If you even know a farmer, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
There’s a certain kind of strength that belongs only to a farmer. And if the rest of the world understood it, there would be a national day of recognition for those who choose to spend their lives filling our plates three times a day, everyday.
You may know a farmer if you’ve ever smelled him coming before you were aware of his presence.
Though it’s not always that way, you’ll want to admire his strength from a distance after he has spent the day power-washing the hog house or scooping rotten corn out of a bin.
You may also want to give him a snack that comes with a wrapper or a fork on those days, since his hands may not be the cleanest.
And you may want to distribute it at the end of a long stick. Ack.
The farmer is a man-beast of sorts. He can heft heavy hay bales straight up, not even needing that familiar “bale swing space” to get it where it needs to go.
He can carry four hay bales at a time across the yard. While his slow, but paced, stride in doing so may resemble a penguin mother-to-be, he knows how to get that job done when he’s the only himself around.
A farmer can pick up a 250-pound pig on hog loading day. Of course, this depends on how well the hog loading is going. The madder the farmer, the lighter the pig.
The farmer has hands strong enough to crack open pails of feed additives, hook up heavy implements and fix motors, and gentle enough to cradle a tiny, sick lamb.
He scales the sides of grain bins and silos with great athletic prowess – sometimes, holding a shovel as he goes. That should be a new Olympic sport.
There are times when the farm wife’s heart is racing as much as her farmer husband’s is by the time he reaches his destination.
It’s a long way to the top going straight up, and a short way down if his foot slips.
He bales on the hottest days of summer and repairs frozen livestock waterers bare-handed when it’s 20-below.
He’s out checking pregnant livestock, delivering baby animals in the middle of the night, and works around the clock to get the crops out and the last of the fall tillage done before it snows.
Straight rows and healthy crops are important to him; after all, everyone will see.
He sits with a pencil and a calculator as he markets his commodities, and does so with a stomach of steel as he plays that game. He fills out his financial statement for his banker, and sometimes wonders why things weren’t better, based on how hard he worked all year.
He watches his children struggle with the death of animals they’ve grown close to, and even struggles with it himself now and then. He watches his young children clumsily learn how to run his equipment, sitting next to them, guiding and encouraging – sometimes with firm tones.
But always, teaching the next generation how to do it after he’s gone.
He shoulders years when commodity prices convince him to put off buying needed equipment, and spends money cautiously in the good years, knowing it may not last.
His skin is leathery, calloused, lined and worn – not only from Mother Nature, but from years of worry, a few years of hardship, and a lot of sleep deprivation.
And yet when that sickly motor runs like a top again because of the work of his hands; when healthy animals greet him at the feed bunk; when he successfully crafts a machine part out of scrap iron because he can’t afford to buy new; when he can fix something himself; when he stands in his field and feels the rain water his crops; when he puts on his cap and squints in the sunshine of a brand new day; it’s enough to give him the guts to do it all over again.
That’s farmer strong.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.karenschwaller.com.
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