Recently, on what seemed to be a rare sunny day here in southern Wisconsin, I had to drive into Madison for a few errands. A former coworker used to joke that my driving reminded him of the hit song from the group Alabama: “I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why).”
There might be some truth to that.
Not too far outside of town, it didn’t matter if I was in a hurry or not. Traffic slowed to about 20 mph, and, as the line snaked onto the downside of a hill, 17 vehicles ahead (yes, I counted), I saw what was causing the delay. It was a combine, zipping along as best it could, headed toward a large cornfield on the south side of the road.
Usually, I’d be fuming. Instead, I said, “thank God they are getting into the field.”
Agriculture has seen plenty of ups and downs over the decades. Some were brutal (the farm sell-off in the 80s was gut-wrenching.) This year strikes me as one that started rough and then tried to grind us down. From early floods and long-delayed or even lost plantings to tariffs, on-again/off-again international sales, late-season floods and most recently an early winter that delayed harvest and appears to have crimped yields in the Northern Great -Plains and beyond.
I watched as the combine headed into the field. All the drivers that had been behind it started to pick up speed. Cruising past, I noticed two tractors and wagons on the edge of the cornfield, and a semi-trailer with a hopper-bottom trailer idling on an asphalt side road, standing ready to be loaded. The grain dryer on the north side of the road was running. Further down the highway, and I don’t know if it was the same operation, a big 4WD tractor was discing a recently-harvested field.
I almost breathed a sigh of relief. Not for traffic picking up, but to see these folks out there working hard to make the best of a tough year. What else could they do? What else would they do?
And what else can we do? Things are slow ‘out there,’ our audiences and advertisers tell us. Investments have been delayed. But we all keep at it. It is what we do.
I’ve seen it happen before. Most of you have, too. Thing slow, then stall, sometimes stop and we wonder what is next. Then markets improve, the weather improves, grain moves, and soon business is better, then good and sometimes even great. It reminds us of how much fun this can be.
So, with that in mind, here’s to a safe and prosperous 2020! ■