I clicked off mile after mile up the familiar I-44. Before I would arrive at our terminal, I just had to make one stop. My fleet manager landed me a load to bring in to put my truck in the shop. Rather than deadheading from Oklahoma, I would now be paid for the miles.
I called ahead to the shipper because my loading appointment was not until five in the afternoon. I would need a place to park my truck for eight hours before I would have enough drive time to get into the terminal. The shipper said they were a farm so parking would be no problem. I could stay as long as I needed to.
I left the modern road behind and climbed the roller coaster hills into the farm country of southern Missouri. Two turns and I arrived at—a FARMHOUSE? Surely, the GPS was incorrect.
Just as I was about to keep going, three men began waving happily at me so I pulled into the driveway. Within seconds Abraham, Isaac and Jacob greeted me as if I was their long lost friend. Unlike the two younger men, Abraham wore a long beard. All three donned leather hats and old fashioned button-down breeches.
I had just stepped back in time!
Abraham told me they would not be able to load me before my appointment because, well, they had not picked the kale yet. He asked me to turn my truck around and I could just stay right there until they were ready to load.
Hours went by but I didn’t notice. I was fascinated by this incredible Mennonite family in Missouri. They were quiet, respectful, and very hard workers. Men, women and children began to arrive in cars. Before long there was an army of workers ready for work in the fields.
All the men wore button down breeches and leather hats. The women wore skirts to their ankles, jackets and bonnets. The children were miniature versions of their parents. Each of them waved at me as they pulled in. Their smiles were infectious!
Within moments, the troop entered the fields and began to pick the valuable commodity. The little ones carried the kale in cloth shoulder bags to a washing station just outside the house. The women washed the greens and placed the clean product in boxes. Other children took box after box to a trailer. The young men prepared the boxes onto pallets inside that trailer and slid the pallets by hand to one side of the trailer. No one broke a speed record. It was slow and methodical and yet, strangely effective. I watched in awe at this completely manual process was getting the job done.
About four in the afternoon, Isaac asked me to open the doors of my precooled trailer so they could load. The only modern part of this entire process was a fork life. Interestingly, it never went into the back of my truck. It stayed on the rocky ground of the farm. They had no dock for me to back up to. Getting the machine into my truck was an impossibility.
Loading my truck was a two-man job. One slid a pallet to the edge of the preparation trailer to be picked up by the fork lift. He then jumped out of the trailer, and climbed into mine. The forklift carried the pallets to my truck and lifted them inside. The other worker then slid the pallets by hand to the front of my trailer. This process was repeated fifteen times until all the pallets were loaded. Kale is super light and even a pallet full, it can easily be moved without the use of lifting equipment.
As Abraham prepared the paperwork for me, I marveled that my truck could be loaded by hand in a completely manual process more quickly than most modern shippers can load it with all the best equipment.
Abraham shook my hand and asked if there was any way I would be the one to come back for future loads. I would have loved that but I had a feeling it might not happen. He assured me that I would not be disturbed in their driveway and again told me to stay as long as I wished.
Cars loaded with Mennonite workers disappeared the same way they had arrived, waving and smiling at me like we were BFF’s. My heart soared at this part of America and this family who remains untouched by our ultra-modern, super-techno charged way of life.
I stayed another three hours to get time back then left the Mennonite farm behind, my life enriched by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their families and a culture that, despite all the modern conveniences available, choose to live a simple lifestyle.
The heartbeat of yesterday’s America is still alive in southern Missouri!