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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Just a Travelin’ Man…

Werkhoven Dairy“Hey, where you been, stranger?” a gruff voice says as a white SUV pulls alongside me at the intersection of the Lower Loop Road and Tualco. Stranger indeed. The last time I heard from Jim Werkhoven was back in April when he sent me an email responding to one I sent informing him I left a couple jars of Valley honey on the picnic table at his place. The honey was an exchange for the digester by-product I use to supplement my asparagus patch. In my email I told Jim I rapped on the backdoor a couple of times, rang the bell, but nobody answered, so I left the two jars on their table in the breezeway. “Thanks,” Jim replied: “Dolores and I are in D.C. then on to Chicago. Be home on the 1st.” D.C.—Jim made it sound so matter-of-fact, as if “D.C” were Jim’s second home and he were a politician—Senator Werkhoven--although I doubt Washington could handle more than one Senator Jim from Washington State.

I’m surprised at the white SUV: Jim usually flies around the Valley in the red pickup truck with “4 X 4” emblazoned on its side panels. “Yeah, I’m using the wife’s old rig,” Jim chuckles. “How goes the dairy business?” I ask. It’s busier than ever, I’m told. I’m curious about the Werkhovens’  increased acreage in grass as I’ve noticed some of the old cornfields are now sprouting some variety of nice looking pasture grass instead of cornstalks. “We’ve got a soil deficiency,” Jim tells me. “Over time the grass will restore the balance. Actually, you get more nutrition per acre from grass than corn.” Jim tells me the cut grass cures faster than corn silage, therefore can be fed sooner. I learn the dairy operation is putting more acreage into grass. Currently about one-third of the Dairy’s acreage is planted with that crop. “Is that your grass down by the Sky River Bridge?” “Yeah, that’s ours, too.” In my recent visits to the Valley I’ve marveled at those acres of grass, lush, dark green blades that ripple in the Valley breeze. Wishful thinking it is that my lawn looked like that carpet. I ask about the variety of grass in the fields. “Oh, it’s some sort of Italian grass,” Jim replies. (Italian? Not Kentucky? And not American?)acres of grass

I ask Jim if he found the honey I left. “You know,” he nods and exclaims by way of apology, “I’ve been all over the place…Thailand, D.C. a couple of times, Chicago. I have to make a trip to Idaho the next couple of days. Then Portland….”  Jim beams proudly and says, “My airline has raised me to Gold status. I don’t know what that means, but  now I’m Gold.” I hesitate to tell him that gold prices have plummeted to half of what they were this time last year. (“Plummeted?” Perhaps not the best term to use in the context of air travel.)

Just then Jim’s shirt pocket summoned him. If you’ll recall The Ripple’s interview with Jim, (“Finish Your Food for Thought…Then You May Be Excused, 1/26/2012), much of the Werkhoven Dairy business is conducted from the handheld device ever present in Jim’s shirt pocket.That pocket is Command Central, Houston Control Center, The War Room:…whatever you call it, Jim’s shirt pocket is the nerve center of  the Werkhoven dairy dynasty. “I gotta take this,” Jim says as he  fishes the device  from his shirt. Hank Van Ness is on the other end. Hank needs a ride to a piece of farm equipment he has to move from someplace to somewhere. “I’m heading your way,”Jim returns, “I’ll give you a lift.” Jim turns to me and says,“I’d better get goin’,” and abruptly our five minute conversation ends. The white SUV rolls away to scoop up Hank, then on to town, then on to wherever…a travelin’ man with places to go and places to be and hardly enough time to get around to all of them.

Gladys and I, on the other hand, have  our own travels…at a much slower pace…no other destination but home…no particular rush to get there…just hope we do. As we roll along, I think of Jim and his shirt pocket, (which, I’m sure, goes with him everywhere) and imagine it begging his attention sometime in the future. Whatever his present company then, Jim will stop and say,”I need to take this.” I imagine the caller on the other end and Jim’s reply: “I’d like to give you a lift, Hank, but right now I’m in Bangkok.”cow food

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