"Attack of the Crop Dusters" March 05 2016

Crop Report 2016 - Part II

Nothing disturbed the still air except for the raucous cries of a pack of magpies engaged in their morning disputations over in the neighbor’s horse pasture.

Standing at the edge of the garden I was studying the upper field about one hundred yards away, trying to figure out what they had planted. The sterile dirt stretched almost to the horizon dissected by several giant pivots parked silently awaiting the coming irrigation season. Green splotches were beginning to poke through the brown dirt and I knew the spring wheat was way up already so it must be potatoes. Yep - potatoes on a vast scale.

I looked back at my friend’s sketchy little garden plot with a remarkable growth of last year’s dead thistles that had gone to seed and were already sprouting. That didn’t look very auspicious but it sure was a nice day. The gleaming ranges in the distance had not begun to disgorge the bulk of their snow but the run-off was coming soon.

I was there to advise my friend who had just moved out of town to the outskirts on the other side of the river – the agricultural land just beyond the river and the housing developments that were poised to jump across with the next building season. The descendants of one of the area’s old ranching families had cashed out, sold most of their land and built a small cluster of rental units near the old ranch house, front-running the encroaching developers. Fields under cultivation stretched in all directions.

A distant droning crept into the periphery of my silent ruminations as I stood on the western boundary of the garden plot. It grew into the low-pitched throb of an engine. There it was. I could just make it out – an aircraft approaching from the north at 3 o’clock and 400 feet high down the middle of the big potato field.

A low-winged craft with a funny-perched cockpit roared past with a pronounced Doppler-shift. It banked sharp left, slid into a shallow dive doing a complete 360 and came back 10 feet off the deck spraying a thick mist from the nozzles on both wings. He sailed past about 100 yards away, pulled up over the pivot and climbed out at full throttle. As he turned to make another pass I stood there admiring the flying but high-tailed it out of there as the billowing cloud of pesticide expanded to envelope everything within its reach.

While quickly ex-filtrating the area, I was again reminded why I got out of organic chemistry back there in those tender years of innocence. Now I knew that most pesticides are 1st and 2nd cousins to nerve gas. It just takes a little longer to kill ya and I needed a few more years to take care of business.

I jumped in the truck laughing at how it sounded not unlike a Messerschmitt 109G and thinking how that duster-driver was pretty good. I’ve known a few of ‘em. Back in the old barn-storming days the best ones even survived those low hanging power lines for a while.

I rummaged around in the cargo container for the ebola kit – opened it and found what I was looking for. I placed the gas mask on the front seat and headed back into town with a grin on my face with the recollection of another lifetime down south, flying upside down underneath those muddy-water bridges.

(From back in the day - vintage Stearman crop duster)

Crossing the river I turned left to take a back road into town avoiding the crush of traffic that plagued the main route.

Gettin more like Colorado every day -  Aspen, Vail, Steamboat – gone forever. Heck, Jackson used to be jest’a a cowboy town. Since they built the jetport it’s more like Chicago – all kinds of people pouring in throwing money at the land and driving the locals into trailer parks. Now it’s happening here. Yuppieville U.S.A.. Call it Narrissticum Materialisticum. Trophy wives in trophy houses with perfect glyphosated lawns - the stench of that grasping consciousness makes me want to puke right here under the Big Sky of Montana.

Snapping back to the two lane road and the lumber truck ahead, there were still some hold-out farms and ranches scattered between the subdivisions.

Looks like this old boy on the left has way too many cows in that little pasture. The one on the right is into barley again and the one after those new condos is probably going to do that Pioneer GMO corn for his dairy herd.

I glanced in the side mirror and noted the concrete truck closing in impatiently on my back bumper. The lumber truck ahead suddenly slowed and then accelerated with a belch of black diesel smoke. I strained to see around him and there it was.

Play the video below for full effect:

My old friend or his duster buddy was making a run on that Round-up-Ready corn field. 10 feet over the deck, nozzles wide open, laying down a thick blanket right on target. Approaching the road ahead, he cut off the sprayer with perfect timing and skillfully pulled up and climbed out and over the road in front of the lumber truck. The truck driver was momentarily taken aback and had initially hit the brakes and then the accelerator as the plane cleared the road. Unfortunately, there was a slight wind from the north and the cloud of glyphosate/herbicide/pesticide, or whatever it was, continued to billow toward the road.

Decision time! With the concrete truck breathing down my neck stopping was not an option and no fumbling for the gas mask. I punched the gas pedal, shut the window and plowed right through with the accompaniment of wonderful Messerschmitt Doppler effects once again.

Play the video below for full effect:


Coming out the other side, I flipped on the wipers to clear the windshield and headed over to the do-it-your-self carwash. I had a rendezvous with Chief at the community garden and I could not be late.

To be continued...




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