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UNSCREW THAT CAP AND TAKE YOUR CHANCES

"Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view". I'll be impressed if anyone can name the character who uttered those famous words. I was reminded of this quote during a trip to my family's farm a few weeks ago. Our 2 year old always gets excited when we visit "Geempa's house" (that's "Grandpa", for you adults). For our son, a tractor ride means fun. For me, it always meant work.

 Late May through early June was the busiest time of the year on the farm, and weather played a critical role. Wheat was harvested during this time, and relatively dry weather was needed. After all, storing wet grain is never a good idea. On the other hand, we usually planted soybeans once the field was picked. A little bit of rain was needed to help the bean crop grow and thrive. It was almost a "Catch 22"- we needed rain for the beans, but dry weather for the wheat. Needless to say, late spring is a stressful time for farmers.

A typical work day could run 10 to 14 hours, weather permitting. In the early morning, the tractors and combine were serviced. This involved refueling with diesel, checking oil/hydraulic levels, and tightening bolts on disk blades/cultivator points. Wheat dust can diminish your visibility quickly, so we usually scrubbed down the windows on the combine to keep our line of sight clear. All of this "servicing" could take an hour or more, depending on conditions.

Once the equipment started rolling, you were in for a long day. As soon as a wheat field was harvested, a tractor was used to cut "fire lines" around the perimeter. A second crew would then drive a truck through the field with a propane tank fire-starter, igniting the leftover "stubble". You've never felt heat until you drive through an 80+ acre field fully ablaze. Once the smoke cleared, the heavy duty tractors/disks/cultivators were used to till the soil, preparing for the planting of soybeans.

About mid-afternoon, fatigue really started to set-in. Thankfully, dad would always make a quick trip to the local handy mart and buy everyone a snack. Believe me- you LIVED for that snack. Usually consisting of an oatmeal cream pie or a pack of nabs (along with the soft drink of your choice), it wasn't exactly the most healthy of practices- but that "sugar rush" kept you awake through the final hours of the work day.

It was always fun to unscrew the cap on your soft drink and check to see if you were an "instant winner". Remember when the drink companies first started with the "instant win" caps? Every day, I would sit on the dusty wheel of that old John Deere tractor and twist off the cap in hopes of winning a car, a trip, or a million dollars. Most days, I was happy to settle for a free drink. Those were indeed the "good ole days". When you unscrew a drink cap today, you are greeted with a blasted computer code which must be entered online (along with a synopsis of your life history). Then, if you fill-out the requested survey, you might find out if you won a $1.25 can of soda. Depressing.

Anyway, the approach of June also signals the return of hurricane season. Many people have wondered if the unusual warmth of winter/spring will lead to an active hurricane season. There is no direct correlation between the two events. In fact, the winters of 1974 and 1965 were among the warmest on record. The hurricane seasons that followed in those years were average at best (in terms of frequency), with only 2 total hurricane landfalls in the United States.

Here's hoping for a quiet hurricane season this year. And good luck with those drink caps...

(SEND AN EMAIL TO JERRY AT jjackson@wwaytv3.com)

By: Jerry Jackson