He was an apparition of the wee hours and one of the hardest working men that I ever knew in those days. He drove a truck, a tandem dump truck, making deliveries all over our neck of the woods to dairy farms.

Delivering what ? We called them “beer grains”, the residual malted barley left over after a step in the brewing process. Both Wayne and his brother, Stanley, drove their rigs in the middle of the night, relieving the Pabst brewery in Newark of their residual grains.

The grains were wet, saturated , in fact. Straight from the brewery, they were steaming and HEAVY ! They were even pleasantly aromatic.

So, the Capron’s middle-of-night trucking schedule was dictated by the Pabst Blue Ribbon brewing schedule in beautiful Newark, N.J.

I usually had a chance to chat with Wayne just for a moment or two while he dumped his delivery. That was in the 4:30 neighborhood of the morning, still dark, of course. I was just a fourth grader, so the scope of our conversations was limited, but always pleasant.

Then Wayne was off, up the lane and back into the darkness. I remember thinking to myself how he just did this, and did it and did it. That made me think of what I was going to do when I was older. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to do what Wayne did.

We needed a delivery approximately every third week. The tandem load filled our “beer grains pit”, a concrete block box contiguous to the dairy barn. Truth be told, at the end of the three week cycle, the grains at the bottom of the pit were nothing near aromatic. In fact, they stunk . Extra care needed to be taken to assure that rancid portions were not shoveled onto the feed cart.

I was the daily shoveler. My ass was on the line if that happened !

Judy occasionally remarks about my “beer grain wrists”. That, of course, is a testament to the rigors that I endured for untold days of untold years shoveling beer grains.

So, you ask, why beer grains ? Can’t cows just eat hay ? Yes, I suppose, if you weren’t a milk producer. But , the milk scales don’t lie and beer grains make milk like nobody’s business. They were the “go-to” dairy cattle feed.

Sadly, Wayne motored out the lane one day, never to be seen again. He’d been barreling down Rt. 22 that night in foul winter weather. His truck slid and and crashed, killing him instantly.

Wayne got me to thinking again. Life can be brutish and short. It was for him.

We can’t be too careful. Who knows ? Perhaps a little less speed might have made the difference for Wayne. It was not for him to know. Another chapter in the local lore had ended.


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