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.


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 say only 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 – and sailed 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 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 will back 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 the scorn of your peers is far worse than making a boneheaded mistake.  They will never let you live down even the slightest error because ruthlessness over small mistakes is what 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…..


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….



Did I forget to lock the traps on the last truck?


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?”

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