A Special Report from the Harvest

(this is another old column about the Red River Valley sugar beet harvest. It is from 2004.-GN)



“This is a special report on the Crystal Sugar beet harvest.” This time of year, I live for these reports on local radio stations. I am writing this column on Wednesday night and we are at the halfway point of the harvest but in the middle of a heat shutdown. During the sugarbeet harvest, when the beets reach a temperature greater than 55 degrees they begin to break down and don’t store well so they are left in the ground. We do the same thing when the crop begins to freeze. I am now in an imaginary world called “off-shift” awaiting my chance to mount my semi and haul in the harvest.

It’s been a good harvest. We had some rain during pre-pile but beet ground is funny. If I had an inch of rain at my place, my tractor would get stuck on bare soil. In the valley, you don’t really get stuck-you just lose traction. The ground is so heavy that you rarely bury a truck to the axle. A little wind, a little sun and pre-pile was back on the road. Harvest has moved along quickly and although we are tired, we are now salty and ready to take on any field or cross the worst washboard County 67 or the Boxville road has to offer and still come back for more.

It’s been a notable year. I feel we have a rising star on our crew of harvesters. Dean Danielski has long worked for R and R farms near Warren, Minnesota but in recent years has jumped from trucking to harvester operator. When you see a truckload of beets you see one of two things; a nice smooth profile of beets piled above the edge of the box or you get several untidy little hills. Dean fills our trucks with such artistry that the first time I stopped to check my trucks’ profile I was so moved I nearly cried. More seriously, we are missing a driver this year. Neil Dahlman has driven the beet harvest since the early sixties. If there is a hierarchy among driver’s, he sits on the top row. Neil started Dahlman trucking in Warren, Minnesota in 1946 with three hundred dollars his Uncle Teddy borrowed to him so he could purchased a 1936 Dodge. It was money well spent as it started a three-generation business that has built more than roads in their hometown and abroad. I like it when Neil works because you really have someone to look up to and ask questions. He has a dry sense of humor used regularly to outwit a certain fellow employee which causes me no end of joy. Neil is now 79 and isn’t feeling well this year but we will all “sound the air horn” when we pass by his place on our way to the beet dump.

This has been a special report on the 2004 Sugarbeet harvest, now back to regular programming. Please drive carefully.

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