Farmer Strong

I used to have a ball cap from my local farm credit. It simply said “Carolina Farm Credit,” and I wore it so frequently that after a few years my wife retired it in a trash can without my consent. So I asked our local farm credit representative if I could have a new hat, and he obliged–only, the new hat says, “Farmer Strong.” 

Ugh.

Might as well give a squirrel a hat that says “Grizzly Bear Strong.” Then the squirrel could stroll around the forest understory feeling self-conscious and a little ridiculous, all because of his headwear. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m used to feeling like a moron because of my actions, but feeling like an oxymoron because of my wardrobe is a step too far. Sadly, my physique does not exude superior strength, no matter what my hat proclaims. 

Case in point,  I was once blown away by a stiff breeze. Of course, had I known the power of hay tarps, I wouldn’t have tied a tarp corner to a belt loop (to keep my hands free while traversing the haystack) and, in so doing, affixed myself to a sixty-foot by forty-foot sheet of polyethylene. When the wind gusted, the tarp plucked me off the side of the haystack, and I instantly realized why parasailing occurred over water. It’s amazing the epiphanies you have while skittering across the stubble of a freshly-cut hay field. 

Then there was the time I lost a wrestling match with a pig. It was your basic muddy pig-pen match. My wife wanted to perform life-saving healthcare on the pig’s ear, so I jumped on the pig’s back and tried to pin it down. The squealing pig, however, performed a technically-demanding wrestling maneuver, what’s called a  reverse cradle, and quickly pinned me. In so doing, the pig busted my glasses (free farming advice: never wear glasses while wrestling a pig) and then trotted around the fence-line, grunting and gloating. 

And it’s not just me. Have you been to the sale barn lately? You’re not likely to see many strapping specimens of the human species. The sale barn is where farmers go to trade cows and cardiologists go to find new patients. Once upon a time the act of digging post holes, carrying feed sacks, and hefting hay bales caused farmers muscle fibers to expand. Now post-hole augers, front-end-loaders, and hay spears mean farming is less physically demanding than ever; it’s become more or less sitting in a tractor seat and moving a joystick. 

But I’ll tell you who is strong. It’s the unseen men and women in the blackberry rows, the one’s picking tractor-trailer loads of berries, berry by berry, until their fingers are stained with blood or berries or both (those are no thornless canes, I assure you). It’s the five-person Guatemalan “catching crew” whose job is to bend down and pick up every eight-pound chicken, in a poultry house full of twenty thousand chickens, and stuff them in cages for transport so we can later devour those Chick-fil-A sandwiches. It’s the workers in the pumpkin fields who heft every single jack o’ lantern, all so we can carve a silly face in it. 

All kidding aside, a “Farmer Strong” hat would look a lot better on them than me. 

11 thoughts on “Farmer Strong

  1. Misfit returns. I enjoy a moment of well-penned sanity. Thank you. In the dumper today and you lifted me smack out. In return, I remind you to tuck away for your next post that farming is more than hay bales (bales, not those *&^*(& big tootsie rolls) twisted-clevis twisting, three-of-four time manure fork manipulation, and backing a steerable wagon 100 yards with a tricycle 720. Now, in addition to brawn and coordination, a farmer must be ambi-, multi-, and malto- dexterous. Able to tune the stereo, adjust the A/C. monitor 16 fertilizer and seed drop instruments, adjust eight height and angle hydraulics, monitor three GPS feeds and the PTO go-around counter, and standby the transporter to beam the landing party aboard on a moment’s notice. Now, about that hog…

    1. “Steerable wagon” is an oxymoron for me. Backing a trailer is one thing but backing a wagon strains my mental capacity to it’s breaking point–couldn’t imagine doing it on a tricycle. Now with those gps-guided systems you can just steer your first round around a field and let the satellites take over and watch scotty beam up people on netflix while drilling your wheat.

  2. Wow, did not see the ending coming. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
    It would all be the same with a Kentucky or Tennessee Farm Strong, especially with the guys that still grow tobacco.

  3. Love this post. Thank You. You’re so right, breaks my heart watching pickers in the strawberry fields. Remember the experiment years ago when they tried to get “regular people” to work the fields? They lasted barely hours much less the whole day, and forget working the season.

    1. Thanks. I had the bright idea a few years back of planting a quarter acre strawberry patch to sell berries at farmers’ market. My wife and I had to pick them all, and that was the first and last time I ever planted strawberries. Yeah, one of the big blackberry growers here said the same thing: they occasionally have “regular people” apply for picking jobs and they always put bets on how long they’ll last. Said he only had one person make it the whole day before quitting.

  4. Thank you. I think of these workers when people start complaining about them “taking American jobs.” I used to work in restaurants, and it was much the same, the “counter critters” (or “creeps” depending on how obnoxious they’d been”) would sit and moan about not catching a break, while non-natives bussed tables, sweated over dirty pots and pans, and mopped. My boss (who was also an immigrant) told me he’d several times offered jobs to the unemployed whiners at the counter, and they’d always either refused or failed to last more than a few days, so he quit asking.

    I think those guys also misjudged their audience a bit because waitressing is hard work, requiring more skill than people realize. Or maybe they knew we’d put up with their moans because we worked for tips.

    I wonder how many people stop to consider how hard people work to make our food appear so magically at the store. So many of us have gotten so distant from our food’s sources that we fail to appreciate it at times. I plead guilty to this, but I do try. Thanks again for this.

    1. I worked at a McDonalds one summer during college, and I’ll never look at fast food employees the same way. Not only do they have to put up with the general public all day long, but it’s physically demanding work being on your feet all day and unloading freezer trucks. We had several immigrants from Mexico working at the McDonald’s and their work ethic and attitude put everybody else to shame.

      1. My first “real” job was at McD’s. Worked there throughout HS and on school breaks from college. You really learn how to work (if you want to last).

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