Pioneer Potluck: The continued story of Sugar Beets

The continued story of Sugar Beets


I cannot remember what year this was, but Dad needed help in his beet fields again.  Somehow Jamaicans right from Jamaica took the place of the German Prisoners of War. They were housed in the CCC camps. This must have been a right after the World War II ended, in the late 1940’s.

The sugar beet business was a very labor intense.  First the field was plowed, disked and harrowed.  After the war, Dad purchased a John Deere tractor in place of the horses.   Then the field was planted with a beet planter pulled by the tractor. Each beet row had to have a ditch beside it as the beets were irrigated up by water running down each little ditch.  Dad walked each rows with his shovel slung over his shoulder all through the beet season. 

I can remember how tired he was in his big rubber boots, getting up at three in the morning to tend to the water.  He’d come in for breakfast, take a short nap and go back out and check to see if each little ditch had water running through them. He made little rows from the larger irrigation ditch that brought in the water from the headwaters of Horsetooth Reservoir.  Big tunnels were dug from Granby Lake to the funnel the irrigation water to Horsetooth and to farmers in our area.   Dad and Victor Acken were “ditch riders” – but that is a story all in its self!

The Jamaicans arrived in trucks with benches in each of the trucks.  We knew they minute they were coming down the road and over the hill, because we could hear them singing.  OH! what beautiful and fascination music.  I had never heard anything like that in my little sheltered part of the world.  What wonderful rhythm from such happy people.  They would jump effortlessly out of the truck, dance a little jig, shake Dads hand and listen to what he had lined up for them.  They would happily go out to the hot, dry, dusty beet field. Then bent over from the waist, pick the weeds and thinned beets, jamming them in their left hand until the hand was full, carefully laying a little pile in Dad’s irrigation row.  They did this from morning until night, hardly ever breaking stride or standing up!!  The stacks of weeds and thinned beets looked like little haystacks up and down the rows.  

Try as Dad could, explaining to them, please do not mound up the weeds and thinned beets in the row, put them in this sack I am giving you. He could not irrigate with those stacks in the row! They would lay the sack down at the end of the row and continue to put the little stack in the irrigation ditch.  Then Dad, John and me would go out and pick up on the little piles. That was lots of work after all the other work on the farm, so Dad came upon a solution.  At the end of each day, when they finished thinning and weeding, he would send them back out to the field to pick up the little stacks with the sack they had laid at the end of the row.  They happily complied, singing and laughing stooped over at the waist.  Dad loved being around these long legged, tall, happy people.  He began to talk “their language” until Mom put a stop to it,  “John, for heaven’s sake!”

They came back in the fall and topped the beets with sharp machetes, (beet knives), with the big hook on the end.  Dad would dig up the beets with a digger, pulled by his brand new John Deere tractor.  Then the beets would be grabbed with the knife, with the hook on the end, the beet laid across your leg and then whacked to take the leafy tops off.  Beet topping was back breaking work and sometimes dangerous.  Every year, some one (usually me) hooked the beet hook into the leg, thigh, knee or hand.  I was not fast or good at beet topping, but I wanted to help. Dad was quick and prided himself in how he could hook, chop and throw the beets into a pile, hook another with breaking stride.  But the Jamaicans had the upper hand, as they were fast, quick and happy, singing their way through each row. 

That was not the end of the handling of the beets.  Dad shoveled them into his big farm truck, with sideboards.  Then we would climb in beside Dad in the truck and go off to the beet dump, a weigh station alongside the railroad tracks, about five miles from the farm.  The truck was weighed with the beets in it, driven up a ramp, the gate of the truck box removed, and the beets would fall onto a conveyor belt.  They would go up the belt and get shook, to get the dirt off.  The beets would fall in the rail car and then Dad would drive to the other end of the belt and the “tare” (the left over dirt) would fall back into the truck, reweighed and then he would collect his beet ticket.  He would talk to some of his farmer friends and off we would go to get another load.

AND that’s NOT All: In the fall, Dad would take that same truck, night after night and get beet pulp, a smelly, sticky, dripping, gray mess of left over beet pulp, after the sugar was extracted.  He would drive the truck up next to the cattle feed trough, one of us kids, would guide the truck along the feed lot while Dad shoveled the stinky beet pulp into the trough for the cows to eat.  They loved it. I can still smell it!!  We always had to take our clothes off on the porch during beet season, as we were dirty, muddy or stinky or all three.  

Later Dad purchased a beet loader, that picked up the beets and rolled them into the truck.  Several other beet machinery was invented and purchased.  Dad won a certificate for “High Ten Beet Producer” in 1947 and 1949.  He was very proud of the award.

Dad raised beets until it was not profitable and others in the farming community to raise beets, so the sugar factory was closed and torn down. Great Western sugar Company was a very large block long brick building that housed all the equipment for making beet sugar.  After it was torn down, the bricks were sold to various people in the area for building material.

The End of The Beet Story!


Curried Seafood Salad

3/4 pound shrimp in shells or buy1/2 pound cooked shelled shrimp
1/2 cup tarragon vinegar
1 tblsp honey
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
5 cups torn lettuce
3 cups torn spinach
1 cup celery - sliced
1/2 cucumber - sliced
8 oz crabmeat
1/4 cup toasted coconut
1/4 cup slivered almonds toasted
1/4 cup raisins (optional)

Cook shrimp in lightly salted boiling water until pink.  Drain and cool.  Carefully remove shells and de-vein. For dressing: in a blender, combine vinegar, honey and curry.  Cover and blend 5 seconds.  Through opening in lid, with blender on slow, gradually add oil in thin stream. Stop blender to scrap sides and mix.  Cover and chill.

On a large serving platter, combine lettuce, spinach, celery, cucumber, shrimp and crabmeat.  Pour dressing over mixture.   Garnish with coconut and almonds and (optional) raisins. Serves 6.


Chicken Mushroom Stroganoff

Fast and easy to fix. Serve this over buttered noodles.

Cook and drain noodles as directed – butter with 1 cube butter – keep warm

In a large pot melt:
2 tblsp butter

2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup sliced onions
1/2  cup carrots sliced
1/4 cup green pepper sliced (optional)
Cook until tender

2 cups of cooked chicken (use rotisserie chicken from store)
1 12 oz cream of chicken soup
2 cans chicken broth
1/2 tea pepper
1/4 tea nutmeg

Bring to boil and stir in:
1 more can of cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
Salt if needed.

Heat through-do not boil.  Serve on top of buttered noodles.
Sprinkle with chopped green onions and black pepper.


Broccoli with Lemon Garlic Sauce

1/2 cup olive oil
The zest of one lemon
1 tblsp lemon juice
1 tblsp minced garlic
in microwave 20 seconds
Toss on steamed broccoli
Top with with 1 tblsp chopped walnuts and zest of lemon.

Serve immediately