Friday, July 20, 2007

A trip to the city

By Kevin Duling
The gap between urban centers and rural America is narrowing for some and widening for others. I fall into the latter. A commodity broker friend needed to leave town for a few days. He inquired if I could fill in for that time slot. Turned out I was available.

It is commonly a two hour trip from my house to Portland. The first hour being one of farmland turning to forests, then to mountains. The second hour going from mountains to communities, then to cities.

My trip to town came on the Monday evening of Memorial Day. Needless to say, the traffic was a bit heavier than I had anticipated. Traffic came to a grinding halt about an hour from town. This turned out to be the foreshadowing of my week.

I spent the first night at a friend’s house. He was pleased to have some company and politely told me not to worry about the reports of people setting cars on fire, even though it was only a quarter mile away. Besides, every rig but mine would be parked safely inside the estate’s perimeter.

Commodity trading is a scary business. My broker assured me that a monkey could do what I was being asked to do. My eyes still managed to stay open most of the night, running every possible worst case scenario through my mind, visioning my pickup on fire, and the thought of having to sell the farm because of what the monkey at the commodity desk did.

I told myself that traffic would surely not be a problem at 4:30 a.m.. I had to weave my way through a narrow residential area, hoping to find the sign for the freeway entrance. Naturally, a man living next door to my friend decided it was time for work also. He seemed like a nice man when his hand rose as he passed. After some careful thought, perhaps I was going too slowly for him and he wasn’t being nice. Welcome to the city, country boy.

I stopped at a 24-hour fast-food place and was surprised to find myself waiting in line for 10 minutes. How many commodity brokers could this town have? Is there always this many people?

After receiving three phone calls in 30 seconds, the stressors I dreamed about the night before were surfacing. “So easy a monkey could do it,” I snarled. As the day went, I slowly understood the ordering systems and the quote machine.

Two p.m. marked the end of my first day as a substitute commodity broker. Rush hour apparently started at 1:59. Again, I found myself waiting in line. Eventually, I would arrive at my hotel, which would accommodate me for the next two nights.

By day three, I found myself expecting to wait in lines. I waited in traffic lines, restaurant lines, ice cream lines, hotel registration lines, and eventually more traffic lines. Thank God I didn’t have to go to the DMV!

Perhaps this trip was designed to enhance my patience. I didn’t like enhancing my patience; I thought it is fine where it was. I continually wondered how the urban residents managed day after day.

Toward the end of day three, two people called at once and I successfully filled both of their commodity orders flawlessly. “Ooo ooo ooo aaa aaa aaa,” said the monkey. My primal outburst only seemed to bother the lady in the adjacent office, as she scowled looking over her glasses.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on the urbanites who venture out to my neck of the woods to
recreate. They spend 25 percent of their lives waiting in lines. Their patience level is probably far superior to mine. However, I don’t believe the hand gesture I learned will be well received next time someone is in front of me at the post office at home.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. Kevin’s stories will be posted at the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright July 2007


Anonymous said...

Best article I've read in a long time... why isn't this in the paper? It's real and people from the country can relate.

Anonymous said...

Kevin you'll go far. You understand what the readers want.

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