Elaine Hanson’s laptop was propped up at the end of the kitchen table, and Elaine, her husband Jeff, and Jeff’s parents Dale and Donna sat clustered in their chairs at the other end, drinking coffee and watching the screen. Elaine bit her lip, one eye on the screen and the other on her phone, where her fingers were texting continuously
“Get to the results already,” Donna said.
Any second now the chairperson of this producer meeting would announce the election results, but Elaine had no idea if she’d get enough votes to become a board member on the provincial commodity board.
“I think I might throw up,” Elaine said.
“You’ve got a 60 per cent chance of winning,” Dale said. “Not bad odds.”
There were three available spots on the board with five farmer candidates running in the election. The three candidates with the highest number of total votes would take the spots on the board, the other two would be left out. But Elaine had realized early in the campaign that two of the other candidates were men who had already served on other provincial commodity boards. They came to the race with strong name recognition, and Elaine was sure they’d win. So realistically, she said to herself, she only had a one-in-three chance of getting a place on the board.
Elaine’s phone beeped with another new text.
“Someone else wishing you good luck?” Jeff asked.
Elaine glanced down at her phone, then rolled her eyes. “No. It’s my mom. She wants to know where your dad got his dog, and if Flora has any siblings.” Not being from a farm, Elaine’s mother had trouble keeping track of the dates of things like farm group elections.
“Here we go,” Donna said. Finally, the meeting chair was reading the results on-screen.
When he finished, Elaine let out a big breath of relief. She was in third place. She had a spot on the board. Just what she’d wanted.
Jeff hugged her. “I knew you’d win!”
Elaine’s phone started beeping with incoming texts.
“Congratulations,” Donna said. “I feel like opening some champagne!”
“It’s 10:30 in the morning,” Dale said. “Maybe we should celebrate with bran muffins.”
“It was close,” Elaine said. She only had 11 more votes than the woman who’d come in fourth place.
“Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades,” Jeff said.
“When have you seen a horseshoe? Or a hand grenade?” Dale asked.
“It’s what Grandpa would’ve said,” Jeff explained.
“A win is a win,” Donna said. “And you’ll be a great board member.”
Elaine’s phone switched from beeping to ringing. She looked at the screen, saw it was a farmer friend calling to congratulate her, then went to the living room to take the call.
The rest of the Hansons went on with their day while Elaine kept busy in her office, answering texts from friends and well-wishers and taking phone calls from the group’s executive director and chair.
By late afternoon, when Elaine and Jeff’s two kids were home from school and Jeff had come in from the shop, Elaine emerged from her office, glassy-eyed.
Out in the kitchen, Jeff had already opened a bottle of wine. He poured two glasses and passed one to Elaine.
“Well?” he asked. “How was Day One?”
Elaine didn’t answer. Just took a big swallow of wine and shook her head slowly.
“Not good?” Jeff asked, concerned.
“I think I’ve made a mistake,” Elaine said.
“Already?” Jeff kidded. “Surely you haven’t totally sunk Canada’s ag policy in just one day?”
“I’m in over my head. I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I’m under…” Elaine searched her brain for some cliché about buses that might apply, but she was too dazed to remember what it might be. She took another sip. “This is going to be so much work.”
Jeff frowned. “I thought you talked to some other board members about the workload before you decided to take a run at this.”
“It’s one thing to have someone tell you how many board meetings there’s going to be. It’s another thing to have someone download all the dates into your calendar.” Elaine held up her iPhone with the screen showing next month’s calendar suddenly filled with the black dots that indicated events.
“I’m already on three committees and I’m representing the organization on two other boards!” she said, sounding overwhelmed.
“But you wanted to be on committees,” Jeff said. “Imagine how upset you’d be if they didn’t trust you enough to let you represent the board.”
“And I need to go to Saskatoon to meet the chair in person next week,” Elaine said. “I haven’t been farther from the farm than Regina in almost a year.”
“That’s great,” Jeff said. “You’ve been looking forward to seeing a few people in person after all this time staying home. You’ll have to dust off your face mask.”
“I just don’t know how I’m going to find the time to do everything. Here, and on the board.”
“We’ll figure it out. I’ll help.”
Then Jeff remembered something. “This is bad timing, but did you see that email the accountant sent? Looks like we need to dig up some more paperwork for AgriStability. But don’t you worry about it. I’ll figure it all out after supper.”
“I sent it in this afternoon. It only took a few minutes,” Elaine said.
Jeff was impressed. He’d thought the accountant’s question had sounded like a two-hour job.
“Great. Why don’t I jump in the truck and head to town and pick up some pizza for supper? We can celebrate your win.”
“Can’t you smell it?” Elaine said. “I’ve got stew in the crockpot. I threw it in after lunch. And Megan dropped off a Dairy Queen ice cake for us when she brought the kids home. We can have some of that for dessert.”
As an extra COVID-19 precaution, Jeff and Elaine drove Connor and Jenny to school every morning. After school, one of Connor’s friend Oscar’s parents brought the kids home. This afternoon, Oscar’s mother Megan had knocked on the door holding a DQ box and smiling. “Congratulations!” Megan said. “I’m so glad you ran, and I’m glad farmers had the sense to vote you in. It’s great to have a neighbour on the board.”
Elaine had heard from quite a few of their neighbours during her campaign, but this was the first time Megan had said anything. Elaine wouldn’t have guessed Megan paid attention to farm boards.
“I know you’re going to be busy, and probably away more than usual when you can go to real meetings again,” Megan continued, “so let me know when we can help you out by picking up your kids, or keeping them at our house.”
Now, with stew simmering in the crockpot and the AgriStability problem handled, Jeff relaxed in his chair, poured himself more wine and refilled Elaine’s glass. Then he held his glass up toward Elaine, as if to propose a toast. She clinked her glass against his and smiled.
“You’ve got this under control,” Jeff said. “You can do anything.”
“Maybe not on my own,” Elaine said, “but I think I’ll be okay.”