Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sugar Mountain, Week Two

Twelve days in, the sugar-beet campaign drags on. Today is our third consecutive day off, due to heat shutdowns--the super-sensitive beets can't be pulled above 65 degrees, and the weather here has been in the absurdly unseasonable mid-80s. So we've been lounging around Welles Memorial Park, working on our October suntans, drinking heavily, entertaining visitors. As Wahpeton's resident freaks, we play host to a variety of gawking locals. Some just blow through in their pickup trucks, kicking up clouds of vaguely insulting dust. Others come to hang out. There's Clyde, who comes by with bottles of home-brewed apple cider; Terry, a self-professed "wild woman" who works at one of Minn-Dak's weigh stations--she comes by and sits around the fire, packing bowls and bragging of her days as a lot-lizard ("Back then, they called us commercial beavers," she confides, to everyone's amusement); there are a couple of 13 year-old kids who roll through on their dirt-bikes, trying to hang tough--they claim to know where to get K2, a synthetic cannabinoid made illegal just this year in North Dakota, but betray their innocence in a thousand little ways. "You guys sure have used a lot of beer," one of the boys comments, taking in the spread of empties. Indeed we have, and the beer usage shows no signs of abating.

Then there are our latest visitors, a gaggle of punks who are working the sugar-beet harvest at Renville, in southern Minnesota. I wouldn't go so far as to call them rival beet-harvesters, but they are definitely a different brand. Renville is known for being uber-punk; they enjoy none of the bourgeois luxuries (shelter, electricity, running  water) that we have here in Wahpeton. In Renville, they just camp out in the middle of a cornfield, in a small copse of trees, amid their own piss and shit. Stories of their drug-fueled exploits abound. Their visit to Wahpeton is a purportedly peaceful one, but they do roll up kind of hard. "So," one of their guys says to one of our guys, with a slight sneer; "I heard there were some punks around here." Another guy kicks over a garbage can. Despite the patent absurdity of an inter-campaign rivalry, it's hard to hold it against them--they're having the same heat shutdowns over in Renville, and are just as bored; might as well come over to Wahpeton and stir up some shit. 

But despite the enforced idleness, it's hard to complain. It's Indian Summer here, we've got a great, diverse crew--punks, metalheads, skaters, potheads, a couple of tuba players, a former youtube sensation, and some very sweet and friendly dogs--and everybody just got paid. The life of a migrant agricultural worker needn't be all dust, privation and Grapes-of-Wrath-style suffering; morale here remains high--there was even a dance party last night, though I confess to having slept through it. And the weather is looking good for this next week, beet-wise; soon enough we'll be back on the pilers, earning those good Minn-Dak wages.

No comments :

Post a Comment