Neighbors answer friend's call for help
Wednesday, September 15, 2004 1:27 PM PDT
Siskiyou Daily News by Kehn Gibson
Davis, sister of Leroy Mauch, holds a "bouquet"
of wheat. Photo by Kehn Gibson.
TULELAKE - They began
gathering early, their pickups and combines kicking
up dust along Siskiyou County Road 107. Some came
later, fresh from fields that still held grain.
They came because a friend
had passed. Kevin Baley, who still had 83 acres of
barley that demanded to be cut, didn't hesitate to
come when he heard.
"We were neighbors for years, I grew up next door,"
Baley said. "This is what neighbors do."
Baley and more than 30 others came to harvest the
last wheat crop planted by Leroy Mauch, a Klamath
Basin farmer since 1962. On July 12, at 62 years of
age, Leroy died.
His passing brought his
three children together to finish the 2004 harvest.
Daughter Katharine keeps the books, and sons Leroy
Jr. and Jerald work the ground.
At nearly 1,300 acres, mostly in wheat and grain, it
was a huge task, and they have struggled.
"We were stressing about this 120 acres," said
Leroy's son Jerald. "Our two combines are still in
the leases, and this field is more than ready right
Leroy Mauch knew personally of the struggles that
are part and parcel of farming. He had seen good
farmers who couldn't make it, had learned from his
own mistakes, and found success through applying
vision and sweat to growing crops.
Kehn Gibson / Klamath Media
A Row of
Friends - Six of the seven combines
up at the Mauch
homestead make their first pass through
the last 120 acres
of wheat touched by the sweat of Leroy
Mauch. More than 30
people helped harvest the field as a
tribute to Leroy
and his impact on the people who knew him.
By the measures that farmers measure each other by,
Leroy scored highly among his peers. His yields were
high, he avoided debt, and he flat out enjoyed
working the ground.
"He took pride in farming," Jerald said. "He had a
deep pride in what he did, and he was good at it."
Leroy also gained a high measure of respect among
younger farmers, not from his success but from his
willingness to help.
Tim Peterson is half Leroy's age, and said Leroy was
the unofficial "farming advisor" to many of his
"I would talk to Leroy every day, and he knew
things," Peterson said. "He helped me a lot, and
still does. He was my best buddy."
Peterson was in the lead machine when six combines,
working in a stagger formation, cut a 105-foot swath
through Leroy's last crop. After two passes, the
huge machines broke formation to work separate
sections of the field. A seventh combine joined
them, and 10 trucks jockeyed for position to haul
the most loads.
As the machines rumbled across the field, Leroy's
sister, Mary Davis, walked into the knee-high wheat
and grabbed a handful.
The queen of the Tulelake/Butte Valley Fair in 1954,
Davis was truly regal as she looked at the wheat
clutched in her hand.
"This is the last wheat touched by Leroy," Davis
said, looking at the full headed stalks. "I am going
to put this in a beautiful vase."
Leroy Jr. said his Dad would have gotten quite a
kick from watching the combines work the field.
"He would have been tickled pink," Leroy Jr. said.
"He would have been on 'em though. 'No racing," he
would have told 'em, "I don't want to see my wheat
blowing out the ass end!"
Within three hours, a job that would have taken
three days was done.
Gathering together under the shade trees lining the
Mauch homestead's lawn, the group ate hamburgers
supplied and cooked by the Floyd A. Boyd Company. In
many ways, it was like any other harvest
Except it wasn't. This was the last, and Leroy's
neighbors knew it.
"I still miss him, and I probably will for a long
time," Peterson said, his small daughter climbing
her Dad's legs. "But, you got to keep going, and
neighbors out here help each other. That's what
people living in the country do."