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Soybean Dust


Sun, Oct 8th, 2000
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Monday, October 9, 2000

My family and I went on a short shopping trip last Saturday. It turned out all right despite having to go into stores and having to buy things. Our almost-sixteen-year-old son tried on navy blue blazers in several stores. He seemed uncharacteristically clumsy as he tried them on because they didnít slip on over his head like a T-shirt. It was such formal attire that he looked like someone elseís kid when he had them on. He gave new meaning to the phrase "it fits like a saddle on a sow". When we finally found a jacket that fit, it seemed to settle in on him and he made it look good.

After shopping, we went to visit my wifeís parents. We noticed a combine working in a soybean field next to the four-lane highway about two blocks from her parentsí house. A strong south wind was blowing the soybean dust across the highway and into town. We remarked on how the city dwellers probably did not like the soybean dust blowing into their yards and houses.

We stayed for supper and chatted until well after dark. When we came out of the house to go home, the air was filled with soybean dust and chaff. It was almost like snowflakes. A thin layer of soybean dust covered the car. The dry, sweet smell of soybeans permeated the air. I got in the car, sneezed a couple times, and thus transported myself back in time about forty years.

My family didnít raise many soybeans then, just enough to be troublesome. There was little extra land for soybeans because we needed oats, alfalfa, and corn to feed the livestock. On the few acres of soybeans we did raise, we spent most of our time on weed control. We made sure we worked the ground late in the spring and then planted the soybeans late to give the weeds a chance to grow, only to be destroyed when we worked the ground for the last time. I hated cultivating soybeans with the old Farmall "H". It seemed that many a snail might have outpaced me as I drove slowly down the rows, trying to avoid burying the tender soybean plants. At the height of summer, my grandfather made it a point to spend what would otherwise have been his spare time hoeing thistles out of the soybeans. The soybeans would have been a mess without him.

Maybe that is why, on a crisp fall evening with the smell of soybean dust in the air, I can see my grandfather in my memory as he worked on the soybean harvest. We stored our soybeans in an old granary a half-mile away from our house. The walls of the old granary were inch-thick tongue-and-groove boards into which many a rat and mouse had chewed perfectly round holes. One of the pre-harvest jobs my grandfather oversaw was to have us cover each of those holes with small squares of steel cut from old license plates. We plugged every hole and swept the bins clean.

Getting the soybeans up into the granary required the use of an elevator. We had to be careful to not overload it. The slippery round soybeans seemed eager to make a run for it over the tops of the flighting or over the sides if the elevator was overloaded. If the elevator ran too fast, the flights threw the soybeans out the end of the elevator at the top. If it ran too slow, the soybeans piled up in the hopper and overflowed to the ground.

My grandfather did not like soybeans on the ground. He worked hard all summer to get the soybeans this far and he was determined to get every soybean in the bin. When each wagon was empty, he got down on his knees and used his hands to scoop the fallen soybeans into a basket. Just as he worked to hoe every last weed during the summer, he tried to harvest every last soybean in the fall.

Soybean dust never even made me sneeze when I was a kid. Now it makes me sneeze and it makes me remember. That soybean dust is powerful stuff.

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