When her friend Katherine had phoned back in October to ask if she’d join the board of directors, Elaine Hanson had been pleased to be asked. She liked the idea of learning more about ag policy and how the industry works, but she knew she didn’t have the time.
“Why not?” her friend asked. “I know you were too busy a few years ago. But with both kids in school…”
“Jenny only has kindergarten every second day,” Elaine said. “And I know all the board meetings are in Saskatoon. That’s a four-hour drive from here.”
Katherine kept on. “You’re smart. Young. You pay levies to this organization. We need people like you to take an interest.”
“I am interested,” Elaine said. “I just can’t commit enough time right now.”
Katherine gave in. Sort of. “Next year Jenny will be in first grade. You can do it then.”
This made Elaine laugh.
In late January, Katherine called again one afternoon when Elaine was entering some expenses into their farm bookkeeping software.
“We’re having a two-day seminar on grain transportation next month,” Katherine said. “You should come.”
“No kidding!” Elaine said. “How can we manage our cash flow when the grain companies don’t take our grain when they say they will? We signed a contract to deliver canola in December, and we’re still waiting for a train.”
“Come and learn more about the problems,” Katherine said. “And turning up at some events will give you get a chance to meet the other board members and more farmers, and to make it easier for you if we wind up having an election next year.”
Elaine ignored that. Never mind the board, she wasn’t sure she had time for a two-day conference.
“I’ll talk to Jeff and make sure he’ll be here for the kids,” Elaine said.
“Good,” Katherine said.
On day one of the seminar, Elaine set her alarm for 4:30 a.m. If she left by five she’d make the drive to Saskatoon with a stop for a coffee and time to park before the meeting started at 10.
“Why don’t you come up the night before,” Katherine had asked. “You could share my hotel room.”
But Connor had a hockey game in Estevan that night, and Jenny had dance class in Weyburn. With Jeff’s parents in Arizona for a few weeks, Elaine decided she’d rather get up early than make one of the kids miss their events. “Jenny loves dance,” Elaine explained.
When the alarm went off at 5 a.m., she almost changed her mind, but Elaine remembered how much she wanted to spend more time with Katherine, and to feel like a part of the ag industry, so she forced herself out of bed. She made coffee, put on the clothes she’d laid out the night before, straight-ironed her hair, put on makeup, packed her bag and was just about to fill her insulated mug with coffee when Jenny called out, “Mom! Mom!”
Elaine ran to the little girl’s bedroom to find Jenny sitting up. “I don’t feel so good.”
Jenny didn’t get sick often, and she didn’t complain much. Elaine perched on the edge of the bed to see what was wrong. Jenny leaned forward and threw up, right into Elaine’s lap.
“I’m all sweaty,” Jenny said.
“You sure are,” Elaine said.
Elaine had tried not to wake up her husband while she got ready, but this commotion got him out of bed. He came into Jenny’s room and looked down at the damage.
“I’ll stay home,” Elaine said.
“You’ve been planning this for two weeks,” Jeff said. “Put on clean clothes and get out the door. Hurry, so you don’t have to speed. It’s foggy. You’re not going to have extra time.”
Elaine took another look at Jenny’s sheets, and got out of there quickly before Jeff changed his mind. In 10 minutes she’d changed her clothes and finally filled her coffee mug.
“Bye Jeff, Jenny. See you tomorrow,” Elaine called as she walked out the door into the dark morning carrying her purse, her mug and her overnight bag.
Outside, she rushed across the cement walkway to her SUV. The dog come to greet her, but when she reached out to pet him, her left foot slipped out from under her and she fell onto the concrete, landing on her purse. She cursed, then looked around. The cement was covered with a thin layer of ice. What would the highway be like?
At least she hadn’t spilled her coffee. In a few minutes she was in the SUV and on her way. At the end of the driveway she turned onto the gravel road and cranked up the radio. The fog wasn’t too bad. Then she spotted a gleam in the ditch, just off to the right. A deer. About to cross the road in front of her.
She hit the brakes hard and came to a stop just in time. “That was close,” she muttered to herself, stopping to take a few deep breaths before she took her foot off the brake to get moving again. “Good thing there’s nobody else on this road at this time of day.”
The highway was icy, but not as bad as she’d worried it would be. Between the ice and the fog, she couldn’t drive quite as fast as she normally would. “But I think I can still be on time,” she thought.
The next 90 minutes passed fairly quickly. Elaine played the radio, then listened to a podcast she’d downloaded to her phone. But north of Regina, the fog started to close in. There was a little more traffic on the Number 11 highway, and the passing lane looked icy. And it was still dark.
Jeff phoned, and Elaine put the call over the SUV’s speakers.
“Jenny’s feeling better,” he said, “but she’s going to stay home today. Is the highway alright?”
“It’s fine,” Elaine said. “But I’m not sure how often I’d want to make this drive.”
“Stop at the Tim Hortons for a coffee. That’ll cheer you up,” he said.
“That’s the plan,” she said.
But things nearly didn’t go to plan. By the time Elaine got to Davidson, the fog was so thick she almost missed the turnoff. When she realized she was right by the sign, she hit the brakes and skidded to a slow stop on the icy road, narrowly missing a car that was waiting to turn onto the highway.
Finally, with a mug full of fresh coffee, Elaine hit the road again. As she drove north the sun came up, the sky cleared, and there was no more ice on the road. She made it to the conference hotel early enough not to be late, even after she walked, carefully, across the icy parking lot.
Katherine met her in the hallway outside the conference room. “You made it!” she said.
“Barely,” Elaine said.
“Let me introduce you to the executive director,” Katherine said, pulling her forward
“This is the woman I’ve been trying to recruit to the board,” Katherine said.
“Great!” he said. “We have a lot of board meetings with these late morning starts. I’m sure you’d find it really convenient.”