I spend some time each morning reading the news highlights and guessing the day’s Wordle on my phone. Usually, it’s while having my typical before-chores breakfast consisting of a glass of milk and preferably a cookie. If there are no cookies to be had then something similarly sweet and, according to my wife, questionably nutritious. After reading through the news which was dominated by updates on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I scrolled Facebook to see if any of my friends were up to anything interesting. They weren’t, or at least not the previous night nor at 5 a.m. that morning. But, I saw a video a friend shared of a farmer in Ukraine supposedly stealing a Russian missile launcher and towing it down the road with a tractor.
I’m no expert in Russian military equipment, so I had to take the person’s word on what the camo green tank looking thing was that was being towed down the road behind a Claas tractor. That video surprised me and made me laugh at the absurdity of someone towing a tank like a hay wagon down the road. Just imagine if the Canadians decided to invade Minnesota because the fishing is so much better down here and they wanted our many lakes as their own to fish when they pleased. To hook up to a tank with a big maple leaf on the turret and drive off while the soldiers were busy trying to figure out whether to take Interstate 494, I-394 or I-694 to get where they wanted to be would be a pretty daring undertaking. Granted, if we painted over all our road signs like the Ukrainians have, there’s a good chance the Canadians would get lost as soon as they got to the Twin Cities and would find themselves out of fuel before reaching whatever destination they were headed to, making it considerably easier to steal their vehicle while they took a walk of shame to the nearest gas station.
Hopefully our polite neighbors to the north never feel the need to acquire our lakes, and I sincerely hope the Russian army quickly fails in their attempt to conquer Ukraine. If there is anything I’ve learned from studying history and reading soldiers memoirs, it’s that there is nothing glamorous or noble about wars. It’s a messy business that upends the lives of both the aggressors and defenders. When people die and infrastructure is destroyed all in the name of redrawing an imaginary line on a map, no one wins. It will likely take decades for the damages done to structures and land to be repaired and generations for some families to recover after losing loved ones and their businesses.
What started as a lighthearted column seems to have gotten rather somber as I think not just about the small victories one can score with a couple log chains and a tractor but also the losses that can occur in a conflict. I’ve had the chance to chat with a few farmers from Ukraine. I found out it’s pretty similar to here in climate, land type and farming practices. Their dairy barns are a bit different than ours, but the cows didn’t look much different. I once chatted with an agronomist on Twitter who shared a picture of a line of landmines through one of the fields he was scouting for insects because they were prepping for a possible invasion by Russia. That must have been around 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. I thought it the strangest thing to have a beautiful wheat field with a bunch of flags in it where you best not drive because those aren’t marking rocks.
Throughout the world, farmers are some of the most resourceful folks I know of. I’ll be thinking of them and all the people of Ukraine this week as news of their fight for their country makes its way to us. Hopefully the Russians have so many of their tanks stolen by Ukraine’s farmers that they give up and head back home to their families. It is an unlikely way for the war to end, but I’m not sure what else to hope for. Until next time, keep living the dream in a country where you don’t have to swerve around landmines to apply fungicide to the wheat.
    Tim Zweber farms with his wife Emily, their three children and his parents Jon and Lisa by Elko, Minnesota.