It was a long, drawn-out harvest season this year, with a seemingly endless string of 12-, 14- and 17-hour days.
As we were standing in the yard, doing some machinery maintenance one day, there was suddenly a loud break in the serenity. And, no, I'm not talking about an impact wrench or a pneumatic chisel being put to use. It was a vehicle coming down the road from the west. This was not just any vehicle, though. No, it was a vehicle driven by someone whose Midas Muffler punch card wasn't close to full. The loud roar from the oncoming unit was quite impressive. Without seeing it, we were all pretty confident it wouldn't be a Buick with a blue-haired lady behind the wheel and her seatbelt hanging out the bottom of the door. It would probably be some kid in something of the hopped-up variety.
Not to be outdone in the audio arena, the roar of the un-muffled muffler was quickly overshadowed by another vehicle with a distinctly whining sound.
My, my, my! Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we were about to have us a high-speed chase right here in our midst! Talk about your front-row seats!
Sure enough, an ATV went zipping by at an exceedingly high rate of speed and an exceedingly high decibel level. Not far behind it was a plain-Jane, half-ton Ford pickup with its siren wailing like mad. Off the top of my head, I can't say that I'd ever seen an undercover cop driving a vanilla pickup, and I was pretty sure most farmers didn't have cop-quality sirens in their trucks. Of course, the brief glimpse we had of the chase didn't really give me or anyone else enough time to thoroughly observe and memorize the truck. Maybe we missed a decal or something and it was Walker, Texas Ranger behind the wheel.
Nevertheless, the chase proceeded down the road to the east of us. Then, just as quickly as it began, it changed course. Johnny Lightning on the ATV decided to ditch the guy with the siren. His escape route of choice? Take a sharp right, drive down through the semi-steep ditch and then head out across MY HAYFIELD!
Interesting theory on Johnny's part. Seeing as how it's a large field (about 55 acres), he'd have plenty of real estate to cover to get away from The Heat, a.k.a. Chuck Norris. The field is shaped somewhat like the state of Nevada and it appears to extend well beyond the horizon. What Johnny Lightning didn't know was that the horizon actually has a fence just on the other side of it before you get to the timber. The other thing he didn't realize is that we have shortages of many things here in our operation, but field driveways are not on that list. Less than 50 yards away from Johnny's daring ditch maneuver was a driveway. Walker, Texas Ranger motored down the road the full 44 yards and then made a sharp right into the field.
That sort of changed the whole game. We'd gone from a narrow, defined field of play to more of a wide-open spaces kind of a thing. It was like switching from a slot car race from the 1970s to more of an air-hockey match. Keep in mind that Guy No. 1, The Chairman Emeritus and I were watching the whole thing from right across the road. We knew the layout of the course, and we had a pretty good idea how the game was going to end. The fun part was that the hayfield in question would be going to corn next season, so any damage to my hay would be of no consequence. More damage sort of meant more entertainment, as far as we were concerned. We were hoping maybe a demo derby of sorts would break out, or at least an episode of Destroyed in Seconds.
Sure enough, we were not disappointed. Johnny Lightning made a couple of attempts to outfox Chuck Norris by trying to zig when Chuck zagged. It was a valiant attempt, but fruitless.
In this Nevada-shaped field, there's a small corner similar to the area near Las Vegas. That area of Nevada has the Hoover Dam to contain the Colorado River on a daily basis. That area of my hayfield has an electric fence to contain my cows on a periodic basis. Johnny Lightning didn't stop to get his fence tester out first to see if the fence was hot. He decided to play the lottery and go through the fence. What Johnny didn't realize is that I've made fence for a while and have halfway figured out how to keep it tight when critters try to go through it on a regular basis. Sure, it's not a barbwire fence, but if you've ever seen a vet use a wire saw to remove horns or deliver a calf in pieces that had died during the birth process, you know how the concept of small wire and fast friction works. If you don't, let's just say . . . it does.
My fence rearranged Johnny's GPS coordinates. He apparently took a header over the front rack of his ATV when it met the fence. That pretty much sealed his fate in the getaway portion of the competition he was having with Chuck Norris. Chuck stayed with Johnny the whole time, because Chuck is no Barney Fife. In fact, I think he earned a great deal of respect from young Johnny during their escapade. Johnny finally came to a stop in the middle of the field, fully aware that getting away from Chuck Norris is not the same as eluding some town cop in a Dodge Diplomat.
By that time, they were far enough into the hayfield that we couldn't tell exactly what was going on, but I had my camera handy to document the outcome. I took the attached photo as soon as the dust settled, so to speak. No, Johnny Lightning is not standing there in a peaceful, respectful, contemplative manner, leaning forward, deep in thought. His hands are CUFFED behind his back.
We watched for a little while and didn't really see much else going on, so I decided to proceed with the afternoon's activities. I had a load of round bales on behind the Ranch Hand. They were to be delivered to a customer not far away. With the situation in the field apparently in check, I hopped in the Ranch Hand and embarked on my delivery. Just as I got in the cab and fired up the engine, Chuck Norris pulled into the driveway and parked to one side. I stopped to get out and chat with him to see what was up and whether he wanted me to retrieve the ATV from the field.
Chuck said someone would be there to pick it up. He and Johnny would just wait there in the driveway until the rest of the posse arrived. Chuck, as it turns out, is an Iowa Department of Natural Resources officer. Johnny got busted by a game warden. Not exactly an episode of NYPD Blue. More like The Rockford Files. Okay, maybe Reno911!
I got in the Ranch Hand and headed down the road. I didn't get very far when I looked in my mirror and saw a vaguely familiar sight. It was the Cresco Rural Fire Department's rescue vehicle. That's the same one they brought to my round baler fire last fall. I pulled into the nearby field driveway. (See? We got ‘em EVERYWHERE!) and got out of the cab to talk to the fire crew. They shot right past me and kept going south as I walked to the roadway. Not far behind them was a guy who was driving his Iowa State Patrol car. Looked to me like we were getting the full gamut of badges, lights and sirens that day.
I waved the officer down as he went by. He quickly threw it in Reverse and pulled up next to me on the shoulder. I asked if he was looking for a high-speed pursuit. He smiled broadly and sheepishly admitted he was. So then I told him to go back to the corner he just passed, take a right and go a half mile east. The suspect would be waiting for him at the end of the driveway in the back seat of Chuck Norris's truck.
The trooper thanked me kindly. I figured he would then either pull into my field driveway and turn around, or do a three-point turn on the extremely wide roadway and be on his way.
Nope and nope. With no engine revving, no dust, no spin-outs, and no tracks whatsoever, the guy made one smooth motion and did a complete one-eighty right in front of me like his Crown Vic was on some sort of Gravel Lazy Susan.
This guy and his car had the agility of the GuyNo2Mobile when it comes to turning around in tight spaces! For all of the times I had been to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy to help my sister teach a class to new recruits, I should have skipped the classroom part on eyewitness reports and stuck around for the offensive driving portion of the curriculum. Learning a maneuver like that would be worth it!
I proceeded to deliver my load of hay without incident. This was probably the second-best "pressed-for-time-because..." story I've ever had with a delivery. My best story was when I took a load to guy around 4:45 in the afternoon on February 23, 1999. I told him I needed to get going, because I had to be in Des Moines the next morning.
"Oh, for another Cattlemen's Association meeting?" he inquired.
"Uh, no. I need to be at the hospital at 5:30 tomorrow morning. Gonna have brain surgery."
That sort of captures a person's attention and pretty much gives you the floor for discussion. I told him it wasn't as bad as it sounded, and he'd be able to watch it himself, because the whole thing would be on KWWL in another week or so.
So that's why rolling into a yard and announcing, "I'da been here sooner, but there was this high-speed chase...." sort of comes in second behind "Gotta go have televised brain surgery."
In my world, it's all just another day at the office.
Once I got back home, I noticed that Johnny Lightning's chariot was still parked in the field. Chuck Norris and the state trooper had gone out to the scene to inspect things. They had Guy No. 1 go with them to get an idea of what things were supposed to look like before all the commotion. Sort of a victim impact statement, I guess. They looked at the electric fence and asked, "Was it hot when he went through it?"
Guy No. 1 informed them that it was not juiced. They seemed a little disappointed.
I made some calls and did some research that night and the next day. Turns out that Johnny Lightning is very, very familiar with Lady Justice. They've been going steady for years. If you look up "recidivist" in the dictionary, you will see Johnny's picture. Look up the word in a thesaurus and he's pictured there, too.
I'll admit it. I slept a little better that night knowing that an officer like Chuck Norris is in charge of protecting the deer, turkeys and trout in my area. I'll also have way more respect for wimpy little Plain-Jane half-ton trucks, too, especially if Chuck Norris is behind the wheel.
Why? Because Chuck Norris once ordered a Big Mac at a Burger King…and got one.
Guy No. 2