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Horrible Harvests

The Savings Bank of Mendocino County published Rainfall amounts on a small card several years ago. I look at this card often due to a long rainy winter this year. The total amounts are high but I cannot remember having so much rain so late in the year. This becomes a problem for grape growers. The vines are ready to bud out, but the soils are cold and wet. The growing season may be delayed.

Growers always think of harvest. That is the payday for an entire year’s work. I have lived thru 47 harvests. The one I remember was the year of 1957.R ain started on the 17th of September. Just a small amount at first. Harvest had not started so I did not put a large amount of concern to it. Then the rain continued. As the days got shorter the soils did not dry out. Back in 1957 we still picked in boxes and dumped them directly into a gondolas on the back of a truck driven down an allyway in the vineyard.

The ranch truck was a 1947 Dodge. I loved that truck. I could put 6 tons of grapes on it and drive right down Highway 101 from Hopland to Asti. The grape tank was hinged so when one side was lifted at the crush hopper most if not all of the grapes would just slide out.

Towards the end of September we managed to get one truckload of grapes picked all day in light rain. I parked the truck in the barn overnight. The next morning in still more rain I carefully drove down to Asti to deliver the load of grapes. I think that many growers did exactly what I did but finally we got unloaded.

The roads were wet and I drove slowly. Old 101 ran right thru Cloverdale. Just south of town the road ran down a small incline. I looked and saw a line of vehicles stopped. I brought my little flatbed to a stop. And then bang. I was hit from the back. Pushed into the car in front of me, that hit another vehicle. I was hit so hard it broke the bed loose from the frame and I could not open the doors. I had to crawl out of the driver’s side window.

I was rear ended by a big empty lumber truck and trailer. He came over the incline and just slid right into me. My back and neck hurt. I was wet from the rain. And my truck was broken. How were we going to get the rest of the grapes to the winery?

The truck was one problem. In 1957 continuing rain was another problem. We had to pick the rest of the crop in boxes, load the boxes onto a sled pulled by our international TD6 tractor. Then we dumped the grapes by hand into a friend’s truck. We picked around rain storms and finally finished in late October.

Thank god for the old TD6 tractor.

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