The summer of 1994 holds a special place in my heart for two main reasons. The first being it marked my transition from chauffeured adolescent to freedom swinging 16-year-old and partial owner of a 1987 Pontiac Grand Am. The second served as a prerequisite to preserving my newfound liberties, which required me finding my first summer job. I immediately shopped my extensive field skills, or lack thereof, to my dad who managed a grain elevator in Clarks Grove, Minn. He warned me the work for a hired summer hand was often physically demanding, dirty, and tedious. I assured him I was more than up to the task fearing nothing in the form of hard labor. Clearly, I was blinded by the potential for a rock-star tan and bulging biceps, all of which would be welcome additions to my lady chasing Grand Am.
My first day came and I was told to clean-up some old tarps in an empty grain bunker. That sounded easy enough until my supervisor told me I might see a few mice. Mice? Apparently, I had missed the fine print regarding mice. Even as a kid I recalled being the only one in my neighborhood who actually cheered for the cat to catch the mouse in the cartoon Tom and Jerry. I hated mice. However, I could do this. I was 16 and tough as nails. I approached the mission will no less precision and strategy than Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant applied when taking Vicksburg during the Civil War in 1863. After identifying all high probability rodent holding cells and viable escape routes, I entered the grain bunker armed with a pocket-knife, shovel and Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” blaring into my headset. As I reached down to roll up the first tarp, which was covered partially in water and old musty corn, it happened. A wave of mice stormed out from underneath. There must have been at least a 100, maybe even 200. Operation Tarp Removal had been shelved and now it was all about living to fight another day. What did I do? What any Godfearing, city kid would do who still wasn’t opposed to the bathroom light being on at night after going to bed.
I RAN… like Forest Gump. At that moment, it was every man, woman, and child for him or herself. Clearly, this was no time to be heroic. There was a gravel road adjacent to the elevator. I was nearly 3/4 of a mile down the road before my co-worker, Darryl, pulled up alongside of me in his pick-up truck. He asked me where I was going. I told him I was just stretching my legs before lunch. Unbeknownst to me he had witnessed the whole thing. He informed me the three mice (just slightly below my initial estimates) had retreated to a nearby field and it was safe to come back to work. To this day I remain a strong proponent of the death penalty for all cheese eating rodents with long tails and beady little eyes.
However, it wasn’t all bad that summer working at the elevator. I ended up being in excellent cardio-vascular shape heading into football camp that August, and also managed to achieve my original objective, keeping my new, hot ride fully fueled for the next 9 months.
Marcus Ludtke graduated from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn., in 2001 and started working for POET Risk Management in May of that year. His primary responsibilities include managing POET’s corn position and market research.