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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Jan 16, 2010

We Midwesterners are known for keeping our emotions in check. We like to keep our emotions within a safe range. We can be happy without being exuberant or jubilant. Our sadness can stop short of anguish or despair.

We even keep those people who show their emotional outbursts at a safe distance as if we might catch whatever they have.

We come by this disposition honestly, as we believe in the fleeting nature of things. We know nothing lasts forever and whatever is occurring, it will change.

I was taught this lesson once again this past fall as I went into harvest believing we were going to at last grow a perfect crop. My August exuberance gave away to despair once September arrived and my soybeans starting showing the widespread white mold as I have never seen it before. Then the corn crop got moldy and never fully matured. It was 60 days going from the best to the worst.

When harvest should have been underway in October, we sat still to wait out a record rainfall for the month. Yes, my full-blown optimism ruined harvest for everyone else.

To prove that nothing lasts, the poorest harvest month of October gave way to a rather decent November and there was much catching up with almost everyone able to complete harvest and get much of their tillage done.

However, November’s kindness was brief as December arrived with snow and cold to make sure we were not carried away in our optimism.

So far, January has kept us under its thumb. We can get our essentials done, but not much else. With these alternating patterns, maybe we can hope for a pleasant second half of January but will not get too optimistic because we know what that leads to.

Life in the Midwest tells us not to get our hopes up because we do not want to face disappointment. It also teaches that us that when things get bad, it could always be worse.

That is why we operate in a narrower range of emotions. We smile, but avoid the belly laugh and hold back our tears preferring to blink quickly and look the other way.

If the tears are too great, we bow our heads as they fall. The extremes of happiness and sadness are almost too much.

I am a life-long Iowan. Most of my family lives in the states of Iowa and Minnesota. We are a reserved people and it has served us well. Boom and bust occur around us in the weather, the markets and even our daily events.

When things are too good we look over our shoulder waiting for it to end, already not trusting it will last. When times get tough, we suck it in and soldier on. Wailing aloud is not allowed.

We will leave the outpouring of joy and grief to warmer parts of the world where they seem to be ready to do that and they are good at it. We will watch them express their joy and grief and try not to get too close.

That is not to say we lack passion. Our passions are, well, passionate. We have heard about the flames of passion and our passion does not resemble the fast hot flame of a fire, but more the glowing coals that give off slow long-lasting warmth once the initial flames have subsided.

We know there are thorns in the roses and roses in the thorns. For every bad there is a good and vice versa. We go on vacation but make sure we carry a spare tire. In times of trouble, we tell each other and ourselves that better days are ahead.

We Midwesterners are a reserved people and it has served us well.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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