I will freely admit to being a gawker. And not only admit it, but state that it is one of my favorite activities.
We have railroad tracks within a quarter mile of our home, and a train whistle sends me to the window to see how many locomotives are pulling the train (I’ve counted as many seven), what kind of cars are being pulled (usually tankers and hopper bottoms I associate with ethanol and DDG), and if it appears to be an especially long train, I count the cars (the high is 164).
On a recent trip with my 16-year-old grandson through Kossuth County, one of my favorite places, he received instructions from me on the observing of barn cupolas.
Not only does one look at the barn cupola for shape and condition, it is important to look at the weather vane that is usually there and then look more closely for a horse, cow, or rooster that is attached to it.
If you see an animal on the weather vane, then look more closely for bullet holes from someone’s attempt at target practice probably long, long ago.
Extra points are awarded if the glass balls are in place which means also examining the lightning rods.
The real trick is to do all this is while driving at the speed limit without becoming a menace to other traffic on the road or even to yourself.
An enthusiastic gawker can be a dangerous thing.
While we were traveling and taking in our surroundings, my grandson and I observed harvest progress which appeared to be around 50 percent complete, other field activities such as tiling and manure hauling, and I introduced him to another favorite activity of mine – the collections of rocks piled up in the corners of fields.
I look the rock piles over checking them for size, color and shape. I believe I can safely assume that these rocks all came within a half mile of where they are now as the annoyed farmer wanted them out of the way as quickly as possible and hauled them to the closest out-of-the-way spot.
I especially enjoy the slab-sided rocks because I wonder how they got so flat on at least one side.
It gets more intriguing if they have an unusual color, have stripes or one wide stripe.
How did that happen thousands and thousands of years ago when these were likely molten blobs?
The unusual rocks are hauled to a prominent place on the farmstead because someone looked at the rock the way I do and not merely as an annoyance, although it probably started out as one.
Occasionally, I will see where someone has stacked several rocks on top of each other on the edge of the field, which I consider modern art – farmer style.
How long has that stack been there? Why did they do it? Was it boredom or entertainment? Is this a test to see how much wind it will stand?
My grandson is a good sport and enjoys the same oddities and eccentricities of life I do.
We observe, comment, and then usually laugh, watching for the next object of interest or speculation as we travel.
It takes a gawker to enjoy another gawker.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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