The Grind


Grinding cornstalk bales and turning them into silage is an all day multi-man job.

This week, I took three days off and went back to my mom and dad’s to help on the farm.  It was a pretty interesting trip.  I think I’ll start from the end, and work in reverse while I regale you with tales of small town Iowa and farm life.

My boy E called while I was heading back to Des Moines tonight (Thursday) and I asked him which place I should eat, Burger King or Taco Johns.  He said Taco Johns, because BK would screw up my order.  Let’s get a taco.

I roll into the TJ and I know something is wrong right off the bat.  Seven people are standing around looking annoyed, and I could just tell tacos weren’t being made fast enough.  Before I can even order, two dudes driving trucks had been waiting for their food, and both of their orders got screwed up.  Finally, after the blue hair next to me got her Super Nachos that had been sitting there “for a half hour”, I placed my order for a number eight.  That’s a crunchy chicken meat and potato burrito with a soft shelled taco.  Blondie at the Till was either on her first or second shift ever, and had a tough go of it ringing in my order.  She even forgot to put the hot wings I wanted to try on the order, so I got those for free.  Things got a little frisky after that, I’ll just paste the text conversation E and I had below:

Me: Piss poor recommendation.  This TJ is bunk!  4 retards working.  (Sorry for using the word retard, retards.)

E: They can’t all be gems.  On the plus side, every BK has a guarantee 5 retards.  Win-win-lose-lose.  Muss?  Fuss.

Me: Fuss. (we have a running joke: No muss, no fuss.  Muss?  fuss.)

Me: Big dumb fuss. Lots of arguing.  (At this point I sent the photo below)

Me: HA HA HA HA THE BLONDE JUST QUIT! (She really did quit.  She just said “I can’t do this” and walked out.  7 people in line.)


Me: Now there are 7 people in line.  No cashier. Hahahahahahahaa

E: Amazing.  What town are you in?

Me: ***** at a truck stop (to protect the innocent)

Me: All the girls have their visors on crooked.  Especially the one who quit.

E: Brilliant.  And you said it was a bad recommendation.

E: Especially.  Hahahaha

E: The Mumbliest Wigger 2: The Crookedest Visor (a reference to Channing Tatum that we read on one time)

Me: Haha. This is the best back and forth text in awhile. I see you noted my ‘especially’ joke.  It’s even more funny as it is true.

E: Oh, duly noted.  Word choice is what separates us from the animals.

Me: Either they suck at wrapping burritos, or mine was half eaten :(.

Me: Potato Ole is an apt name because mine were a clean miss. Either they suck at frying or I accidentally ordered ice cream.

E: Fuck me running.  You hit the anomaly jackpot. No way BK would have screwed up that bad.  Heh.

Me; I didn’t even mention the hot wings I tried.  Because they are unmentionable.

E: I shit my unmentionables.

Me: That’s best left unmentioned.

E: Don’t mention it!

Me: !

So that was my dinner plans gone awry.  Don’t feel bad Taco Johns, if you read this.  I’ll still eat at you.  You are my favorite faux-Mexican joint.  Everyone has a bad day!  But that poor Blondie at the Till.  If she can’t hack it at Taco John’s I hope daddy can fix her up with a nice set of tits and new teeth, because if not, she is going to have a long and terrible life.

I swirled their faces so you can't tell who they are. You know, protect the innocent I guess.

On my way up Tuesday, I dropped off my car at our hometown mechanic’s.  Bert is one of the only guys I trust to work on my car.  He shares the same birthday as me, and a love for dirty jokes and sailor speak.  It’s a given that any day you go to Bert’s there is bound to be at least two old boys in there drinking his coffee and shooting the shit about all the pussy they used to get when they were young, or who died yesterday.  Consummate bull shit artists; all of them.  On this day, a guy named Pete was telling everyone how another guy with his same name died two towns over and people had already started calling to offer their condolences.  Even the dentist office called to offer their best, and to remind his estate that he had a $200 bill, and if someone could take care of that, it would be great.  Just goes to show that even if you die, your problems don’t, so up yours, future unborn kids of mine.  You are going to get stuck holding the bag, and I’ll be laughing all the way to the cemetery!  The worms are eating the profits!!!

"Moo, bitches."

The best part about Tuesday was how the local power company was doing work and kept killing the power so every time you took a piss or wanted to use power, nothing worked.  I spent the remainder of the day cutting down rogue mulberry trees and prepping for Wednesday.  Even with my new diet and somewhat working out, I was beat at the end of the day from dragging trees.  I tapped out at like ten.

Filling up the pup tank. It takes many of these.

Seriously, Blondie at the Till.  If your idea of customer service is to look me in the eye and tell me “I don’t understand this shit” then I wish someone would have held you more as a baby.

I slept like shit Tuesday and started Wednesday with another one of those shitty Herbalife shakes.  If I finish that at 9:00 I’m hungry by 8:59.  Wednesday I was done by 7:30 and out the door to get ready for the day.  While my brother Sam fed cattle, I got the rental loader around and moved some other equipment up to where we were grinding.

Here's me trying to make shadow animals with my hand. This is one is called Fatty With A Dog For An Arm.

To make silage way back in the last century, like 1984, we would use a chopper and go through and harvest the corn while it was still green.  Then you could put lime on it and pack it and it will ferment some and get a real molassesesque smell to it.  In the ’12s, though, corn is too damned expensive to chop, so after regular old harvest, you can windrow the trash (the stalk that’s left after combining) and roll it up into round bales.  Then you can grind up the cornstalk bales and incorporate a lime wash to it while you grind, and then pack the shit out of it into a pile.  This gives you basically the same product, but it’s almost like recycling.  You get two things out of one planting.  Plus, any bales you don’t use can be dual purposed at bedding.

My job during grinding was to use the skidloader to pull round bales that weighed about 1500 pounds off of a stack of bales three high, and drop them within reach of the crane that the grind man (named Joey) would use to put the bales in the tub.  There’s video below, so if this doesn’t make sense, it will.

Pallets of 50 pound bags of lime. One guy threw all these pallets by hand into the mixing tanks. Don't ever mess with that guy. He will break you.

Joey Grinds showed up at 9:30 and at 9:35 I put my first bale down and we were off.  While I brought the bales, Joey would grind them, and then the ground stalks would mix in the tub with the lime wash that Sam and Dad’s nutritionist would mix.  The stalks would exit the tub on a conveyor belt, and Dad would push the ground product up into a quasi-pit we built with bales. He would use the bulldozer for this.  Sam would help me at the beginning with the other skidloader, and then he ended up jumping around from spot to spot helping.  Meanwhile, a guy named Al (not my dad) was running back and forth to Co-op with the truck and tanker to get water.  It takes a shit load of water to do this job.  We had two 18 wheel trucks running full time, one with three big tanks on it and a tanker we borrowed from Greg’s dad.  We also had a tractor on a pup tank and our big tank that we keep by the well.

It's a trap!

The goal Joey Grinds shoots for is 25 ton per hour.  That’s about 50 bales.  For the first two hours, we were averaging about 40 ton per hour.  We broke at 12:30 for some Pizza Hut.  It was almost as good as my Taco Johns.  John the Nutritionist had been dumping 50 pound bags of lime into the tanks the whole time, and we had a long was to go.  I asked him if he goes home and lifts weights at the end of the day.  I don’t know why I’m such an asshole sometimes.  He was pretty good-natured about my jape, though, as most of these guys in the farm game are.  In 20 years they will all be at Bert’s, talking about all the pussy they used to get or about who died yesterday.

After lunch we rocked it out until about 4.  At 4, we temporarily ran out of water.  We were down for a half hour, and then when we went to fire back up, the little 5 horse pump broke the pull start rope, so we had to take another fifteen while Sam fixed that.  He’s pretty handy though.  The only other breakdown we had was when the rental loader I was bouncing around in ran out of fuel.  And before you try to give me shit it should be noted that the gauge said it was still half full, so suck a million.

Once the truck and tanker showed up again with water, we decided to just try to get it done, so we kept at it for another three hours.  By the time we wrapped up and got all the equipment put away it was about 8.  I felt bad for Joey Grinds as he had an hour drive to get back to his base.  I don’t think he cared too much, though.  He’s makin’ paper.

It takes a lot of water to make silage. Like ten of these.

When I woke up today (Thursday) I felt like someone had actually beaten me the day before.  I felt like Apollo’s face after Ivan Drago gives him the dirt nap.  First of all, we looked like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown when we got done grinding.  I wore a dust mask, and I can’t imagine how shitty I would have felt if I had forgotten my mask.  This morning, aside from feeling like a can of spray paint from bouncing around in the loader, I had some pretty awesome snot.  I know it’s kind of gross, but if you haven’t been around that type of dust, you don’t understand.  I wanted to take a picture of my Kleenex to show you but my camera is capable of capturing that shade of black.  The shower I took to loosen up my muscles and my lungs helped a little, but I was basically worthless today.  I took the big tractor with the duals up to the silage pile to pack it some more, and this afternoon I cut down a few more trees.  Once it started raining I was pretty much toast.  It was a hell of a three days.  I like going back because when me and Sam and our other brother Dan get together it’s jokes and jokes and jokes and jokes.  There’s times I miss the old days of farming and there’s times I think I would go back.  But then when I leave I’m glad to come back to my life.  I like to be able to say “Remember the time we ground 493 bales in one day?  And then that dumb Blondie at the Till quit while the line was out the door waiting to order?  In 20 years, that will be so much better to talk about than young puss and who died today while I shoot the shit with the old guys over at Bert’s, or Whoever’s.

~ by maxaverage on April 13, 2012.

7 Responses to “The Grind”

  1. […] I have even influenced others’ poor decisions, namely and recently suggesting that best-man Max go to Taco John’s instead of Burger King as “they’re less likely to mess up your order, and you’ll get more bang for your buck.” Well, he got his bang, but not in the intended way: He witnessed one clerk quit on the spot with seven customers in line, his burrito looked half-eaten, his Potato Oles were still mostly frozen, and his hot wings flew the coop. Read more about it here: […]


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