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By Staff | Jun 18, 2010

It’s an election year once again, with politicians flinging their foul fertilizer into every nook and cranny of our great land – although I don’t think the stuff the pols spew will make much of anything grow.

A catchphrase heard often these days is ”retail politics.” I don’t know much about such things, but suspect it means going belly-to-belly with the voters. Kissing babies, stealing their lollipops, that sort of thing.

I’ve shaken hands with a handful of famous elected officials. It was strange to see them up close and in person instead of in their natural habitat, namely, strutting about within the confines of a TV screen. Even so, the first thing I thought after shaking their hands was the same as when I shake anyone else’s hand: ”What if he just wiped his nose with that paw? Is he the sort of guy who doesn’t wash after using the restroom?”

Germs, I suspect, don’t care which way you vote.

A few years back the heavy hand of Government came down hard upon we denizens of Oslo Township. We were told – not asked, but told – to cut down any and all trees growing in the right-of-way of any and all land we might own.

A guy couldn’t argue with the reasons for this edict. Trees were beginning to block the view at intersections and were overhanging the roads and generally becoming a public nuisance. But, still. We’re talking about trees and trees are our friends.

Being a Good Citizen, I duly complied with the township board’s jihad against ditch dwelling dendriforms.

I hired a hit man to cut down the trespassing timber. I also instructed him to shred their remains, erasing the evidence of our arboricultural annihilation. But my Government mandated duties didn’t end there.

We were also commanded to apply herbicide in the ditches to keep new trees from gaining a foothold. Think of it as a form of population control for a particular set of life forms, especially those named Herb.

And so I recently wandered the ditch while toting a 2-gallon sprayer, conducting a search and destroy mission for baby trees. Noxious weeds were also on my hit list.

What took me an hour by hand probably would have taken a minute with a mechanized sprayer. But my way was much more enjoyable because I got to conduct war on weeds at the retail level.

I might point my sprayer wand at a bull thistle and growl through gritted teeth, ”You feeling lucky, punk?” The thistle did, but luck was not on its side. Confronting a bevy of burdock, I sneered, ”Go ahead! Make my day!” They went ahead and my day was indeed made.

Numerous tree saplings also met their fate. But I know they will be back again next year, like a politician running for reelection.

Sometimes people do stuff that make zero economic sense. An example of such a thing involves my old barn.

Our little farm has an oldfangled gambrel roof barn. Grandpa housed his cows and horses in it and I used it for a while as a steer shelter.

The barn sits empty nowadays and really isn’t of much use to anyone – except for the strutting pigeons. Pigeons are a lot like politicians: they fly in, flap around, make a whole lot of useless noise, then fly off, leaving behind an icky mess.

The old barn’s roof had begun to shed its shingles. More and more daylight could be seen through the growing gaps.

We know what would happen if I did nothing. The elements would have their way with the barn and it would eventually dissolve into a pile of rotting lumber. This I could not abide.

So I had a new roof installed on the elderly barn, even though it made absolutely no sense from an economic standpoint. My only payback is the knowledge that the barn might yet be around 50 years from now.

The pigeons were very pleased with their new roof, which greatly displeased me. It then occurred that they could now be totally locked out if I were to replace the barn’s broken windows.

Which I did. Spending time climbing around in the hayloft brought an unexpected boon in the form of a flood of memories. There was the aroma of old hay, the murmur of pigeons on the roof, the tang of well-aged manure on a warm breeze. To a former farm kid, it was very much like heaven.

The pigeons are not happy with their new arrangement. I don’t understand bird-speak, but they seem deeply upset at having been voted out.

But who cares what pigeons think? Besides, another benefit is the knowledge that I’ll no longer have to deal with their particular brand of fertilizer.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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