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Heavy traffic

Erica Ramsey Louder for Progressive Forage Published on 06 October 2021

We watched as the chopper made the last pass. In moments, the final strip of corn was eaten up in the teeth of the most fantastic piece of farm equipment out there, a CLAAS Jaguar forage chopper. The best, according to my 3-year-old son.

All day, he watched from our front window as the chopper ate up the field. The spout threw load after a load of what would become silage into the 10-wheelers that pulled up alongside it in endless succession. For a month, the walls of that cornfield grew up around us, blocking us from the highway, and then in little less than a day, we were again exposed to the outside world. Our private nest of anonymity among the starch was gone.

They’ve started harvesting sugar beets in earnest now. Each day as I pull onto the highway, I wave my hand at the trucks as they pull into the sugar beet dump near our house. I’m usually heading east toward our little public school. The highway is the route to school. It is not heavily traveled and does not get heavy traffic in the sense of the city. But the traffic it does get is heavy. This time of year, that highway and our farming community are busier than ever. On the way to school, I get stuck behind a potato harvester that just fits on the two-lane highway. It’s not going far, but there isn’t any way to get around it. I turn up my radio and roll down my windows and enjoy the last of the fall sunshine.

The potato harvester and the pilot truck pull into the field they are destined for, and I drive around, lifting my hand in the politely expected gesture of farm country. I slow down for just a minute as I move through Eden, the namesake of this blog, and I speed back up on the other side. A year ago, this piece of highway outside Eden was a mess. It is near another sugar beet dump and a stacking yard for a large hay operation. The semitrucks, stacking equipment and 10-wheelers, in minuscule increments, beat the road into washboard conditions over the last fifteen years. This summer, the highway district and state repaved the road, finishing just in time for harvest. Sometimes tax dollars are well spent.

I pull into the school behind the other pickup trucks and dirt-road driving SUVs. Across the road from the school, one mom has pulled up in the beet truck she is driving for the season. She jumps down and slams the heavy door shut and runs across the highway to wait on foot. The truck is empty of beets now, but I’m sure her son will do his homework in the cab of that truck as she makes a few more loops until it’s dark.

I get my daughters from school, and we go into Hazelton for soccer practice. On the way home, the sun is recessing in the sky as we pull onto the highway. Halfway there, we slow down for a four-wheeler and its driver. They are headed out to change water for the evening. The canal company is turning the water off soon. The race is to get the last of the water on the winter wheat before it turns cold. I slow down and turn on my blinker and pass the four-wheeler. The driver’s dark hair is blown back from his face as he tops the speed of his ATV, and I’m sure his eyes are watering, yet he lifts a couple of fingers from the handlebars in salute.

I turn off the highway to my dirt driveway and think that I don’t mind this kind of traffic.  end mark

Erica Ramsey Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho. Email Erica Ramsey Louder.