, and that he had access to a corn field and a combine that Samuels could ride in September.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the night before the drive to the farm, Dorothy Samuels watched her husband lay out his clothes on the bed and rehearse what he would say to the farmers about the way he had once harvested corn, walking the rows with nine other men and throwing each ear in the truck that rolled behind them.

On the farm, Bernie Samuels wanted to know about the bushels per acre, the number of inches between each row.

The new technologies enamored him: overhead sprinklers, pivot irrigation, hybrid crops that produced more kernels in one ear than his had in three.

When they got to the combine, he struggled to balance and a group of men helped him up.

"But once they got him to where he could get his hands on the bar, he just hiked up there like he was 16," Dorothy Samuels said.

For an hour, Bernie Samuels rode with them.

"Just watching them cut that corn," he recalled of his experience.

When the men moved to help him down, he waved them away.