Mountain Outlaw magazine: Two Thousand Miles
By Jon Tester
They’re two worlds apart, Big Sandy, Montana, and Washington, D.C. One’s home, the other’s not. But a farmer’s mind is always on the farm no matter how many miles separate him from his crop.
It’s a Wednesday night in D.C. I get to bed around midnight knowing that I’m heading back home after votes tomorrow afternoon.
But I can’t sleep.
They’re predicting a storm in Big Sandy on Saturday, meaning I’ll only have Friday to finish planting peas and get 200 acres of wheat planted before I’m done with spring seeding. Fortunately, my wife Sharla has
been planting all week, so I’ll only need one more day to get all the seed in the ground. But with my busy Senate schedule, days on the farm are hard to come by.
It’s not the weather forecast that’s keeping me awake though. There’s enough light shining in from the street that I can make out every object in the room. I hear police sirens in the distance.
The noise is constant in this city. Somehow I manage to fall asleep.
On Thursday, I wake up early and put in a busy day in the Senate meeting with four groups from Montana, rushing to the floor to vote, hearing testimony in a committee. I barely make my flight back home.
My truck is sitting in the airport parking lot when I land in Great Falls. I get in, drive off and get to the farm in an hour. After washing up, I crawl into bed and close my eyes.
There’s no noise. When I turn my head toward the window, stars offer the only light I see.
I wake up before the sun does, get dressed, drink a cup of coffee, and put on a baseball cap so faded you can’t make out the team’s name.
When the sun comes up there’s a light dusting of snow on the ground, about a tenth of an inch.
One of the bearings is out on the packer wheel. That’s four hours down the tube.
After smashing a couple fingers replacing the bearing, I’m driving the tractor.
I make long, wide passes over bare earth. I can see the Sweet Grass Hills in the distance over 80 miles away. That’s almost to Canada. I look to the east and see a small herd of antelope standing still. I listen to the low groan of the tractor motor.
Being on the farm rejuvenates me. It’s the open space, the quiet, and the physically demanding work. It’s getting my hands dirty and a little beat up.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester hails from Big Sandy, Montana. He and Sharla still farm the land his grandparents homesteaded in 1912. He was elected to the United States Senate in 2006, and reelected in 2012.
This story was first published in the summer 2015 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.