My Little Mistake

As the first rays of sunlight flickered over the Minnesota Mosquito Refuge, I stepped out onto my deck and startled a deer.

He took two short hops across the frozen sedge before launching himself over Three Drunk Creek; smack-dab into a tree.

Thud!

The impact sent him reeling. The embarrassment must have hurt more.

As he shook off the pain and humiliation, he shot me a foolish grin that could only say one thing:

“This is just between us. Right?”

I nodded in agreement.

The next instant, he bolted (more carefully) into the willows and I thought no more of it.

For about a minute…

Coming into the kitchen, Kelso (a very fat cat who is not allowed on the kitchen counter) leaped off the counter… straight into a chair that he forgot was there. Apparently he was more focused on denying where he was than on looking where he was going.

This was more than just one more of one of those things. It was a trend and the trend continued all the way to work at the farm:

A combine clipped a mailbox on its way to the field.

A grain truck spun itself ever deeper into the mud.

A goose flying north almost collided with one flying south.

Now I am not really a believer in omens – but these were more than omens. These were the pulsating billboard of fate.  It was my last day of harvest and all I had to do was get through the day without doing something equally as stupid.  These were signs warning me to be careful.

Working around the grain bin site, you have to be careful because, of course, it is dangerous. There are always big things rumbling about. Machinery backs up without warning. Operators forget to set brakes and all too often, they pay more attention to their phones than to what they are doing.

And when days are long, weather is cold and dark comes early, you can’t let your attention wander because worse than making a boneheaded mistake is the scorn of your peers.  They will never let you live down even the slightest error because the ruthlessness over small mistakes keeps everyone safe.

So all I had to do was make it through the next 14 hours without screwing up and here are the details of what I was assigned to do:

After each truck comes to rest on the scale, I register the weight and motion the driver to pull forward to position the trailer over the grain pits.  Next I leave the warmth of the scale house to unlock the two traps in the belly of the trailer so I can crank them open and allow the grain to spill into the pits. As the grain flows down into the augers, I take a sample to be tested for moisture content. Once the trailer is drained, I crank the traps closed and lock them before sending the truck back out to the field.

And this goes on all day long…..

Weigh.

Unlock traps.

Open traps.

Take sample.

Drain truck.

Close traps.

Lock traps.

Send truck back to the field.

Over and over and over….

Weigh, unlock, open, sample, empty, close….

Uh-oh….

Lock?

Did I forget to lock the traps on Old Rusty?

..

If I did, especially on the rusty old truck that just left, a trap door could jostle open as the truck bumps over the freshly picked field and after the combine fills it with grain, the kernels could dribble out.

I worried as I waited and watched for Old Rusty to make his appearance and sure enough, as he rumbled up the drive, a golden trail of corn glistened in his wake.

I was in for a merciless ribbing.

But then something odd happened.

A flock of turkeys appeared on the road and a number of geese followed them, then came the deer. In less time than it took to realize what was happening, not a single kernel of corn glittered on the road.

That is when the big buck stepped out of the willows and shot me a grin that could only say one thing:

“This is just between us. Right?”

Author: Almost Iowa

www.almostiowa.com

52 thoughts on “My Little Mistake”

  1. This one’s gotta qualify for the “best of” collection, although I don’t know what’s going to happen when the critters figure out you’ve blown their cover. 😉

  2. I sort of crunched with the deer, but understand the embarrassment. A few weeks ago a seven year old knocked my feet out from under me on a tile floor. We were playing and I didn’t realize she had a future as a linebacker on a professional football team. Anyway, I quickly stood up assuring everyone I was fine. Two hours later found me at the ER. Now, back to the turkey, deer and geese, Canadian Geese, I assume. We don’t have the geese living on our property but we do have a herd of deer and a flock of turkeys. You could probably unload a dump truck full of corn and find it gone the next day! Great story, Greg. –Curt

    1. A good friend of my brother was leading in a local marathon when he collided with a deer. We all know how common deer/car collisions are – but a runner? I blame that one on the deer. The marathon course was clearly marked and the details of the route and starting times had been published for months in advance..

      1. One would think that the least the deer could do is read the notices!
        BTW, when I lived in Alaska, a bicyclist ran into a moose.
        Also, one day, headlines in the Anchorage paper said “Train 50, Moose 1.” During the winter, moose liked to use the train tracks as paths, given that the were cleared. Engines had cattle catchers on the front of their engines to deal with the problems, and they worked well. The trains had won in some 50 encounters that winter, and then a train was actually derailed when it hit a moose! –Curt

  3. Well, one good turn does deserve another! I wonder how long it took that buck to gather all his friends to help? More importantly, I wonder how we can be sure we always have someone to help us cover up our little mistakes….

    1. The flip side of having friends who will cover your mistakes is having friends, co-workers and peers who will never let you live your mistakes down. In many environments where danger is a constant companion, you are never entirely accepted until your co-workers get a piece of you. It may sound harsh – but harsh has a purpose, it is a hell of a learning tool.

  4. Great safety reminder and a great story for the humor, writing and surprise ending. You know, Greg, you really rate as an outstanding humor writer. And that shouldn’t be kept between you and me. I hope you’re still attempting to market your writing as a weekly column…

    1. Originally the Minnesota Mosquito Refuge was designated a wild life preserve but the only wild life out there were mosquitoes who are so vicious that the 50 lb snapping turtles who stalk our ditches feared them. So the DNR gave it that name as a warning to any intrepid traveler who might be foolish enough to venture there.

  5. Love how you are so in tune with the animals, Greg. You are the farmer’s version of Dr. Dolittle for sure. Would that be Farmer Dolittle? Oops! That might not be a good name for you under the circumstances. Funny post!

    1. Harvest ended on Saturday night. The odd thing was….as soon as we were done, the nasty, cold, windy, muddy, evil weather cleared and now we are enjoying sunshine and temps in the 50s. Go figure.

  6. This has to be my favorite of all your posts.You’ve walked the line between fantasy and reality perfectly, although I’m fairly well convinced that, if this post was a cake, reality would be the cake, and fantasy only the frosting.

  7. Outstanding, Greg. Thanks. When I lived on a farm every day was a new opportunity to kill yourself. If it wasn’t a head kick by a cow, it was getting augered up into silo. Enjoyed the story.

  8. Okay, I’m laughing so hard I’m crying and I can’t stop. Wait!! Dear Lord, that’s tears running down my leg, right? 😂😂😂

    Love your new friend “Buck”. Clever guy. Not too sure about Lucy Goosey flying north though. Maybe she needs a GPS!

    Great post! —-Ginger—-

    1. As long as geese have food (plenty still in the fields) and open water (around power plants, shopping malls and industrial sites), they will stay all winter despite the inevitable -20F/-28C cold snaps.

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