We’ve all heard of bad hair days, bedhead hair and other clichés about messed up hair. But have you ever heard of “combine hair?”

With all the weather woes associated with trying to bring a crop in that was planted in less-than-ideal conditions and more often than not plagued by wind, hail, insects and torrential rains throughout the summer, it is not a shock that things are going slowly and harvest is filled with frustration.

One night last week, after the day’s third breakdown, Hubby came in with a particularly disheveled hairstyle, shrugged his shoulders and simply said: “It’s my new look. I call it ‘combine hair.’”

In a year where it has been best to laugh at all the things thrown at us, we did just that. Then he headed to the shower to clean off the grit and grime.

Now, over the course of this harvest I have come to note after observing not only my farmer, but others who deal with the mega beasts that bring in the crop, there are many different kinds of combine hair.

On a good day, combine hair will simply be the result of the hat ring around the operator’s head, as he or she was able to successfully navigate round after round through the field with few stops.

However, on a day when the combine head gets plugged – either with super wet, tough stalks or perhaps a tire or other piece of junk that in this year of flooding suddenly appears down a row – the combine driver may find his or herself with a different style. It may be that of dust and corn shucks and tassels stuck in said hair.

Our older daughter is learning to drive the combine this year, and her look is usually a pony tail that peeks out of the back of her hat. Another female friend who drives their family combine prefers the Rosie the Riveter look with hair pulled up in a bandana.

Many others accent their combine hair with sunglasses, which help cut the glare when driving into the sun. Between the dust and angles, that glare can mask approaching hazards. But even then those fashion touches can’t always prevent close encounters of the wrong kind – such as with center pivot tires, or worse yet, pivot stops.

As the weather grows colder another preferred look is stocking cap combine hair. Chilly winds and temperatures below freezing mean a stocking cap pulled well over the ears can be a comfort look.

Then of course, there is the look prompted by my husband’s encounters with a broken grain elevator chain and drive shaft one morning. This was followed the next day with plugging the neighbor’s grain elevator loop and burning out belts 90-feet in the air.

By the time they ended that day with a broken slip clutch on the combine, Hubby’s hair rather resembled that of Doc Brown’s in the movie, “Back to the Future.” It stooding mostly on end with streaks of grease and grime that eventually came out after multiple shampoos. We won’t even discuss what I had to do to get his clothes clean.

So over the course of harvest, you can pretty much guess how a day has gone by the state of the combine hair. If when the cap comes off at night you see only a ring around the head, it has probably been a great day.

If on the other hand, the hair is infused with shucks, bits of tassels and even the occasional kernel of corn, it’s been a so-so day.

But if said hair is infused with all of the above, plus grease, grit and other unrecognizable bits of matter, send the combine driver to the shower and then go pour yourself and him or her a sizeable adult beverage. You are both going to need it to overcome that day’s case of “combine hair.

Freelance journalist Barb Bierman Batie grew up near Battle Creek, Neb., and now farms row crops with her Platte Valley Farmer, Don Batie, northeast of Lexington. She has written for local, state, regional and international publications and joined the Midwest Messenger crew in 2010. She can be reached at barb.batie@midwestmessenger.com.

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.