We have moved into that time of year when everyone with ruminants has to rethink their feed inventory situation. Winter wasn’t terribly kind to feed consumption and feed inventories. Holsteins don’t eat like supermodels and they can’t be sent to bed hungry or issued an IOU.
One Friday a nutritionist called me. He wondered if I had any hay for a client who needed it to have low potassium levels to feed to his non-lactating cows. The low potassium level prevents lots of metabolic problems for the cow right after birth. I had what he needed, so he stopped by to look at the hay. We discussed numbers and reached a mutually agreeable amount. There was one sticking point though. The new buyers really wanted the hay delivered. Their address was what scared me. It was a town I’ve been through several times . . . on my dune buggy . . . in Minnesota . . . usually as I think, “Geez, I should turn around now or I’ll never make it home before dark!”
Not to worry, the nutritionist, told me, they’re actually south of there. Don’t be fooled by the address. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Much closer to you than you think.
From now on, I really should start carrying a Bible with me so I can have my customer put his hand on it as he says, “No, it’s not that far,” or “It’s right on the blacktop,” as we talk about delivering hay.
To secure the supply, the buyers wanted to write a check immediately for the approximate total of the load. They would send it to me and then add another check once we got it weighed and knew the official total.
Money up front in the hay business and I don’t have to do much for it! How cool is that? Cue the harp and picture me in my hammock as the checks float in from the heavens.
I decided to make the maiden voyage on Friday afternoon. My unit of choice was the pickup and a gooseneck with 10 bales on it. My end point would be near Bratsberg, Minnesota. The plan was to come in from the south on Highway 43, which runs north from Mabel. I knew a really handy shortcut to Mabel from the adventure when I was hauling bulk bins a couple years ago. Straight north from there and I’d be all set.
I have this theory on early settlers in this part of the world. They all built their roads starting from a southern point and then worked their way north as they laid out the routes. The crews would be incredibly industrious as they worked for days, building a mile or two each day. By Saturday night, they would thoroughly enjoy their time off. By Monday, sobriety had not always set in entirely the further north you went. That’s when the roads got interesting.
Somewhere between 10 and 12 miles north of Mabel, the road turned from essentially the William Tell Turnpike into the Foster Brooks Parkway. MAN, did that pioneer road crew have a good weekend! It wasn’t safe to take one hand off the wheel, but still I was able to take a couple of pictures of the signs. My favorite was one of those S-curve signs that recommends 35 mph speed limits for the next TWO MILES! That was soon followed by one with a picture of a semi going down a 45-degree incline. But, hey, it’s not like I had a long vehicle with a heavy load on behind me for those kinds of conditions!
Thankfully, I got the first load of hay delivered. Before I left, I asked Gerald, the guy running the giant TeleHandler used to unload me, exactly where the blacktop went in the OTHER direction. He began to recite a couple town names that didn’t ring any bells with me. Then he got to one that did. Canton! That had to be better than the white-knuckle Gopher Alps route I just finished. I told Gerald the rest of the hay would be delivered the next day.
When I got to the end of the gravel road and back to the blacktop, I went west into a brave new world. The road had shoulders and everything! It even had gradual curves that require no warning signs. The pioneers obviously had this baby all done by Thursday.
That first Friday load was fun, but Saturday called for a little something extra to keep it interesting. Math genius that I am, I put 10 bales on my truck on Friday. That left me 23 bales to haul on a semi, which is a full load. My pickup and gooseneck holds 11. But the Ranch Hand holds 12 if I put one on the bed!
Fun was calling. It has me on speed dial.
On my way toward the Plymouth Rock Church between Kendallville and Burr Oak, I was reminded of a story. That story was told to me almost every time my dad and I went trout fishing at nearby Coldwater Creek when I was a kid. There’s this one huge hill west of the church, not far from where my dad grew up. My grandpa was a big guy. He used to go to the lumberyard in Ridgeway and get four quarter-mile rolls of barbed wire and carry them all at once, two in each hand, out to his truck. When some guy was giving him a ride home west of the church before the road was paved, they couldn’t make the steep hill. They’d keep taking a run at it and not quite make it. Finally, Grandpa told the guy to stop when he couldn’t go any further and let him out. He would wait for the guy to make another attempt and then push the car as soon as it ran out of steam. That finally got them to the top of the hill.
Now imagine going down that hill with a load of hay on behind being pulled by some green and yellow freakazoid machine! I hit 54 mph at the bottom of the hill. Grandpa would have been proud. Incidentally, he’s in the cemetery over the next hill.
I finally reached the dairy, and Gerald and his TeleHandler unloaded the Ranch Hand. On my way home, as I made my way through metropolitan Henrytown at blazing speed and kept going south, I came up over a hill and saw quite the view. It was Amish gridlock! In the quarter-mile of road in front of me, there were five Amish buggies. Three were on my left and two were on my side of the road. All of them were pretty much on the shoulder, but still taking up a bit of both travel lanes. They were almost perfectly spaced apart in uniform distances. It wasn’t Belgian-to-bumper traffic, but it was a bit more crowded than usual.
I got to thinking, How am I going to get from my hilltop to the next one while meeting and passing all these buggies? I could weave between them in some sort of Bode Miller Amish Slalom, or I could brush against them as I went past in sort of a Dick Weber Picks Up The Amish Seven-Ten Split.
Where are Jim McKay and Chris Economaki when you need them?
I was drunk with power from my diesel engine, so I unleashed my ponies and went the Bode Miller Amish Slalom route.
No horses were injured in the making of this story. However, as I went by, a couple of them lost some weight, most of which was in piles along the shoulder on my return trip with the third load.
It happens. Perhaps I could sell them the right type of hay to prevent that kind of thing. Delivery would be included, of course.
Guy No. 2