Farm Industry News Blog

Step right up, up and away!

Iowa farmer Jeff Ryan takes a well-planned summer break to take an adventure of a lifetime in a tiny plane in Alaska.

That was especially true when we were on our way to Denali National Park. We decided to take a detour and see what was happening in Talkeetna. It was a few miles off the main road, but The Chairman spoke highly of it. Talkeetna was where a former employee of ours used to work. Dennis grew up around Cresco and helped us bale hay before I was born. We were big-time cheeseheads back then, so we'd make ten to fifteen thousand little square bales of hay to feed the dairy cows. Dennis and Guy No. 1 would usually be in the hay mow stacking bales. Even though I never met him, the Dennis story I always remembered was when he misjudged distance and ended up falling out of the hay mow onto the barn floor below. You'd always stack your bales in such a way that you'd build a small opening in the center of the stack. There was a hole in the floor where bales could then be tossed down and carried to the cows nearby. The key was to build your stack in such a way that it was square as you kept adding layers of bales as you filled the barn. Nothing is worse than having to carry bales all the way across the hay mow and then all the way across the barn again to feed them. Get yourself one of those Wile E. Coyote Acme Build-A-Holes in the center and you'd be all set. 

Key point here: Don't forget where the hole is as you're carrying bales up there in the mow. If you do, next thing you know, you're pulling a couple G's on your way to the chaff pile below. Dennis knew all about physics and acceleration after that. Surprisingly, he wasn't hurt at all. I would liked to have been there just to see if there was that moment where he was frozen in space and looked down before he began his descent with sound effects, just like Wile E. Coyote. Since I never saw him and had no proof he actually survived, I always wondered if Dennis actually died and they were just telling me he moved away to soften the story for me. All I know is that I left a lot of space between me and The Bale Chute of Death when I was in the mow. 

Dennis supposedly moved to Alaska and became a bush pilot. He'd fly all kinds of people and cargo into remote areas of Alaska. My folks went with him one time and got to see a bunch of country from the air. You can never know too many people. 

Seeing as how I buy most of my clothes from Omar's For The Obese & Gangly Gentleman, we decided to rent a 31-ft. motorhome for our trip. That one came with a queen-sized bed, thereby allowing me to comfortably fit my outsized carcass into bed each night. The 31-footer was a bit of a whale to move around, be it on the road or in parking lots. That became exceedingly obvious in a tiny little town like Talkeetna. We had chosen to visit when they were having some kind of festival. Talkeetna reminded me a lot of nearby Decorah, Iowa. It was a town with a left-of-center feel and a professional opposition class who spends the majority of their time aggressively against something. Nothing in particular, but if you could be against anything, you'd easily find people to join your cause in no time flat. I believe the Talkeetna contingent was opposing a proposed development.     

I dropped my party off for lunch at a bistro downtown while I took Shamu a significant distance away to park. By the time I got back, they were all ready to eat. Our server showed up and took my order after that. The special was a grilled Halibut fish sandwich with Cajun mayo and a side of clam chowder. I was kind of looking forward to it, but it was taking forever. My chowder finally arrived and was outstanding. Then the wait began for the sandwich. Our young server had disappeared. When she finally stopped by again, I quickly discovered that she completely forgot the sandwich portion of my special. My free time had been spent watching the speed at which food wasn't really moving out of the kitchen, so I had a pretty good idea of how soon my meal would be meeting up with me. That's when I decided to skip the rest of the meal and call this a done deal. Since everyone else was done and ready to go, I'd have to hit the road for the hike back to Shamu and then figure out a way to get it back to the other end of town and get it turned around to pick up my party and blow this town. My niece, Sara, decided she'd go with me. She probably wanted to see how I'd get it done without her learning some new words she shouldn't repeat in front of her mother.

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The Farm Industry News Blog features commentary from Willie Vogt, Daryl Bridenbaugh and Jeff Ryan.

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