I am fresh from the most successful sugar beet harvest I have ever experienced. A sugar beet harvest is a start and stop affair; the harvest starts when field and weather conditions are ideal and stops when they are not just right. We started October first and did not stop until the morning of the eighth. I have hauled beets since 1991 and this is the first time I’ve seen a harvest go uninterrupted and so quickly. Years from now, people will speak about this aspect of the harvest. I want you to remember it for other reasons.
First off, I came to harvest for the cash but stayed for the food. R and R farms fed us so much this year that it seemed almost over-indulgent. Breakfast sandwiches, dinner, breakfast at the Viking Diner and Ed’s ¼ pound sloppy joes served on buns the size of a big man’s fist. It was a “truckable feast.”
Secondly, this was a harvest of rare intensity. I brought a book titled “A Taste of Ranching-Cowboys and Cooks” but only read about 4-5 stories. There are usually enough breakdowns at the piler to suit an accomplished reader however this year we drove in, dumped out beets and drove out. The fields were dry and clean so we spent little time cleaning which meant we spent most of our time harvesting, driving and dumping beets.
It wasn’t all rosy. I found out this year that R and R Farms purchased the “175 Convenience Store” in Warren. This event was fine however I found out that we will now be paid in “175 Bucks” redeemable only at participating stores (there is only one) for chips, pop and windshield washer fluid (“gasoline not included”.) I guess I now work in a coal mine and shop at the company store. I’m just not sure I need that much washer fluid.
I detected early on that this harvest was going to be unstoppable. An unstoppable harvest is equivalent to a baseball pitcher throwing a no-hitter. Baseball players can be a superstitious lot and any pitcher throwing a no-hitter is left alone for fear some interaction will throw off his karma. No one dared talk about our equivalent of the no-hitter even as weather reports and passage of time made it obvious that this harvest would not be sidetracked.
We had really good conversations this year. People around Warren all love racing. I like racing about the same as I like any repetitive act that circles the same track in the same direction. However, I love car talk; engine talk, transmission talk or any of the stuff about racing machines. I mostly just listened to this stuff and enjoyed myself. My conversation involves lots of opinion; unfortunately, we also had one extended-length soliloquy forced upon us in which I found escape only via deep thought of how much I like cats.
I found John Rehder is now an accomplished heavy equipment operator. If you see John in his trackhoe, it is like seeing a young man with his first Tonka. There a quality to John’s big smile at the power of destruction he wields that is truly heart-warming; and just a little chilling.
I know some people are still hard at it. The piler crews are still there standing on concrete. The scale house people are still there trying to keep sleepy and inexperience truckers organized and moving in the right direction. Take heart, it will soon all be a memory however I will remember the coffee you gave me and how hard you worked cleaning the concrete to keep us both safe.
I am home this morning. I have not been able to say that for a little bit. I slept until six this morning and drank my own coffee and ate my food with both hands. I kissed Lisa good-bye and snuggled with the cats. I spent the last few days away; now I will be home.