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Neighbors answer friend's call for help
  Updated: Wednesday, September 15, 2004 1:27 PM PDT

Siskiyou Daily News by Kehn Gibson

Mary 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 now."

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.

   Photo by Kehn Gibson / Klamath Media

A Row of Friends - Six of the seven combines that showed

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 friends.

"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 celebration.

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."





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