Just Thinking Out Loud

All is well


At choir practice last week, the director asked us to share the highlight of our day. Many said a long walk through a tree park as colorful leaves danced to the ground. Another member said an extra long nap. My highlight was making it to choir practice. One of the tenors said his highlight hadn’t happened yet. He was waiting to see how his day would end, maybe anticipating a special moment before the day was done? 

His answer intrigued me and caused me to ponder. Could the best part of the day be at the end of day as you crawl in bed giving thanks that all is well? Reflecting on divine intervention in the large moments is easy. Sometimes it takes a while to spot the small, quiet moments which are overshadowed by the pace of a busy day. 

I was never so thankful to crawl in bed a few nights ago, giving thanks that everyone was safe and sound. It had been one of those days where it was a struggle but could have been so much worse. I was thankful for helpful neighbors, understanding state patrol officers and snowplows. Yup … it is one of those stories you’ll never forget and never want to do again.

Harvest had been going smoothly. The high-moisture corn was a bit on the dry side, but the yields had been phenomenal. Yes, we had been in a severe drought situation all summer, but we were thankful for the irrigation system to supplement our feed supply. Recently, the custom combine started chewing through the dry corn. It was bouncing around 18% moisture, so we needed to fill the drying bin before hauling it to the elevator. A few days later, it was ready to be moved south to be ground into chicken feed. 

We are not large grain operators, so we don’t have the big equipment to haul large amounts of corn. We hook the large tractor up to two large gravity boxes and start the slow trip south. The only way to reach the elevator is to drive along the edge of U.S. Highway 10 with flashers and slow-moving vehicle signs in plain sight. The speed limit on this stretch of road is 65 mph, with most people cruising at 70. We have less than 10 miles to travel on this road. We have been fortunate to only have one flat tire on this run over the last 20 years, but that all changed with this load.

Mark was almost halfway there when he felt a shimmy and a shake. His first thought was, “This isn’t good.” The next thing he saw was a tire and rim passing him by as the tractor lurched with the sudden impact of a wagon wheel spindle burying itself into the pavement. 

Cars and semi-trucks whizzed past as Mark tried to assess the situation. The first wagon had lost its right rear wheel. The left front end was up in the air. The hitch to the tractor was the only thing keeping it from flipping over into the ditch. Luckily, Mark had come to a sudden stop in a turn lane, the widest part of the highway. He figured we were going to need more than family help to get things back on the road again.

His first call was to Austin. They came up with a plan of how to unload the wagon, but they were going to need special help. The next call was to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. Austin explained what had happened and that we were going to need to close a lane of traffic on the highway.

I jumped in our farm truck and popped in over at the neighbors’ house to borrow one of their gravity boxes. Austin grabbed a tractor and headed up to Al’s to hitch up the grain auger.  Al was driving south to St. Cloud and came upon Mark with the tilted wagons. He turned around and headed back home to hitch up to the trailer to bring a skid loader, pallet fork and chains to help move the wagon off the road.

As I reached the top of the hill leading down to Little Rock Lake’s entrance into the Mississippi River, I spotted the cavalry. Two snowplow trucks were there with flashing arrows directing traffic into a single lane. At the bottom of the hill were red and blue flashing lights slowing the traffic down even more. Two state patrol officers were on the scene to help. 

While we waited for the rest of the rescue team to arrive, Mark and I secured a large drive-way just off the highway to park and repair our damaged wagon. We then unhitched the rear gravity box and moved it to the front of the turn lane, waiting to continue its journey.

I was never so thankful to have a swing auger as we lined the elevator in the blocked lane of traffic and filled the neighbors’ gravity box. As Austin shoveled the grain from the back of the tilted box, Mark and I helped to pull the corn into the hopper. I could feel the levitated wheel crawl up the back of my leg as the weight of the corn shifted in the box. I was grateful for not being able to unhitch the tractor and the wagon. The angle of the hitch prevented us from pulling the pin. That pin was keeping everything upright.

With the wagon unloaded, it was now time to move it out of the way. One of the officers suggested how to wrap the chain around the axle and pallet fork to create a makeshift wheel. Once secured, it was time to slowly hobble off the road with our wounded box.

In a few hours, there was little sign of what had happened or could have happened on this stretch of highway as cars and semis resumed their cruising speeds. We were so lucky the right wheel bearing went out. If it had been on the left side, things could have been tragic.

As I crawled into bed that night, all I could do was celebrate that the day was done and all was well. 

As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.


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