Many have tried to quit farming. Many have relapsed a few weeks later by ogling a new tractor. If you ever see me riding around half-naked on a shiny new steed, you know I experienced a moment of weakness and lost the shirt off my back at a tractor dealership (and possibly my socks too if it was a John Deere dealership). In one of the great high points of my farming career, I once escaped a John Deere dealership only a $1.75 poorer. Still, the little washer was ten times overpriced, but previously I had never left there without the eerie feeling that I needed to sell a kidney.
If you ask me, tractor dealerships ought to own up to their moral responsibility and create a no-sale policy for customers showing signs of farming withdrawal. I know that’s probably wishful thinking, but if casinos set aside a portion of their proceeds to help those who eat, breathe, and play slot machines, then tractor companies ought to help those who eat, breathe, and play on heavy machines. Tractor companies don’t see it that way though. In fact, the manager of our local John Deere dealership once had the audacity to tell me his “primary responsibility was selling and not not-selling.” Talk about moral depravity.
To be honest, I’ve never been tempted much by shining new equipment (I’m more of a rust guy), but that doesn’t mean I don’t have other farming faults. For instance, at rock bottom, I once had more calves per acre than blades of grass, right out in the open for everyone to see. One of my neighbors made light of the situation, saying such insensitive stuff as, “Stephen, can I practice my short game at your place? Your pasture looks like a putting green.”
Any attempts at going cold turkey from calf buying were made difficult by the fact that I worked at a government agriculture office. Farmers would enter the office, manure wafting from their boots, and wax poetic about the beautiful weather, all while I was confined doing pointless government paperwork. At day’s end, I’d drive home despondent and then drown my woes in the bottle, that is until Natalie finally hid them all. Eventually I did find her hiding place and quickly started bottle feeding more calves.
The point, though, is farming addictive, which is probably a good thing—because if it wasn’t, I suspect we’d all be starving.