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Always appreciate a mid-summer rain
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Always appreciate a mid-summer rain

Columnist

Terry is a well-known regional columnist who lives in Chamberlain, S.D.

It’s possible that the single biggest confidence booster I received in my entire life was the time my dad let me back a grain wagon load of wheat into the shed by myself.

Yeah, I know. That sounds like no big deal, right? Back a wagon load of grain into the shed. Farm kids do that every day, right? Well, yes and no.

For one thing, I’d never actually done it before. I was maybe 11, no more than 12 years old. I’d seen it done, but seeing and doing aren’t always the same thing. Figuring out how to coordinate the tractor and wagon so the front end of the tractor propels the back end of the wagon in the right direction wasn’t as easy as everyone but me made it look.

For another thing, we were in the middle of a bumper wheat harvest. We hadn’t had one of those for a while. We intended to bring home every last bushel in the field. And a July rain and hail storm with strong wind was bearing down on the farm. If that wheat didn’t get under cover before the storm hit, it would take about 10 seconds for the whole wagon to be swamped. Even I knew that would be bad.

I’d driven the tractor with the wagon into the farmyard just fine. I made a sweeping circle and prepared to back the thing into the shed. The doorway looked to be about a foot wide from where I sat on the tractor seat. My dad parked his pickup and hollered that he could take over if I wanted. I can’t imagine what made me shake him off, but I did.

Dad could be a little intense during wheat harvest, and a big storm could test his patience. Even so, he let me back and pull forward, back and pull forward, hop down and walk to the back of the trailer to inspect the opening and the angles and then back and pull forward a couple more times. Dad could have thrown up his hands and taken over at any point, but he stood in the shelter of the garage door and let me work the problem.

It took an eternity and the first drops of rain hit just as I unhooked the tractor from the wagon. The wagon sat cattywampus across most of the shed, but it was under cover. I rubbed my hands together a couple of times in satisfaction and lit out for the house as the rain poured over the land. I felt good – good about the parking job and good about the rain.

On the farm, a person almost always felt good about the rain, even when it messed up some plans, turned the feedlot into a muddy mess and put us a couple of days behind on the haying. For any harm the rain might have done, it was filling stock dams, streams and small lakes, soaking into the soil so that a crop had a better chance next season and generally making thing greener and brighter than they’d been before that rain.

I recall my daughter’s wedding morning back in July of 1992. Heavy, sustained rain fell overnight and into the day. Plans to use a friend’s vintage Corvair convertible were in doubt. Puddles on the carpet of the ballroom where the reception was to take place showed clearly where every last leak in the building’s roof was located. I thought my daughter might just break down and cry with the ceremony just a few hours off.

I told her I wished I had the power to stop the rain for the length of her wedding day, even though it pained me to think of turning off a mid-summer rain. What would my dad have thought? I can’t be sure, but he farmed his whole life and raised two daughters. I like to think he’d have understood my conflicted feelings that day.

As it happened, the rain stopped a short while before guests began to arrive at the church. The folks who managed the reception room scurried around and found a number of large potted plants to place strategically around, one for each spot of wet carpet. It looked as if it had all been planned that way. Sometimes, things work out the way they’re meant to.

You know what, though? I can’t for the life of me remember how, after that storm when I was a kid, we got that cockeyed trailer out of the shed.

 Terry is a well-known regional columnist who lives in Chamberlain, S.D.

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Columnist

Terry is a well-known regional columnist who lives in Chamberlain, S.D.

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