The Child Who Gnaws A Lot

For someone who can’t even chew, my six-month-old sure likes to gnaw. I think that’s why many baby toys and dog toys look identical; in fact, I bet if you put a baby toy in a lineup with five canine chew toys, the baby toy would get off scot-free. Toymakers are marketing to the same demographic, mainly mammals who drool a lot. 

Which is the baby toy?

Both sets of grandparents have asked for guidance on what to get Thomas for Christmas. That’s a good question: What do you get for someone who is perfectly happy gnawing on a cell-phone charger cord? Thankfully, I caught Thomas trying to electrocute himself before he ruined my cord (life lesson learned: never leave a conduit for electrons near a baby). But the question still stands, what do you get a six-month-old? 

I thought about getting him a copy of War and Peace. For one, that title more or less sums up the early experience of human baby–either peacefully sleeping or engaged in wailing warfare over food or the ruined state of a diaper. Second, that book has a lot of pages in it, and Thomas seems most content when stuffing crinkly paper in his mouth. Third, if he starts a Tolstoy book early, there’s a chance he may actually complete it and succeed where his father has failed. I once voiced a critique of Anna Karenina in casual conversation with an English professor (she was a real literary snob if you ask me). She rebuffed my criticism that the ending seemed a little cliche by snorting and pointing out that Anna, after eloping with Vronsky, did not live happily ever after and instead jumped in front of a train. How was I to know I had only read the first volume of Anna Karenina when it alone was over 500 pages?

Sometimes I just wish Thomas would stay the size he is now. His collicky days are over and he is so easy to please right now–just give him a chew toy and he’ll gnaw happily. I’ve also successfully taught him to roll over, which he can now perform for the amazement of onlookers. And, to add his repertoire of tricks, I’m currently teaching him to babble on command and to crawl to improve his fetching skills. 

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Thomas is currently living the pampered life of a modern house dog, which is pretty close to an ideal existence. There have been many times in my life when I’ve envied tail-wagging dogs who are easy to please and unburdened by the worries and stresses of human existence. Now, as a parent, I find myself worrying about what Thomas will worry about. I just want him to live happily ever after, and I can’t imagine him being much happier than he is now as a six-month-old content to gnaw on paper. 

The Child Who Gnaws A Lot

Public Service Announcement: No More Barn Coats PLZ.

Recently several farmers have texted me long-winded messages. Figures–most farmers have notoriously bad texting skills; some even use punctuation and complete sentences. This may be an attempt to overcompensate and debunk the stereotype that farmers can’t spell or write, which is a real dumb stereotype considering sixty-three percent of new farmers are English majors trying to heal the land and grow organic produce. 

But yesterday, for example, I received a beautifully-punctuated message. It was from Vernon Dedham, a local grain farmer, via text message. It had not a single emoticon. It said, “Mr. Bishop, please utilize your public platform, The Misfit Farmer Blog, to stop the scourge of barn outerwear, i.e. coats, given to agricultural producers during the season of Christmastide. My closet runneth over with new barn garments. Yours Truly, Vernon Dedham.”

my barn coat and I.

If you’re under thirty, here’s what Vernon said translated to a proper text: FYI plz stop w/ barn coats cuz clos8 ful :). If you’re over thirty, you can text this to all the millennial gift-givers in your life to preemptively save closet space. 

On behalf of Vernon and farmers everywhere, let me explain. Farmers don’t want a new barn coat for Christmas. The rips, grease stains, and built-in manure smell in our current barn coat might lead you to think that we need, and therefore want, a new barn coat. You might think a barn coat is the perfect gift. But every year farmers are just being polite and faking it when they open the jumbo shirt box, the one with this year’s new edition of a barn coat. 

FARMER: (Feigning surprise) “Well looky here–a new barn coat!”

GIFT GIVER:  “Try it on. Do you think it’ll fit?”

FARMER: (Putting it on for the first and last time) “I think it’ll work.”

The current barn coat is not worn out. It’s broke-in. And the warm embrace of a broke-in barn coat is hard to beat and only gets better with time. I’ve had my barn coat for nineteen years. It has patches, tears, grease stains, and my undying loyalty. I like it so much I’ve even washed it half-a-dozen times in nineteen years. Meanwhile, I have a closet full of brand new barn coats given as gifts, many I’ve only worn once when I was trying them on at Christmas. Eventually, they’ll go to Goodwill when my wife goes on one of her Maria Kondo organizing and decluttering binges.