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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Health foods, hearty foods and other adventures

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 27 February 2018

Hard lessons learned are worth more if they are remembered. When my livelihood came from hauling hay to dairies and ranches in remote places in the Northwest, I was never stranded in the truck without food or drink. I recalled that knack when the solar eclipse came close enough to witness with minimal travel.

I had business with some hay growers who lived in the moving dark spot’s path, so I went. The news outlets had been warning the general public to stay away since they expected the area to be jammed with eclipse-watchers, and they expected the roads to be a huge bottleneck with possibly days of traffic jams before people could get out of the area.

They expected food stores in the areas of the eclipse to be sold out, and the rumor was motel rooms near the event were going for $1,000 a night.

I had a case of bottled water in the pickup and food in the cooler adequate for at least the first day. I added what we used to carry in the hay truck – canned pork and beans, Vienna sausage, a few tins of kippered herring, taco chips, some canned fruit and other odds and ends which did not need refrigeration.

I drove down the evening before and found a wide spot beside a two-lane road where I spent most of the night, telling myself what a bright boy I had been for replacing the driver’s seat in the pickup with one that fully reclined. Up about dawn, I drove on and was able to meet with my hay growers before the solar event.

The last one, at Midvale, Idaho, told me I was welcome to watch the eclipse from his property. He said the previous evening he had run off a group who were setting up camp without permission in his alfalfa field. He told me to run off anybody else who showed up who didn’t seem to have any common sense. Nobody did.

After the minute-and-a-half event, I took a nap to allow the expected traffic to clear. My food supply was more than adequate. In fact, I never ran out of cold food from the cooler. The expected pandemonium never happened, and I only caught the last half-hour of heavy traffic heading toward the freeway. The forecasted run on food never happened – nor did the projected three-day gridlock.

Then there was the time six guys were sharing a big old house. One night, the spaghetti sauce tasted strongly of cinnamon. Little, if any, mercy was shown toward the evening’s cook. His explanation was: He had seen his mother add something brown from a spice bottle into her spaghetti sauce, so he thought it would be OK. He never cooked unassisted again. (I was not the cook.)

I once added a whole radish to some stew just to see the reaction from whomever got it. We had my mother over for dinner that day. Yes sir, luck of the Irish indeed. She first got a perplexed look on her face and then asked if there was supposed to be a radish in the stew. I sheepishly said, “Yes, but you weren’t supposed to be the one who found it.”

For quite a while, my family hid the food coloring from me. Something about lime-green mashed potatoes and pink cornbread. The crowning achievement was mashed potatoes the exact color of orange sherbet.

A couple of us stopped at a now-defunct roadside café by Durkee, Oregon, to size up the snowstorm we had been driving into. The other driver said I must try their oyster stew. I had never eaten oysters before, in any form. It must be an acquired taste, but I never intend to eat an oyster again. I swore it took a week to get the taste out of my mouth. I have yet to forgive the fellow I was with.

Another trip left me with a fellow insisting we had to have geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”). It is giant Puget Sound clams. We were so overdue to eat my stomach thought my throat had been cut. I wanted a steak, but Norm insisted. It was tolerable, but the portions were such I searched out another place to eat within the hour. I slept very well that night with the addition of the burger, fries and milkshake I was able to find before dragging my carcass into the sleeper.

Then there is the proper definition of a health food. Bananas are a fruit. Fruit is healthy, yes? Granola is grain, a whole grain, and whole grain is healthy, yes? So sliced bananas in a bowl with granola should be super-healthy, yes? So, if I cover the bottom of a bowl with sliced bananas, cover them with ice cream, heavily sprinkle the ice cream with granola and add a little chocolate syrup, why is that no longer a health food?  end mark