A few years back, we were riding ATVs on the Oregon Dunes. The group had stopped to take pictures near a beautiful river below us, winding its way through the sand hills. I don’t remember the reason, but somehow my dad asked if anyone had a zip tie with them. I actually had a used one, fastened onto my handle bars. My dad flipped out his pocket knife and proceeded to open the zip tie and slide it off. Just as he was nearly finished, the knife slipped and gouged his finger. As blood dripped from the fresh cut, we started looking for bandages. We came up with a couple of napkins and some blue paper towels — but nothing to fasten it with. Then we noticed a tree that had several wraps of electrical tape around it (I have no idea why), and we cut off a little piece and relocated it to my dad’s finger — after which we kept riding and had a fantastic weekend.

But I kept thinking about that little piece of tape — and the farmers and ranchers that would use it as a bandage. I keep a notebook handy to jot down random thoughts, and that weekend I jotted down: “Reasons farmers shouldn’t be counselors: They think everything can be fixed with duct tape, baler twine, a big hammer, electrical tape, a dead chicken around the neck, a hot shot — and if all else fails, the sale yard.” Pretty sure I used most all of those tools the last week. A gate needed to be sturdied up — baler twine. The kids’ beach ball had a hole in it — gorilla tape. The rake wheel needed some work — a big hammer. A couple of the roosters decided to move up their pecking order — a hot shot. And a trailer load of lambs headed to the sale yard. I guess no one had a dead chicken around their neck — although I was ready to hang one around those bloody rooster’s necks! Wonder if it works on roosters as well as dogs?

Right now is a strange time to be alive — if you stoop over you get walked on, if you stand up tall you get shot. There are opinions and ideas circulating, and it’s getting harder to discern fact from fiction. There’s a bitter undercurrent, and it seems just like those two roosters fighting to determine who is the most important — which got me to thinking about who is the most important on a farm. Cows give butter, chickens give eggs, the dog provides protection and the cats keep the mice down. Maybe it would be easier to think of what is most important on a farm. Tractors quickly come to mind — but without implements, they become useless. The shop is only important if there is something to put in it — same with the barn and the chicken coop. Fences, gates, power tools, all are useful — but pointless if they stood alone. And without people to operate the tools or feed the animals — the whole thing crumbles.

It reminds me of a childhood song:

If the eye said to the hand, I have no need of thee

from the head to the feet I have no need of you

how could we ride or hold a thimble

how could we ride or run so nimble

how can the body be complete without feet?

Feet, hands, eyes, ears — it’s our differences that make us whole. It is our differences that us function — but only if we are united. A whole fleet of beautiful new bank out wagons would do a wheat farmer no good unless he also has combines and tractors. The plow horse, the guard dog, the climbing goat — together they make the farm function. Let’s cherish our individual heritages, knowing it is in uniting those differences that gives America its strength.

Right now the gate feels a bit wobbly, but with a little baler twine and duct tape we can sturdy that right up — if not, there’s always electrical tape bandages and dead chickens!

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

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