Topping sugar beets

Words like “topping” and “thinning” were used often when my family would talk about working in the sugar beet fields. I never really thought about what they really meant until I went on the sugar beet trip in 2019. Someone demonstrated how the tops of the giant beets were hacked off using the very large knife. In this picture you can see my grandfather, grandmother, and uncles holding the knives in their hands. My mom and her sisters’ job was to bang the beets together to get rid of the excess mud & dirt.  By the end of the day, their hands throbbed after handling the heavy, muddy beets. At night, it was hard for them to sleep because of the pain. So my oji-chan would set up a rope/pulley in their bedroom. They would sleep with their hands up hanging in the ropes so that the blood would flow away from their hands and lessen the pain. When I actually got to see how big and heavy the sugar beets were, I thought of my mom and her sisters and their swollen hands.

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