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Your best teacher is your last mistake.

- Ralph Nader



Chapter 16:

We've Had Our Fair Share Of Mishaps

One of our first mistakes was renting well-used trucks to haul the NH3 slide-ons. One limped into the yard, and the other was delivered by a tow truck. My brother Roy's son, Rick, was available to drive, so we gave him the worst one. Rick has been around trucks since he started to walk. If anyone could make it run, he could. After over $2,000 in repairs, they made it through the season. The next year, the trucks were new or almost new.


Getting stuck is the most repetitive event we have experienced. We have used Cliff's Towing, Cats and customers' big tractors. We have broken chains that have snapped back and taken out thousand-dollar windshields. And when you get a floater stuck, you are stuck.


The orphanage came around the other day looking for donations, so I gave them four kids.

SVF History 061.jpg
SVF History 061.jpg
SVF History 061.jpg

We had high winds that took down our 110-foot leg. We had a new Ford pickup go up in flames at 2 a.m. A passing motorist notified the fire department, and they responded in time to keep the fire from spreading to the wood pallets and bag warehouse. Not seen on the right side next to that burnt truck was a line of 10 SVF delivery trucks. How close was that to a disaster? Kent is shown with his Bic lighter, indicating that he lit the fire. He didn't but said that he never did like that truck. (He's a GMC man.) 


There was a bad intersection collision with a carload of people. Thank God no one was hurt. We've also had a few cold flow tanks roll over, but no harm done. Our most serious mishap was when an NH3 delivery truck pulled away from the storage tank and the driver forgot to disconnect the hoses. They broke, and the excess-flow safety valve didn't shut off. We evacuated the yard and got everyone upwind. We notified Sherritt's emergency crew. The RCMP and Morinville Fire Department were on the scene in minutes. Don Warren put on an NH3 safety mask and came in from the upside of the wind and tripped the safety valve. Again, thank God no one was hurt. This happened two other times; one time the safety valve worked, and the other time Darrell Booth went in with the wind behind him and shut the valve off. We have had a few customers get burnt with NH3. But considering the amount of NH3 used in this area, the safety record is very good. Just remember, always wear goggles and gloves, have water readily available and, when handling NH3, keep upwind.

A common mistake at SVF was driving a forklift with the mast up through a shop door that was not all the way up. Bad news for the door. A part-time employee did just that. I said, "If you are going to work here, put your brain in gear!" Before the day was out, I did the same thing. Oops!


One day, Gerald Soetaert came in to buy 40 gallons of Avadex. He put the filler hose into his barrel. I set the meter and turned on the pump. When the meter stopped, Gerald checked the barrel. It was still empty. I had opened the wrong valve and had just pumped 40 gallons into the blender. I was sick. I ran to find Doug. Doug said, "Dad, calm down. It's no big deal. We can get it out.' We took off the inspection plate, put a hose in the blender, and pumped it out. That was not the first or last time Doug has had to calm me down. 


Back in the early '90s, Bob Black was the manager of the Legal plant. One day a driver left a big truck running in the yard without the brake on. Well, it started to roll across the yard and planted itself nose-first in the ditch. Bob gave him a stern warning to pay attention. A few days later, I learned an SVF pickup truck went through the Legal Motors showroom window. That's OK, Bob. It was icy.


In the mid-'80s, Frank Bond, Sherritt's sales manager for Saskatchewan, called and asked if I would hire his 19-year-old son for the spring season. So we did. He was a good young man but a little overconfident. He also struggled with taking responsibility for his actions. The first day, he ran the forks of the forklift through the bottom row of a pallet of bags, then asked the warehouse boys to clean it up. I said, "Oh, no. You unstack the pallet, empty the broken bags into the bulk bin, then restack the pallet. He did. A week or so later, he rolled an NH3 delivery truck over on its back. Transmission oil leaked out all over the inside of the cab. He really was embarrassed but said, "When the shop boys get it cleaned up, let me know." I said, "Oh, no. You get a pail of hot water and soap, and when it is cleaned up, you let me know." The rest of the season, he was excellent. I would like to think he learned a little about being responsible for his actions. At least his dad said he had a different attitude when he came home.


Over the years, we have spread or sprayed a few wrong fields. Considering we have done over a million acres, that's not bad. Customers know they have made a few mistakes, so they are pretty understanding. One frustrating mistake is when the fertilizer leg gets plugged, usually from overfilling a bin. This will break the belt. If the leg is 100 feet high, the belt is 200 feet long. The leg has to be cleaned out and the belt removed, repaired and put back in the leg: a costly multi-day job. 

Now, this story is more about a mistake than a mishap. In the late '80s, it was a big deal to own deer, elk or buffalo. I thought the grandkids would like to see baby buffalos, so I ran the idea past Doug. His response was, "Well, maybe get one or two females." But true to my character, I thought that if two was good, more would be better. So I bought $50,000 worth. A few years later, I practically had to beg man to buy them for $6,000 over two years, at no interest. Another lesson in sticking with what you know. Today buffalos are worth a lot of money again, but I think I will pass this time.

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SVF History 063.jpg
SVF History 062.jpg
SVF History 063.jpg



  • I think I was 10 years old before I knew "hands, face, neck and ears" wasn't all one word.

  • It is very difficult to walk through a coal mine in a white suit and not get dirty.

  • Try not to put an old head on young shoulders.

  • The truth is always a lot easier to remember.

  • I am surprised that so many teenagers become responsible adults.

CH 1: In the Beginning
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