When Jeff rolled the semi to a stop at the Hanson’s farmyard gate before he pulled out onto the grid road he thought he heard shouting. It didn’t take him long to find the source.
There wasn’t a lot of mud in the Hanson’s yard this spring, but his kids had found it. Five-year-old Jenny was balancing on one leg in a deep puddle by the edge of the ditch — her left foot on the ground in a sunken rubber boot, right foot bare, waving in the air while her seven-year-old brother Connor tugged at the stuck left boot, trying to free it from the grimy water.
“Help Daddy!” Jenny was shouting.
“I’ve got it,” Connor yelled. “Good thing I was here to help.”
Jeff pulled the park brake and got out to help Jenny. He lifted her out of the mud, leaving both of her boots and socks behind, threw her over his shoulder and then tugged at the boots until they came loose with a squooshing sound that made both kids laugh.
“Her boots filled all the way up with water,” Connor said.
“My socks are swimming!” Jenny was wide-eyed with excitement.
Jeff carried Jenny and her boots into the house and set everything in the porch.
“Elaine?” he called out to his wife. “Could you help Jenny? I’ve got to get another load of canola to town. I’m trying to beat the bans.”
Elaine came out of her office, distracted, looking at the GST report in her hand one last time before she filed it online. “Beat the band?” she asked. “Who still says that?”
“Road bans,” Jeff laughed. “We’ve got to get this canola to town before the RM puts road bans on and we can’t haul it.”
“Oh, right,” Elaine said. “I knew that.” Then she spotted Jenny, her soaked boots and her mud-coated clothes. “What happened to you?”
Connor turned to Jeff. “Can I help?”
Jeff thought about it. “You’d get bored in the lineup, buddy. You’d better stay home.”
Jeff left his family inside and went back to his truck cab. He turned on his XM radio and set out on the 30-mile trip to the terminal.
It might have been muddy in the yard, but it wasn’t a bad day to be on the road. The grid roads were a little wet, but not soft yet, and there were signs of spring in the melting fields.
He peered into the Hunter farm as he drove past. Jeff had his arm off the steering wheel, ready to wave, but there was no sign of his friend John. Low lentil prices and high operating expenses had left John a little down over the winter, so Jeff had made sure to get together with him a few times in the past couple of weeks.
That made Jeff think about the input costs and crop prices he was penciling in on his own farm, and before he knew it, he was at the terminal, where he found himself pulling in at the end of a long line of mud-spattered semis.
Everybody in the area must have had the same idea as Jeff, trying to empty their bins before road bans kicked in. This was the longest line he’d seen all winter.
The first 40 minutes of waiting went by fast. He texted Elaine to tell her not to expect him back at the yard anytime soon. Then he used his phone to check his email, read a couple of ag newsletters and catch up on his Twitter feed. Just when he was starting to get bored his friend Dave pulled into the end of the line. Dave came to say hello and sit in the passenger seat for a few minutes.
“Geez I hate these lines,” Dave said. “A guy can’t get much else done, sitting around here all day.”
“That’s for sure,” Jeff said. “Did you try getting a trucker instead?”
“Nah,” Dave said. “I don’t have anything else to do anyways.”
Jeff laughed, even though he did have plenty of work to do on the Hanson farm, with seed to clean, repairs to make on the seed cart, with their farm employee off on a spring skiing vacation and Jeff’s parents away again — in B.C. this time — before spring seeding. And it would have been nice to spend some time with the kids this afternoon.
When the semi in front of Jeff pulled ahead two truck lengths, Dave hopped out. “I’d better move too,” he said. “And I’ve got some emails to return.”
“At least we have our phones to keep us busy,” Jeff said.
Altogether, Jeff had been in line a little more than an hour and half when he pulled into the spot at the head of the line. “Finally,” he said out loud. Jeff spotted the new grain buyer, Andre, up ahead, taking a sample from the truck in front of Jeff. He waved, and Andre smiled and waved back.
“I sure like dealing with Andre,” Jeff was thinking to himself. Then he thought again. “Hang on…”
Jeff hit the buttons on his phone to call Elaine. “Can you check the signed contracts in the stack on the desk in the office?” he said. “Can you take a look at the contract for this canola?”
“You mean the canola you’re taking to Viterra right now?” she asked.
“Um… Yeah.” Jeff said looking up at the Parrish & Heimbecker sign on the side of the terminal he’d been waiting in front of for 90 minutes. He’d been driving on autopilot. To the wrong terminal. “Never mind the contract,” he told Elaine. “I might be a little longer than I thought.”
“Don’t be too long,” she said. “I can’t send the kids back outside until their boots dry, and they’re driving me crazy.”
“I’ll do what I can,” Jeff said, hoping there wouldn’t be such a long line at the Viterra terminal on the other side of town.
“Is something wrong?” Elaine asked. “What’s going on?”
“No,” Jeff said. “Just a long line.”
“I guess everyone’s ‘beating the band,’” Elaine laughed at her mistake.
Luckily he had just enough room in front of the semi to pull out of the line and go back out the way he’d come in. Most of the other waiting truck drivers waved at him. Jeff was pretty sure they’d know what was going on. His friend Dave had his phone up, taking a photo.
As soon as he spotted the line in the Viterra yard Jeff knew there was no way he would get another load in before the terminal closed for the day. He leaned back in his seat while he waited his turn. Again. Wondering how many people in the line knew what he’d done.
Elaine phoned before he was near the front of the line.
“Can you stop and get Jenny an extra pair of boots on your way home? Hers are taking forever to dry.
“Sure,” he said. “But… I’ll be a while.”
“I know. Dave tagged me when he put your photo up on Twitter. Connor says to tell you that next time, you should let him help.”