I have some who have asked why I haven't written more about farm life. Well it is pretty much like everyone else's life I guess and I don't really think that there is a lot that might be interesting, but then maybe I am wrong. Take for instance the mental picture of farm life. Life on the farm is probably romanticized about as much as any other way of life. We don't tend to think of the life as a slum landlord in New York City as romantic, but the rural country life evokes pictures of rolling pastures and content cows with flowers and butterflies. Well one look at the grain markets on the Chicago Board of Trade and the romance of making a living off of the land is shot in the head with 9 mm. Willie Nelson still has Farm Aid every year doesn't he. You think the high price of gas hurts when you transport little Percy to soccer practice? Just think about the fuel needed to plant, maintain, harvest and dry a grain crop. Not to mention the sprays and chemicals which are all petroleum based and used to insure a crop. Now we have the Meth lab concerns and the problems with ammonia tanks that we use in fertilizing corn. The real life of the urban world has invaded rural America. There are the lighter moments to rural life though! Case in point, the motion light you have in the driveway is not so much to fend off would be thieves and vandals as it would be in an urban setting but to enable you to walk to the shop in your underwear late at night when you remember that you left the air compressor on and you don't want to step on one of the numerous barn cats. You are glad to have company...no matter who they are. Census taker, Kirby salesman even the Jehovah Witnesses are considered a friendly face to talk to. We live on a state highway. Now that sounds very cosmopolitan but allow me to point out that this is probably the shortest state highway in the state of Indiana. Indiana 142 runs for about seven miles between Indiana 39 and Indiana 42. It is so much a rural highway that we pretty much know most of the people that travel it from point A to point B. As a matter of fact I feel confident enough to work out in the front yard in my flower beds in shorts and a tank top. Now this over the edge physique of mine is outlawed in most providenses. As I proceed to pull weeds I hear someone honk as they go by. I raise my hand in acknowledgment not even looking to see if they know me or think I am one of our brood cows getting ready to pounce onto the roadway. Raising cattle has been portrayed romantically quite extensively by the movie industry. We raise beef cattle. We have all "colors" of cows. My husband started his herd with Herefords and to me that will always be the most romantic breed cattle know to man. I picture the stalwart Hereford bull "Vindicator" so prominently described in James Mitchner's book "Centennial". He was the bull to civilize the West. As an artist they are the most "paintable". Their young calves are just the reason one should never eat veal. Our neighbor down the road raises Herefords and Longhorns. That's right Longhorn cattle right here in the Indiana. My brother-in law who farms with my husband is a superb cattleman but he is much younger and has fallen to the black cattle brainwashing that has been so been so well executed by the Angus breeders. It is a matter of fact that cattle sent to market will bring more money if they are black....regardless if they have had any Angus heritage or not. Sort of like being a blond babe on the beach. Only your hairdresser knows you were born a brunette. Now we don't move our cattle by horseback like in the movies. We move them via 4 wheeler or pickup truck with the help of cattle dogs. Now our Shelty doesn't move cattle...she just sets in the truck and barks at the other 2 cattle dogs for fun. Livestock is a constant commitment. We have friends that farm but do not have livestock only grain farming. They go to the lake, take off on vacations and they don't have to cut and bale hay in the summer. The livestock farmer has to love what he is doing to be tied down as he is. Anyway, when you have livestock and you live along roadways you need to check these cows at least twice a day to make sure none have not gotten out of the fence. You can have a fence like the one in Jurassic Park and some ole' Rip of a cow will find a way to wiggle herself out of it if she wants that little patch of grass "over there". The insurance liability of having livestock is a nightmare. No matter how careful you are there are times that unfortunately an accident happens. This happened a couple of years ago to us and thank God no one was injured but this gives you an idea. One evening after dark my brother-in law called and said he was down the road with the sheriff because someone had hit one of our cows on the highway. I jumped in the car and drove just a ways down the road to see vehicles off the road and flashing lights. I park the car and my husband Leslie walks up to meet me as I proceed down to the accident vehicle and the sheriff car. Leslie says to me in a low voice.."Now there is no sign of a cow anywhere...and this lady says she thinks she hit a cow, but we can't find one so we are not admitting that she hit a cow...O.K.? She could have hit a deer or something....O.K?" I make a quick survey of the accident scene.... a dent in the front of this lady's pickup truck and a great deal of "cow incriminating evidence". I look at Leslie and say "Well you can say she didn't hit a cow till you are blue in the face but all this cow #$*! manure all over the road I think is a dead give away if I were an investigator." As the story goes we never did find a cow with an injury so I have come to refer to this incident as the "Night of the Indiana Big Foot Sighting". The mental picture of the cattleman checking his herd on horseback has been portrayed to every kid watching B westerns on T.V. Well as I said we have advanced from the lowly beginnings of herdsmanship to use more sophisticated means. A car. That's right a four door Olds sedan fondly as referred by me as the "farm car". A hand me down from Leslie's late father. This 4 cylinder marvel of off -the -road maneuverability has yet to be matched by any Hummer. Allow me to enlighten you as to it's multi-terrain characteristics. Every good wife is a "Shrew". You know you have certain issues that you rag on until you realize that you are sounding just like your Mom. Well one of my pet peeves with Leslie is the fact that he doesn't want to put a vehicle in "Park". Not even an automatic. Whenever he is driving my car he will turn off the ignition and then place it in park. Well this leaves the accessories on in my car so he is constantly running down my battery. I was forever telling him to place it in park. He would proceed to tell me that all the tractors etc. he was use to driving he would turn off the ignition and then place it in neutral. I finally reached the point where I bought a new battery and just gave up "bitchin". But fate always affords an opportunity.... I was out of town attending the Indiana Porcelain Art School for a week. I was about an hour away from home and would try to call home every evening to check and see how things were going. This one evening I called Leslie and I asked how things were going and he tells me he had a little bit of trouble with the "farm car". Well naturally I asked what the problem was thinking an old car is constantly in need of the "part of the week". He proceeds to tell me that he got some moisture under the hood. and wouldn't start. The real jist of the story is that he took the car up in the pasture to check the cows (now why he didn't take the pickup truck is still one of the great mysteries much like the search for the holy grail). He was specifically checking on this one cow who had a sickly calf. He spies Mama and calf at the top of the hill in the pasture. He decides he wants to catch the calf and take a closer look.
Now I am sure you all have watched calf roping in the rodeos and have noticed that most calves are not too receptive to being "hugged" so the element of surprise and swiftness is of the essence for success. Leslie throws open the door, shuts off the motor and jumps out of the car to catch the calf.....Did we miss something in this chain of events. Yes, you are observant aren't you. We did not place the herding vehicle in park so since it is setting on the crest of a hill Newton proved that gravity is as dependable as the IRS. Said vehicle begins to roll down the hill. Now on the farm the most advantageous place to locate a pond in at the bottom of the hill so you may take advantage of all that water run off. That's right....just as Leslie reaches the calf the all terrain Olds begins to run down the hill toward the pond. He now tries to catch the car and get in and stop it (as I might interject here the drivers door is open). Thank heavens he didn't stumble and fall because this hilarious incident could have turned tragic.
Leslie is certainly not as svelte or fast as he once was so there really was little chance of catching this suicide sedan. Physical science prevails and General Motors tested it's first experimental beach craft of the modern era. Well since the drivers door was open he told me over the phone "she took on a little water". Oh yes and he would probably call the Great Chicago Fire a wiener roast! Those words of "shrewdom" hung in my throat like a wet sock. But "I Told you so" were never uttered by my lips. I have learned the smart woman knows when to keep her mouth shut! I remember the words "I guess I should have put 'er in park"...YES! YES! Good things come to those who wait. My relentless badgering did little but in the end revenge was so sweet. A couple of years later ....I have had to put another battery in my car because he continues to shut off the key before he puts it in park. The Olds....she is still chuggin' away. She had to have some new parts as the water tended to cause some discord. She is sort of a celebrity. When the great "Normandy Landing" occured I returned from my trip to go right to our county fair. I was working at the grandstand and just happened to make some inference to Leslie's all-terrain vehicle and the announcer just happened to announce this over the public address system.
The great calf/Olds/cattleman steeplechase has forever been recorded in local folklore for future generations. Up until now via oral history but now I have gone and written it down. Well this keeps the facts accurate and I know Leslie would want role as the athletic cattle/car wrangler to not be embellished. So hey...that is sort of what one day on the farm can be like. So if you think that rodeo is only for those guys in Oklahoma....think again.
Olympics from Down on the Farm
(c) 2013 Ellen Wilson-Pruitt