"It’s three o’ clock in the morning and I’m sitting
in the cold and dark on a sugar beet piler near Sherrack, MN." These are the words I spoke into my tape recorder on Wednesday
morning. I felt a little strange talking to myself to prepare my column but less strange than waking up at two a.m. to drive
thirty miles to bathe in the glow of the dashboard lights. Hop in the truck and find out what beet harvest is like, well maybe
just sit back and read, I will hop in the truck.
I won’t write about beet harvest from the perspective of a journalist
because this isn’t new to me-I’ve done it for awhile. It’s the same each year, it’s cold at night.
I don’t care what the temperature is-you’re cold because your primordial self knows you should be back home at
the cave and not hunting and gathering. I structure my night around mileposts like the radio, mostly talk shows and then wait
for the morning local news. The only other milepost is which meal is next. I like sandwiches but may even stop the truck when
I dig up my single-serving size of ravioli. The occasional surprise is usually an unwelcome event-accidents that involve tractors
and trucks are rarely fender-benders. I keep both hands on the wheel, point the truck in the right direction and go. Towards
then end of my shift, I gather up my stuff and go hand-off my truck to the next crew.
Sounds a little dreary doesn’t it? Well that was the black and
white version, here’s the glossy color portrait. I started hauling beets in 1991 and I still get excited each season.
I like riding tall in the truck and talking to people I rarely see. I also like to see the new equipment each year. R &
R farms bought another John Deere tracked tractor this year. The radiator cowling is faintly reminiscent of the dragon-shaped
cannons of the middle ages. I guess it’s meant to scare the sugar beets into giving up and hopping right into the truck.
Harvest has also changed for me as I am now Married. My wife suggested meals wrapped in tinfoil that could be re-heated on
the engine manifold during harvest. You could cook a banquet on the manifold of a diesel engine but I guess I’ll stay
with my old favorites. Lisa also sets my alarm clock with a different tone each night-the first evening of work I awoke to
a cuckoo clock which put me in great mood. I still like how the tractor and trucks move together and their headlights make
a kaleidoscope of which I’m a part. The people are the best part, however. My Boss, John and I discuss UFO’s,
the Northern Lights and politics. My Boss Eddy and I discuss family and farming. My boss Chris (notice the small "b", Chris?)
is an electrician and fields my endless questions. All of us give our two cents (some less, some more) and radio time is a
little hard to come by. We are like family, sleep-deprived and dysfunctional, but still family.
I started this column in a truck but will end it at my desk. When we
haul beets there is the constant command "Ahead, Grant" which means I have to move my truck forward while the harvester unloads
into the box. That little phrase "Ahead, Grant" has become a metaphor to me. It means it’s time to move on, quit what
I’m doing and go somewhere else. I need to spend a little time with Lisa and then take my nap now. Ahead, Grant.