Ex-governor Schafer takes to truck in flood fightThe all-for-one effort that holding back a record flood requires puts a new spin on the old saw about politics.
By: Dave Roepke, INFORUM
The all-for-one effort that holding back a record flood requires puts a new spin on the old saw about politics.
Instead of putting politicians in bed with strange company, major floods can give them strange jobs. It happened to Ed Schafer, at least.
The former North Dakota governor and U.S. agriculture secretary ended up pulling a shift driving truckloads of clay on March 28, the day the Red River hit its first peak. He slipped into the driver’s seat despite not having a commercial driver’s license, which is mandatory when driving trucks rated for 26,000 pounds or more.
Schafer said he contemplated passing on the impromptu assignment due to his lack of a CDL, but he decided it was OK in the less-than-ideal situation.
“As I was standing there thinking about it, a piece of equipment went by with no license plate on it and no slow-moving vehicle thing. I thought, ‘There’s so much going on right now and a sense of emergency. I’m just going to go and drive this truck,’” said Schafer, who in January ended a year-long run as President George W. Bush’s final ag secretary.
Schafer ended up behind the wheel during a harried push to build up protection walls in his Carrie Rose Lane neighborhood off 25th Street South just west of Rose Creek Golf Course. It was a truck owned by his neighbor Jim Roers, founder of Roers’ Construction. They were constructing a clay dike to connect to a city-built one stretching across 25th Street South.
After Schafer asked him multiple times how he could help, Roers told the ex-governor: “What I really need is a relief driver.”
Familiar with trucking from his childhood days on his dad’s ranch and a stint in the beverage industry in the 1970s, Schafer replied: “Well shoot, I can drive it.”
Though the 6½-hour shift came at a tense moment in the flood fight, Schafer’s turn as a trucker gave him quite a charge. Al Nielsen, who was in the neighborhood to help sandbag, rode along on one of the 40-minute round-trip jaunts to where the clay was being picked up in north Fargo.
“You couldn’t have taken the smile off his face with a piece of sandpaper,” said Nielsen, who lives near Horace, N.D.
“I just think it’s fun to see people like that absolutely enjoy life.”
“He would do well in the field,” Nielsen said, appraising Schafer’s skills behind the wheel.
“He may have been a little rusty, but he was getting it.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535