Let the harvest take the stage

barnI typically write my main sugar beet harvest column during the harvest. There wasn’t enough harvest to allow me time to write the column so I am sitting here post-harvest with a few stories.

I met Leo Hart at the beet piler in Warren. Hart is from Watertown, South Dakota and hauled produce for 70 years. Hart still trains horses at age 91 and looks like he’s about 70 years old or less. I interviewed him while standing on the fuel tank of his truck so I couldn’t get a picture as we were very busy. Leo Hart told me that the Guinness Book of World Records shows that the oldest over-the-road truck driver was 101 years-old. It is Hart’s goal to eclipse that record. This was his first year driving sugar beet trucks so he introduced himself as “the oldest rookie you’ll ever meet.” I think he’ll make the record which would be good for both of us as I can see him again. Hart had a recipe for Rhubarb beer and I forgot to get it from him; maybe next year, on the fuel tank, in line at the piler, Leo?

Here’s something I haven’t seen, at least in such great a number, in a long time. Truck drivers are filling the second seat with a child, friend or other family member. Years ago, truckers often brought someone along for at least part of the shift but lately it seemed to occur less frequently. Maybe the tough harvests a few years ago scare people off. That second seat was filled pretty often this year and I thought it was good as some company is nice. It is also a second set of eyes. One of the ladies at the scale brought some company along with her too which I found touching.

Saturday afternoon, the crew of R and R farms indulged themselves in some nostalgia. We all started talking about old trucks, old truckers and old memories from the harvest. It was like a montage of old times and it really made me feel good. When I heard a story, I could emotionally go back in time to the event. It made me feel really good and really young. After my mind came back to October, 2015-sitting in the truck-I soon felt my age.

Here’s something I wanted to say, there were some accidents this year. I have not heard of one accident yet that was the truck driver’s fault. People always talk like beet trucks are so dangerous. The road is divided into two lanes and everyone has a responsibility to occupy their own side. Trucks may seem intimidating but remember that there is a person driving that truck who is being careful and just trying to earn a little money to pay for heating fuel or a child’s braces.

We arrive into a field with such mass that we perform amazing work. We hauled 160 acres of beets in four hours one night. There is such energy and activity when we arrive and then nothing. I heard the Jackson Browne song “Stay” and it paints such a picture in my mind of a solitary janitor cleaning after a rock concert. After all of that energy and work to harvest the beets, we just leave-then a solitary tractor and chisel plow come and clean up. The operator loosens the topsoil and works the crop matter back into the soil. It always seems like he cleans up and shuts the lights off on harvest and sends all home until the next harvest.

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