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By Staff | Oct 28, 2011

For some silly reason I’ve begun to read Don Quixote. This project is so huge, years will probably pass without any discernable sign of progress.

But I’ve been told that this epic, thousand-page slog will be well worth the effort. The way I see it, Cervantes has been waiting for four centuries, so what’s a few more years on top of that?

The man of la Mancha brings to mind my current situation, which begins with my wife’s, and my, fondness for homegrown beef.

For the first 45 years of my life I had access to homegrown beef. This substance suddenly became unavailable when I exited the dairy farming business nearly a decade ago. It still seems strange to eat meat that we haven’t named and nurtured.

Our place has an antiquated gambrel roof barn that’s surrounded by a nice patch of grass. I mentioned to my wife recently that it seemed a shame to let that grass go to waste and she replied that perhaps we should purchase a steer next spring to convert some of that grass into beef.

This was great good news! My lady love had given me a quest! I forthwith began to lay plans.

My first step was to inspect our aged barn. It remains in fairly good condition, but contains deep deposits of prehistoric manure. The ceiling is awfully low in some spots, which could limit the size of our steer. This was unacceptable.

A small skid loader would theoretically fit through the door. But whither goest the guano after it’s been mechanically evicted?

Another option might be to engage the services of a manure mercenary. But where’s the adventure in that? Where’s the chivalry?

My solution was simple, chivalrous and adventuresome: I would purchase an experienced manure spreader to put behind my John Deere “A.” This would leave only the tiny matter of shoveling the dung into the spreader, but how difficult might that be? It’s not as if I planned to lance a windmill at full gallop.

The main requirements for the proposed spreader included a modest price tag and a small box. The smaller the box, the more frequent my rest breaks as I applied the doo-doo to a nearby field.

A squire named Doug Peters offered a spreader that fit the bill. Doug has a very nice selection of very experienced farm machinery. Some might deem it “scrap,” but I consider it “classic stuff that’s a bit past its prime”. Sort of like me.

And like the daft old knight, I envisioned great possibilities where others saw rust.

I was soon ready to launch my first sally against my ancient archenemy, manure. Armed with my trusty lance (a rusted pitchfork) and shield (a shovel) I rode forth.

It didn’t take long to recall why I had loathed barn cleaning as a kid.

“This isn’t the least bit adventurous or chivalrous,” I thought as I dug downward, trying to locate the concrete floor. “It’s just smelly and dusty and dirty.”

How could have I forgotten this? Time and an overworked sense of nostalgia were big factors. When I last shoveled out a barn, I was young and had actual “six-pack” abs instead of my current “it looks like he’s enjoyed way too many six-packs” belly.

One load, I told myself. I just have to pitch out one load and I’ll call it a day. Even at a load per day, the battle will eventually be won, given enough days. It’s no different than reading a thousand-page book.

Except there are huge differences. For one thing, reading a book generally doesn’t cause your muscles to scream in protest. Your back doesn’t roar with pain the next day and you don’t suddenly find it difficult to rise from your La-Z-Boy.

As with Cervantes’ knight-errant, my first sortie left me stiff and sore and much the worse for wear. But like Quixote, I remained undeterred in the pursuit of my goal.

In this “instant everything” era, it’s good to relearn the art of perseverance.

“The oxen are slow, but the earth is patient” goes the old proverb. But in this case, the ox is me – think “weak mind, strong back” – and the earth part is, well, a very earthy substance.

All for what? So that my wife and I might enjoy a homegrown T-bone more than a year from now.

It’s so very vivid in my imagination: the steaks are sizzling on our plates, the potatoes are baked and buttered.

Raising a glass to my lady love, I will declare in my most chivalrous manner, “Here’s to the gracious Lady Juliet de la Oslo Township, whose charms are without compare!”

Whereupon she will smile, and that will make it worth all the effort.

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

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