It just ain’t October


There are certain traditions to which I adhere; colache at Christmas, opening the door for Lisa and a column about the sugar beet harvest each October. I mean, I wouldn’t have a good reason to eat hot food cold and cold food hot at four in the morning in a truck in the middle of field if it weren’t for the harvest.


The boys of October gathered again this past 10-1-13 to drink coffee and fill the business band airwaves with the salvaged thoughts of the sleep deprived. We lift sugar beets with two, 12 row harvesters and multiple trucks which transport the beets to Warren, Alvarado and the O’ Meara station just south of Sherrack. We are a small part of the largest, orchestrated harvest in North America. I would guess the total staff for all shifts is about 25 people so I won’t try to name everyone but rather give you a few highlights.


The sugar beet harvest for much of our group is not work but more a roving frat party, the kind which none of us would ever have attended when we were the proper age. The harvest for the R& R/J&M farm crew is gauged by the weight of hot air which raises to the the heights of our tall tales.


As the federal government was shutdown on the same day we started harvest, we decided to use the business band radios in the all equipment to discuss which of our crew could replace elements of the government. I’m not sure any of us would make exceptional federally-elected officials however that is on a sliding scale as I’m not sure we would be replacing exceptional federally-elected officials. There was some talk of who would play opposite Monica Lewinsky however I can’t say we really came up with a solid, imaginary candidate.


I haven’t recently spoken about unidentified flying objects and their place in the harvest. I used to talk about ufo’s on a regular basis just to keep sleeping rota beater drivers on edge. I got in the mood for ufo-talk by listening to “Coast to Coast” back then but the radio in my truck can’t pull the program in from its broadcast center on the crazy side of the moon. A former employee once told me that even though he laughed when I was telling my ufo stories he was secretly a little freaked out and stayed inside his truck, safe from my imaginary world of Bigfoot, Ufo’s, the Jersey Devil and the Hairy-Prairie Hide-Behind.


I would like to say that the harvest helps me mark time and celebrate moments of increased maturity however I see the truth in that I am simply becoming older, as are all of us. The boys are now old enough to be retired football players and the older of us are veterans of the AARP mass mailing list. We still hug each other at the beginning of harvest and Ed buys us lunch every day. I really love the lunch but all the hugging makes me feel a little funny. I wish we could just shake hands or exchange business cards. (kidding guys, now come here!)


The heat shutdowns, frost shutdowns and repairs in the dark and cold of night occupy the shallow and temporary corners of my memory. What will stick in my mind is that I work with good guys who work conscientiously and thoroughly and can be very kind to one another when they aren’t doing something awful and funny to each other. My memories from this time of the year would be flypaper without the flies if it wasn’t for the sugar beet harvest. It just ain’t October without it.


2 thoughts on “It just ain’t October

  1. I vacationed in England last week and saw several self-propelled, center-bend, combination sugar beet defoliators and lifters. Compared to our wider and faster pull-type equipment here in the States and up in Canada, they seemed slow and cumbersome. And, I’m sure they are very expensive. But, they were still unique nevertheless. I’m sure their yields are higher in England because of greater rainfall and a longer growing season. They probably also receive a higher price for their beets due to the government subsidies. All in all though, it was fun comparing farming methods in that country to ours. Brand names of those self-propelled lifters include Holmer, Grimme, Ropa, and Vervaet. YouTube has lots of videos of them in action. Tell your comrades to check them out.


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