Moon break: Covered wagon ride a harvest tradition

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SISSETON, S.D. — Farmer Robert Hanson pulled up to the pumps on a moonlit Saturday night at Sisseton, S.D., but the horsepower was provided by the actual horses.

"Methane," Hanson replied, when asked what kind of fuel the Percheron/Morgan team were associated with. Of course, they'd be producing it, not buying it.

Hanson, 60, was taking a break from his corn and soybean farming on Oct. 7 to take a ride in the country with some of his favorite girls: his daughter, Maureen Nelson, and her neighborhood pals and relatives. The covered wagon brought lots of double-takes at the local Dakota Connections truck stop along I-29, as passengers piled out to pick up snacks and beverages.

"We do this a couple of times a year. It's a lot of fun," Hanson says, as "Larry and Bill" stood at attention, ready for a 15-mile, three-hour tour. While other South Dakotans were busy a few miles south, watching the South Dakota State University Jackrabbit football team trounce their latest foe, his team was looking at the moon.

Nelson, 34, a project director for GROW South Dakota, an agency that works in housing and economic development, says she looks forward to the annual harvest ride.

"We like to show people what we like to do," she says, of the gas station stop. "It feels normal. Everyone should see (a horse team at a gas pump) on a random basis."

When Nelson gets out of the office in the summertime, she goes hobby farming with the horses — threshing and plowing.

"This is one of the three teams we have. It's fun to get out and hang out with them," she says.

Hanson farms full-time with his son, Ben Hanson. Their soybeans and corn crops were looking promising.

"We've had some rain now the last week and a half — over four inches. It's been kind of hard to get around with the combines," he says. "They're combining now, just going where they can. Every day it dries out a little more."

Soybean yields seemed to be running 45 to 55 bushels per acre.

The corn is looking good, too, despite the earlier hot and dry stresses.

"I don't think there'll be any runaway (yield) there, but it'll be a nice crop," he says.

And no runaways tonight, either.