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Great State: Father’s Legacy Passes Through One Wheat Harvest to Another

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HYDRO, OKLAHOMA -- She was 10 when her father let her take the wheel of a wheat combine for the first time.

"It's one of my favorite places to be," says Brittany Krehbiel.

She had trouble making a straight cut at first but patient teachers helped her out.

"I rode with my grandpa and my dad," she recalls. "They let me slowly take over and I would cut something really crazy and they would come back and clean it up, and keep going."

Jeff Krehbiel was a 4th generation farmer.

Brittany was the daughter and only child who took her first tractor ride before she could even walk.

By the age of 13 she was driving the big John Deere combines by herself.

She had to.

In 2009 Jeff was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Brittany remembers, "It scared me because I didn't know what was going to happen, but he sat me down and said, 'we're a family. We've got God and we'll get through it."

Brittany's father died in September, 2011.

She admits, "There's still a hole in our home and a hole in our hearts."

Another June means another harvest.

The first test cut reveals what nature gave them this spring, just enough moisture for a crop, too much at the moment to cut the remainder.

"A little wet," says Brittany after scooping a handful of grain from the hopper. "But the kernels don't appear to be too shriveled so it looks pretty good."

Over 5 generations people like Wayne Krehbiel learned from his father.

He taught what he could to his son, Jeff, who taught what he could to his daughter Brittany.

Jeff might not be here physically but his legacy is all around.

Wayne says, "When you can start from nothing and accumulate a few things it's good that you can pass it on to someone who can benefit from what you put together."

Grandpa Wayne, Brittany, and mom Karen Krehbiel wait patiently for the fields to dry so they can cut wheat, just as they waited patiently for the spring rains to come.

As we sit and talk the clouds pass slowly over nearby Crown Mound.

The subject of our conversation turns on the axis of the faith required to get through good times and bad.

Karen points out, "That hope of heaven, that eternal hope, is what carries us through the struggles of today."

Brittany graduated from nearby Hinton High School this spring.

It's been nearly 3 years now since her father passed away.

After the first cut of the season, she gathers up a little wheat bundle, no bigger than a bouquet, and brings it to where he rests.

"I just cut a little off with my pocket knife and bring it out here," she says while kneeling at his headstone.

It is the purest gesture to honor a father's legacy.

"It's a little bit of reminder of why I do what I do," she says. "It's something my family's loved for a lot of years."

Brittany has plans to attend Oklahoma State University in the fall.

She says she'll come back for planting and harvest.

When she graduates with her agricultural economics degree, she insists she'll come back to the farm for good.

If you're interested in the Krehbiel's story, Karen wrote a book based on the 2 years Jeff was ill.

It's called 'And the Rain Came Tumbling Down'.

It's available through Tate Publishing of Oklahoma.