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Harvest leaves a lot to be desired




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PARADISE — There wasn’t much excitement going into the annual wheat harvest in northwest Russell County.

But that’s understandable when the area is in the midst of a years-long drought: Paradise Creek hasn’t run for years, and the fall harvest was abysmal.

When Quentin Maupin pulled into his fields more than a week ago, he thought he might see some 40 to 50 bushel wheat — not great yields, but good considering what little moisture the Paradise area saw in the last year.

“The first wheat we cut was in the 20s,” Maupin said while standing in a field a few miles west of town. “This is making about 30 to 40, so not very good really. … Some of the fields I was expecting more, but I think it got froze.”

A late freeze brought test weights down in some areas, but otherwise, most loads delivered to Paradise Grain last week were in the 59 to 62 range, said Joyce Thompson, owner of Paradise Grain.

“The quality of the wheat is quite good,” she said. “The moisture’s dry. … But it’s not any bin-buster. Not very good averages.”

Billy Cheatham saw the harvest run the gamut from good to bad while trucking for Brad Miller of Paradise.

“We had our lows, and we had our highs,” Cheatham said. “A lot of it looked good, and then once you got into it, it just fell apart.”

It took awhile for combines to fill up, let alone trucks and semis operating in the area. And that showed through at Paradise Grain where Thompson was left to play a waiting game.

Lines weren’t a problem she expected to have this year, adding the elevator would have plenty of capacity for this summer’s crop. One employee dumped trucks at the elevator while Thompson ran the scale Thursday. When her son, Brett, was done harvesting their family’s wheat, he would help at the elevator, too.

“It’s so quiet you don’t need anyone else,” Thompson said.

The same went for Miller’s operation. Cheatham said he usually worked with another guy on Miller’s harvest crew, but this year, it was just him and his son, Bode, 6, hauling the wheat to town and running a grain cart in some fields.

The harvest began in the Paradise area June 21. Thompson expects it to wrap up by the end of the week.

“It’s been dry all the way through,” she said.

Thompson and her late husband bought the Paradise elevator in 1970, after coming on board as elevator managers in 1961. She’s seen a lot of change, some of it “drastic” through the years, but nothing’s been as discouraging as the recent drought.

“You’ve just gotta go with it,” she said. “That’s what I’ve learned to do.”