When the action of the season gets busy, nothings breaks up the pace like a little distraction. Nothing really breaks it up like some serious distraction.
I was running the field cultivator on a Wednesday in an almost-square field along the highway. Traffic isn't too bad on the road. One particular vehicle went by around 12:30 and suddenly came to a quick slowdown before pulling into the driveway of the acreage adjoining me. It wasn't a subtle cookie cutter of a vehicle. Nope, it was a giant rainbow of colors with four big letters on the side. The rainbow was the NBC peacock and the letters were KTTC. It was a news vehicle from the Rochester, Minn., NBC TV station. A guy hopped out of the vehicle as I was making my way toward him in my machine. He slapped a tripod down on the lawn and promptly got his camera out of the back of the vehicle and put it atop the tripod. Turns out he wasn't there to get traffic video for the DOT. Nope, he had the camera trained right on me! (“It’s time for your close-up, Mr. Ryan. Which side works the best? Is the lighting okay?”)
I did some quick math. This cameraperson probably needed some stock footage of farm action. The scene behind me was quite good from his perspective. That's one of the higher elevations on our operation. If this camera guy wanted action, it would be rude of me to come to a stop and voice displeasure with his invasion of my privacy, especially if I was doing one of the last passes of the long, straight rows before I went back to the little triangles of the short rows. Good video is good video, and having it staged doesn't always work.
I was just hoping to be some stock footage that could be used for years. The folks at Iowa Public Television’s “Market to Market” always had this ridiculous shot they used for years where a guy was running an IH tractor from the 1970s with a cultivator on the back in a soybean field. He had his hazard lights on as he went across the field. Pretty much the same as having toilet paper stuck to your shoe when you come out of the restroom at a fancy restaurant. The clip played for years.
Sadly, when I made my return pass on the next round, the news crew had left. I was going to stop and offer them a ride, but it was not to be. Meanwhile, I called my sister and asked what the heck Channel 10 would be doing in this area if they were coming from the east on Highway 9. That’s not the route from Rochester to anywhere in northeast Iowa, unless you're in a dune buggy and driving around in a carefree fashion.
My sister did some quick research for me (I call her my Mobile Google) and found out that the crew had been in Ridgeway for a story. There was news in our part of the world and I wasn't aware of it. Seems that my friends at Hovden Oil in Ridgeway had been at their bulk plant on the northeast side of Ridgeway around closing time and saw an odd sight nearby. It was a large black bear!
Here is a link to a story about it: http://www.kttc.com/story/18441226/black-bear-buzz-in-ridgway-iowa
When The Chairman was in town the next morning, Former Trusty Sidekick Lorne's mother-in-law told him at the grocery store that she'd seen me in the tractor on TV the night before as part of the bear story. My guess is I was the background video as they described what an earnest, hard-working farming community Ridgeway is. Look it up. It's true. Then it was on to the main story.
A local farmer (and chopping customer of mine, named Allyn) had been done with planting and was cutting some first-crop hay. He noticed what he thought was a bear crossing a driveway near his field. The bear continued toward Hovden’s bulk plant. Allyn called his son and told him of the vision. Let’s just say that a small medical inquiry and evaluation were made over the phone as a result. The son called a friend at Hovden’s and alerted them, but he made sure they brought a camera to document the beast so that the aforementioned medical analysis could be confirmed.
Several family members from the office and another employee went to the bulk plant and saw the bear after a brief search. I got an eyewitness report when we had fuel delivered by Tom, the employee who saw the bear and may have been closest to it. (“He was less than here to the machine shed away, Jeff.” We were standing maybe 100 feet from the shed at the time.) He said they had tons of calls and visits all day as a result. Even KWWL, the NBC affiliate from Waterloo, came up to do a story late in the afternoon. (I, uh, may have sent an email to their anchorman alerting him to the story. He has an easy name to spell as you bounce across a field and try to send emails.) CNN also called and got permission to use the photos of the bear.
The bear hung around for about 15 minutes or more before making his way to the south, where he crossed Highway 9 and headed for the bike trail. Reports since then have had him spotted near Spillville to the southeast and Fredericksburg to the southwest. So, obviously, it’s going to be a little sketchy for me now when I deliver the next steer to the locker in Spillville down their dead-end street near the river. Everyone knows bears love to eat meat. Where’s the best place to get some? From Lumpy and the staff at the Spillville Locker, of course! But worst of all, what would maybe attract a bear and keep him close by?
Large supplies of HONEY, that’s what! Well, guess who expanded their bee operation this year and pretty much has a bull’s-eye on him now with a virtual pick-a-nic basket of beef and honey for Yogi & Co.?
I just hope that KTTC comes down to cover the eventual story of my mauling.
"When emergency personnel arrived, the crime scene was a mixture of honey, blood, BBQ sauce and gravy. Authorities say that the bear was licking lard piecrust crumbs from Mr. Ryan's face when witnesses intervened. However, all of Mr. and Mrs. Ryan’s bees escaped unharmed.
“With photographer Chuck Sibley, I’m Peter Schuneman reporting from the scene near Ridgeway, Iowa.”
Guy No. 2