Midnight in the sugar beet patch

(this is an old column  from 2003 or so-GN)



It’s Midnight as I leave the house. I’ve had my nap, kissed my wife and have taken one last look at my warm bed. It is time to hop in a truck and haul sugarbeets.

It all started a couple of days ago. The first morning started like every beet season begins. All the veterans and a few new guys gathered in a circle in front of the shop at R and R farms near Warren, Minn in Polk county. Swearing and lies are usually what punctuate the early morning conversation as we all ready ourselves for another campaign. This year’s little meeting was different this year. I thought to myself that except for the modern equipment, the lack of bib overalls and the abundance of callous-free hands this could have been an old-time threshing bee crew preparing for the day. We were all there for one purpose-a little money, however I think most of us enjoy being drawn together each Fall to see if anyone has died or if anyone has actually come up with a new story to tell. In the last ten years I can only remember the sad passing of Vic Rehder who was a real gentleman and sorely missed. Unfortunately new stories have been even more scarce.

This has been a strange harvest so far. I have been more concerned with swatting mosquitoes than trying to stay warm or awake. The one comforting aspect of the whole process is my own incredible skill at creating embarrassing situations for myself. I was driving back from the beet dump one day when I noticed the semi losing
power. I suspected the fuel filter needed to be changed but also checked the fuel tank for diesel when I got to the field. The phrase “running on empty” gained near clarity in my mind as mere fumes rose from the opened fuel tank. I just made it back to the yard and soon was filling the starving truck full with number two. The fuel tank pump finally stopped at 166 gallons. To give you a little perspective, this semi held 169 gallons so that’s a little like running your average car down to about a thimble-full of gas. The other problem is that you have to prime a diesel engine before you can start if it’s run dry. I guess I dodge the bullet on that one. As my co-worker Alden told me “you can’t trust any fuel guage in this part of the country.” Alden’s great for these little gems of wisdom. It’s really a wonder that he hasn’t ran for high office or something that rewards this type of home-spun wisdom. I’ve done fine other than this little episode and as I look into the night I can only think of what adventure lies ahead and hope that we all stay safe.

The backbone of this area is agriculture. Although I like to use a little humor when I describe what I do I also realize how important the next few weeks are to many people, including farmers and the industries that support them. It’s Midnight as I leave the house. I’ve had my nap, kissed my wife and have taken one last look at my warm bed. It is time to hop in a truck and haul sugar beets.

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