COUNTY AGENT GUY
Summertime and the livin’ is easy, goes the old song. But how can a person enjoy all this supposed ease when he’s never managed to master the art of laziness?
My wife and I have a friend who has a theory. People from the south are so adept at taking it easy, he said, because of the climate. If a person lives where it’s perpetually summer, food isn’t much of a concern since it’s available the year round.
But those of us who live in more northern latitudes know that summertime is a mere blip, a temporary reprieve from the Long Cold. Summer is a season of hustling to lay up food for ourselves and our livestock.
Follow that line of thought to its logical conclusion and one might surmise that those who live on the equator are especially adept at indolence, while folks who live nearest the poles are perpetually working.
I am not personally acquainted with an equatorial inhabitant nor any denizen of the North Pole (not even Santa Claus), so I don’t feel qualified to comment.
All I know for sure is that ever since I can remember summers were filled with toil.
My work responsibilities began when I was quite young. One summer day when I was perhaps 4 years old, my sister Di informed me that an important task was at hand.
It seemed that one of our mother cats had birthed her kittens and it was up to us to find said kittens so they could be petted. Otherwise, the kittens would grow up to be hissing, spitting wildcats.
I was only too happy to help with my first real job on the farm. Di and I spent a good deal of time searching, especially in the old barn. We clambered up into the hay loft and peeked under piles of old boards.
When our search led us into tight areas where only a 4-year-old would fit, it quickly became clear why I was chosen to be part of this critical mission.
We finally caught sight of the mother cat, who only days earlier had looked like a furry, four-legged cantaloupe. We followed the now slim and svelte mother cat to her hidden nest and litter of kittens. Petting operations commenced immediately.
Di picked up each kitten, scrutinized it, then declared, “This one’s a boy” or “This one’s a girl.” This information was apparently printed on the kittens’ tummies.
As I grew older I learned that there were numerous and even more important jobs to accomplish each summer.
It began with corn planting then rapidly and seamlessly progressed to baling hay, cultivating, baling more hay, cultivating again, small grain harvest, more cultivating, baling straw and then baling more hay.
And if we weren’t doing any of those things, we were reminded that there was always a garden that needed weeding, fences that could use some attention, calf pens that were begging to be cleaned, and on and on.
Because I was always doing something when I was a kid, I now find it nearly impossible to do nothing. But maybe the ability to be languid can be learned. If so, I had a terrific role model in my dad’s uncle Stanley.
Stanley was part of our neighborhood baling crew. He was a classy old farmer guy who always wore striped gray bib overalls and never got dirty and always managed to avoid overexerting himself.
Mom would put on a huge noontime feast for the hungry baling crew. After dinner, Stanley would invariably suggest that we repair to the shade at the north side of the house to rest and digest.
Stanley would sprawl across the grass while the others sat or stood in the relative coolness of the shade. Cigarettes were rolled and smoked; there was quiet conversation mixed with the occasional good-natured joke and chuckle.
And in the midst of all this, Stanley was somehow able to fall asleep almost instantly.
Others of the crew would try to follow his lead, but drowsiness never seemed to be as good as friends with them as it was with Stanley.
A small snore might escape Stanley’s lips and sidelong glances cast in his direction. This bothered Stanley not in the least. I always admired his flair for insouciant indolence.
It’s taken many a long year, but I’m finally starting to get the hang of summertime slothfulness. In fact, there has even been the occasional summer afternoon where I managed to pull off a short nap after being hypnotized by the steady drone of the air conditioner.
Someday I hope to match Stanley’s level of laziness. I think it’s a goal well worth achieving, no matter how much work it might take.
Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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