The Sand Box


Playing in a sand box brings back such good childhood memories. The sand box has long been a staple of kids entertainment but we all have to grow up. Even the sand box grows up and becomes something other than what it once was.


This is a sugar beet story, it’s that time of the year and it is traditional in this column. When I make ereference to “the sand box,” I am speaking of a piece of land just southeast of Warren, Minnesota that we refer to always as “the sand box.” It is even called that on the identification cards we use at the beet dump scale house. It is strange to make a final stand at beet season’s start, however conditions got wet and there was no place else safe to play.


The sugar beet harvest is still my trucker fantasy camp, however over time the harvest has gone from being a great source of cash to my trucker vacation to a point that I am there now only because I like the guys. Eddie and John are like older cousins, Joe and Mike are like nephews and Larry is like the fun Uncle who steals your girlfriend. Even the new guys are no longer new, guys like Hoss or Will are now solid pillars of the harvest and good folks to have in a tough spot.


I forgot we were still at the sand box. I like wet conditions because expectations are so low. I spent much of my morning with a notebook on the steering wheel writing what you are reading. Nothing transfers cold temperatures like moisture and we had that too, mostly mist but sometimes snow. The whole atmosphere is like being in a cabin out in the wild. I mean outside it is chilly and inhospitable yet an observer would see me warm, well-fed and “coffee’d up.” Maybe it is the irony of how a harvest that often is cold and ugly can also be so warm and comfortable. I’d guess it isn’t the same for the folks who work outside at the beet dumps.


We are at play in the sand box because the soil is lighter and absorbs the moisture better and doesn’t clump like the heavier stuff west of town. The beet harvester has sets of paired disks angled towards one-another in such a way that they have a pincer type of movement that occurs underground. This motions pulls out the beets which then follows the motion of the disks up to the apron. Heavy soils will clump and follow the disks also which stops the harvest and enlists every able body to chip out the machine. Most people think we harvest no matter how wet is, however the casual observer’s experience with the weather is more geared towards how the roads look and the truth is field conditions have more to do with progress than road conditions.


This season started just like 2011, I got one day of work which ended with a two am phone call from Joey that I could “stay in bed.” We’ll be back on the road soon and get this one in the hopper. We’ve used up that one field of lighter soil so that means it’s back to work in the mud and no more playing, “in the sand box.”

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