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Farmer’s Fate: Fifty shades of hay

By Brianna Walker

To the Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on December 5, 2017 4:35PM


“Uh-oooooooh,” my toddler sing-songed as he picked up his little green toy man with suction cup hands and feet and stuck him back up on the swather window. The toy would soon start sliding down, then lose all suction and fall. “Uh-oooooooh,” my toddler laughed and scooped up the toy again.

This game went on for hours — which was good because we were hot and heavy into second cutting. My toddler does a lot of jabbering, but the only words he says are “Keeg” (for his brother) and “Bama” (which means food — any kind of food: dog food, cat food, sheep food, baby food, etc.). So this new addition of “Uh-oh” seemed pretty cute — that is until it became apropos.

Farming is like playing five-card poker with four cards — and this week was no exception. It seemed that instead of moving from hour to hour, the week was passing from one calamity to the next. The swather lost a bearing, bent a roller, plugged up and found a broken mainline — buried it up to its axles in unexpected mud. “Uh-oooooooh.” The baler broke all six knotters at once, and then twisted the safety linkage. “Uh-oooooooh.” The stack truck blew a front tire, and the four-wheeler a back one. “Uh-oooooooh.” The hydraulics on the straw swather refused to work, the rake lost a wheel and I cracked the screen on my phone. “Uh-oooooooh.”

It felt like we were playing a round of the Farming Game, where you draw operating expenses for each crop but without receiving your harvest check. Someone needs to throw that card away and slip in an extra couple “double all your corn harvests this year” squares or at least an extra O.T.B. or two.

You can’t tell how good a man or a watermelon is until they get thumped, and I’m starting to feel punky with a hint of “Uh-oooooooh.”

The higher the mercury gets, the more temperamental my swather becomes. After plugging up badly — the hay wrapped tightly around the full-contact rollers — I climbed back into the cab like a damsel in distress, waiting for someone to come bail me out of my predicament. My toddler sat on my lap and pointed at the lifted flaps on my header. “Uh-oooooooh,” he crooned.

“Yep, ‘Uh-Oh’ is right,” I replied, wiping some of the dirt off of his cheeks. “Kind of reminds me of a nursery rhyme,” I told his upturned little face. I changed some of the words to fit this particular scenario, as I recited: “There was a little swather, who had a little crack, right in the middle of it’s windshield. And when it was good, it was very, very good, and when it was bad — it was horrid!” OK, so Henry Wadsworth Longfellow it is not, but that’s how I felt. When it was working it worked beautifully — and the rest of the time was just a series of “Uh-ohs.”

Ever wonder what happens when you cut the opening rounds of a field and have a breakdown, and then a few inside passes and a breakdown and a few more passes and another breakdown? You get “50 shades of hay.” It’s a lot more “stemmy” than its “steamy” counterpart, and isn’t nearly as profitable!

The little green man fell from the window again, breaking my thoughts. “Uh-oooooooh,” my little guy laughed as he scooped up the toy. I sure hope he learns a new word soon. I don’t know how much more we can afford this one. Perhaps with just a little tweaking on his pronunciation his “Uh-oooooooh” can say “Ua Pou.” Maybe that’s actually what he’s been getting at all along — with every breakdown, he just wanted us to think about a beautiful tropical island in French Polynesia.

If we’re going to spend a ton of money, while sweating profusely, at least we can do it in swim suits on a white sandy beach — not in work boots, ordering parts for a persnickety swather while rivulets of sweaty mud drizzle into your eyes and your nails get torn by pulling out clumps of alfalfa between obstinate rollers.

Next time I hear “Uh-oooooooh,” I’m going to envision “Ua-Pooooou.”

Brianna Walker occasionally writes about the Farmer’s Fate for the Blue Mountain Eagle.



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