Written by David Vogel Wednesday, 30 May 2007 11:36
While in a vehicle full of members of farming families, I recently made the mistake of innocently asking how the wheat crop was doing.
I’m not sure how this topic came up, but it was sometime shortly after passing a truck carrying a large load of beehives encased in a netting with bees frantically clinging to the inside.
Not that this really matters.
What happened was, my question inadvertently got the entire carload into a long conversation about farming techniques and equipment. I know nothing about these things. When it comes to talking about farming, I’m about as smooth as a cat who jumped onto the top of the fish tank without first taking into account that there is no lid.
Needless to say, within seconds of posing my question I was immediately swimming with the goldfishes in a discussion about things called balers, swathers and rakes. I sat quietly as everyone else chatted about the latest additions to their farms’ equipment.
With me was Lynn Just, Darren Enns and Alex Jost. These are all people who have spent their entire lives around crops and livestock, driving tractors and tilling.
I still don’t know what tilling is. I suspect it has something to do with, “Y’all’d bitter till ’im to git his hiney over here.” (Please note here that I am not making any stereotypes about any local farmers who may be in the business of tilling.)
In the midst of all these experienced farm folks was me, a city kid whose closest experience to harvesting is riding in various wheat trucks in hopes of getting a can of Mountain Dew at the grain elevator.
Actually, I don’t count myself to be a “city kid” by definition. My mom grew up on the farm, so I’ve had my run-ins with farming. Plus, my dad grew up in western Kansas, if that counts for anything.
On top of that, I have always lived in wheat-oriented towns. During the first several years of my life, I lived in Inman on a street that just sort of dead-ended into a wheat field. However, this did not enhance my knowledge of farming, unless you count going into that field and shooting Roman candles on the fourth of July as agriculturally educational.
So, no, I am not technically a city kid. I even listen to country music. When Trace Adkins comes on the radio singing about how much ladies love country boys, I sing along as if we’re singing about me.
And when we get to the part about “when they go ridin’ in the middle of a pickup truck blarin’ Lynyrd Skynyrd yellin, ‘Turn it up!’ You can raise her up a lady, but there’s one thing you just can’t avoid,” I howl like a coyote singing the only song he has ever known.
That is, until the snob talking on his cell phone pulls up next to me in his Sports Utility Gas Guzzler and looks at me like I’m the biggest hick ever to drive a Camaro. At that point, I let Trace finish the song up by himself.
But I am also not a farm kid. The closest I have come to interacting with an actual cow was in the form of a medium-rare, 5-ounce sirloin with a side of four large, breaded dinner shrimp.
Of course, you can’t talk about farming without the equipment.
Apparently, the issue of what brand of equipment you use is a hot debate among farmers. Specifically, there were two very divided sides on the quality of John Deere. When Alex mentioned his family had been having some issues with its John Deere combine (I think), Lynn quickly shot a “well, there’s your problem” back at him.
I felt I could add some good insight into this part of the conversation: “But John Deere has pretty colors.”
Darren then began listing off several other brands off the top of his head. “There’s International, New Holland and Gleaner, which is a combine brand now owned by Massey Ferguson, which produces its own tractors,” he said. “Ford and Deutz Allis are now extinct, I think.”
Trying to be helpful, I added Chevy to the list, but everybody laughed at me.
I have to admit, the most time I’ve spent with farm-like equipment was in the sandbox with Tonka trucks.
Of course, this was just last week. (Ha ha! No, really.)
I spent many happy hours plowing, cultivating and even possibly tilling in the sand, all while making the necessary motor “brrrrrrrrr” noise with my lips, because Tonka trucks don’t make their own farm-like sounds.
While discussing the best conditions for agriculture, Darren became very serious.
“I would move to Illinois,” he said, “because there is richer soil there and it is wetter, so I can grow milo, soybeans and corn, which yield higher and bring in more money.”
Of course, not to be outdone, I said I would move to Hawaii because the conditions are sunny and warm and I can grow bananas there, which yield on tall trees.
Because that’s just the kind of dedicated farmer I want to be. After all, ladies love country boys. And their Tonka trucks. Brrrrrrrr….
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UFO: This column marks five years of Don’t Ask Why. Feel free to send congratulatory notes written on the backs of $20 bills.
Don’t ask why.