The Last Load

(this week’s featured image is from a collection taken by my brother, Dave Nelson. It seemed fitting with the highway and the sunset. GN)

When I come to the last task of any project, I always say this was the one for which I was looking, The last cow through the chute is the one I was looking for, the last hay bale hauled is the one I was looking for-it’s not true because each cow or bale was equally important but I still like to say the last one is special because the task is now complete. It is the one I was looking for.

I have participated in the Red River Valley sugar beet harvest since 1991. I have been married, divorced, married again, happy, tired, selling beef, selling books, taking pictures, taking notes, writing poems, writing stories, making-up stories, documenting real stories and generally drinking enough coffee to keep 3 narcoleptics awake but I have always hauled sugar beets. When I look through all of those years, I guess I was always looking for one thing-the last year. 2016 will be my last year to haul sugar beets.

I plan to write more columns once we being the 2016 harvest. We’ve already done a little pre-pile and this will be a short harvest. I guess I wanted to look back a little and indulge myself in retrospection and introspection before we really start to roll October 1st.

I worked for Munger Farms in 1991 and 1992. I drove a Ford truck with a huge gas engine. My brother, Darrel, got me a job with R and R Farms in 1993 and that is where I’ve stayed. I have watched as three generations ran this farm and there is a fourth generation growing up on the farm right now. These folks are my friends and are excellent employers.

I decided this was my last year mostly because my full-time job has become more demanding. I need to be there and it doesn’t seem right to be off making side-money when there is plenty of work to do back home. I am also pretty weary of sitting in line at the beet piler for hours on end.

I think one of my best columns was written during the beet harvest. It was the two-part column that played out the drama of the beet harvest against the backdrop of Halloween and a UFO invasion. It was pretty wild and included almost every one of the harvest crew. My brother Darrel, his dog Buzz and I saved the world from space invaders over those two columns and the story was one of my favorites. It was probably my best work.

When it comes to sugar beets, I guess I was looking for the last load. I always felt it was an honor to bring in the last load and complete the harvest. I don’t know if I will get the last truck load this year but their will certainly be things I do for the last time. The last time I rub Sammy’s ears, the last cup of coffee I get at the scale house, the last time I get stuck, the last time Eddy brings us lunch in the field and the last time I back the truck into the shed. In life there are many final acts and many of these acts bring a significance that is lost on the person who performs them. When it comes to sugar beets, I will not miss the significance as the faces of all of those people I’ve met and experiences pass me by one last time.

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