SUBLETTE, Kan. (AP) — For months, Larry Davis watched his ripening winter wheat fields with a sense of anticipation. His crop looked good.

Davis figured he would get at least 70 bushels an acre from his 900 acres of wheat. He was looking forward to this harvest.

But after cutting a few loads, he realized he will be lucky if he brings in 40 bushels an acre. The wheat kernels were so shriveled, his test weights have been running about 54 pounds per bushel — far below the 60 pounds that is considered an average crop.

Hot, dry winds — coupled with day after day of 100-degree temperatures — had killed the plants before they had a chance to fully mature.

"Harvest is supposed to be a fun time," he said after getting off his combine. "It is not much fun to come out here."

On Thursday morning, he was out on the combine alone — without even a truck driver to take the loads he cut into the grain elevator. Harvest was about a week early, and his usual help was busy on other springtime farm chores.

Davis methodically maneuvered his combine up and down the fields, burning about 12 gallons of fuel an hour. He goes through 120 gallons of fuel a day during harvest.

Even at the lower farm prices, which exclude road use taxes, his gasoline was now costing him $1.05 a gallon. Last harvest, fuel cost him 50 cents a gallon. He usually contracts his fuel early in the spring, but this year he decided to wait and hope prices went down come summer.

"I just guessed wrong," he said.

So he will drive his 8-year-old pickup a little longer, and keep his 9-year-old combine instead of buying a new one.

But life is still good. He just built a new house in Sublette.

"We are doing O.K., but mainly because of the government payments," Davis said. "That is where our income has come from in the last couple of years."

Four grain elevators dominate the skyline of this rural southwest Kansas town of 1,250 people — a graphic reminder that it is agriculture which feeds the local economy here. Together, they store more than 11 million bushels of grain.

Farmers had just gotten started when weekend rains halted harvest. It would be Wednesday afternoon before fields had dried up enough for much more cutting.

Grain trucks heavily laden with wheat slowly wind their way to the grain elevators in town. Out in the fields, the combines kick up dust as they comb through thick stands of wheat.

Sublette Cooperative elevator took in 115,000 bushels of wheat in its first real day of cutting Wednesday. The wheat has been lightweight, shriveled and averaging 58 pounds per bushel, said elevator manager Jim Axtel.

"The farm economy may be better here because we have more irrigation," he said. "Irrigation can guarantee a crop — unless we have hail."

At Sublette's Collingwood Grain elevator, manager Lawrence Baxa said Thursday this year's wheat is an average crop — given the dry conditions, disease and bugs.

Based on the first 10,000 bushels brought in, test weights had been running 59 pounds per bushel, he said. But its quality varies greatly.

"The wheat crop right now is good, bad and ugly," Baxa said.