Trucker Fantasy Camp
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Viking, Minnesota

Rural Reflections Radio

Each Fall after the Boys of Summer have packed it up for the year another group takes their place. This group is virtually unknown and not as well paid but is equally dedicated. We are the people who take vacation time from our regular jobs and drive the trucks you see during sugar beet harvest. If I liked baseball I might pay for baseball fantasy camp but I do not and this fantasy camp pays me.

My brother, Darrel drove a truck and ran a rotabeeter for R and R Farms before I did. Darrel helped me get a job working for John Rehder and Ed Rosendahl about 10 years ago. Since then I have seen drive shafts twisted, diesel fuel pumped into an engine that operates on gas and have almost electrocuted myself lifting a box underneath an overhead power line. In 1999 one of the semi trucks was stuck with a full load on it. My boss told me to drive my semi out in the field and pull out the other truck. I laughed to myself as this is equivalent to a whale floating up on shore, joining flippers with its beached friend and then pulling him back into the surf. I realized he was serious only when two big John Deere tractors left us alone in the field. However after fifteen minutes, a broken chain and much colorful language we both emerged from a cloud of burnt clutch smoke into truck-driving history.

My nephew, Jamie, rode with me when he was younger. Two years ago Jamie began driving for R and R. I told my bosses they ould like Jamie because he was like me-without the big mouth. Last year my brother, Steve drove a truck also. There is talk about an all-Nelson shift but I dont think that will happen as John and I would miss talking about politics, UFOs and how the night crew is the backbone of the harvest operation.

The night crew operates in a sparsely populated sea of darkness populated by islands known as beet dumps. We haul to Warren, OMeara and Alvarado. These well-lit outposts contain the only people you ever see and I enjoy a few words with the people who work there. Tom Yutrzenka is the night foreman in Warren and was my neighbor in Viking. He along with his organized and friendly crew provide a nice break from what can be a tedious job. As with most jobs its the people and not the job that make it memorable.

The first week of beet-hauling fantasy camp is just that-a fantasy. The next week reminds me why I only do this for two weeks a year and I am glad this camp will close soon. Its been fun but now its time to quit for the year. I will put my half-gallon coffee thermos away and consider retiring. The following Fall will arrive and Ill crave shifting without a clutch, riding up high in the truck and talking to Jhn and Ed on the radio. I will lace up my cleats and head back to-Trucker's Fantasy Camp.