Documenting migrant farm workers in the Nebraska Panhandle

Gomez family

Readying to Leave

Photos by Alex Matzke

The Gomez family once split their time between Mexico and a smattering of states where they worked in agriculture. 2010 was the first time they spent the entire year in Alliance, Nebraska, spurred by the need for their children to have a more consistent educational experience.

A family wedding in Mexico, not a return from migrant labor, was the reason for this trek. The family packed and began a BBQ in anticipation of Eddie—who will stay behind and continue working—to return that evening from driving truck.

Gomez speaks with Santos Jr. (left) before departure. As night fell, Eddie returned and work moved from BBQ to last-minute preparations for the semi-truck.

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Post-work Rituals

Photos by Alex Matzke

Having an on-truck air compressor is key to refilling tires on the road without having to stop and lose valuable transit time. Here Santos Gomez checks tire pressure adding air where needed.


Gomez unwinds after work Monday night with two of his grandchildren. Large family celebrations are characteristic to the Gomez home. Santos expressed his pleasure in having a majority of his grandchildren living nearby.


A Family Business

Photos by Alex Matzke

Santos Gomez began driving truck as the need for agricultural field labor diminished. First encouraged by the farmers he had previously worked for. Later, when the local farmers co-op began to give him more traffic, he was able to expand his business.

Eddie the youngest of the Gomez boys at 20, learns the ins and outs of trucking from his father. On breaks from college at Chadron State, in Chadron, Neb., Eddie takes the lead in the fleet’s fastest truck.

Estimating fuel needs is another aspect of Eddie’s job. Like car racing, stopping for fuel can put you behind the rest of the pack, impacting your final delivery and the length of your workday.

Hauling one load of grain takes a few hours. The last 30 mile stretch of road, Hay-Springs to the co-op in Hemingford, Neb., is the most grueling. A straight shot without much to look at, Eddie’s older brother will sometimes call to make sure he isn’t getting drowsy.

Long days characterize this work, similar to that of the migrant labor the family used to preform. Their morning begins at 4:30am and ends around 6pm when, on average, four hauls per driver have been completed.


Introductions

Photos by Alex Matzke

Santos Gomez grew up traveling and working in the sugar beet fields of Western Nebraska. With the decline of migrant work available Santos has started Gomez Trucking, teaching his youngest son the business.

Here Santos works on one of his trucks while his son, Eddie, takes another to run loads of grain to the local co-op.

Sitting with his nephew Cass (left) at his home in Alliance, Nebraska Santos tells us about working beets. Both men sharing stories about growing up working in the fields and passing traditions and lessons learned to their children. Stories overlap as family members remember details another has forgotten. Often talking over one another, growing excited to remember the times shared while working together.