COUNTY AGENT GUY
It’s nearly November and the fall harvest is wrapping up out here on the prairies of eastern South Dakota. A stack of scale tickets from the grain elevator tells a farmer, in stark, black-and-white terms, how the growing season went. It’s like receiving the Mother of all Report Cards.
You study the final tally and begin to question some of your choices. Maybe you should have planted that jazzy new corn hybrid that promised both high yields and front-row tickets for “Hamilton.”
Perhaps you shouldn’t have planted on the day of that lunar eclipse. And you probably shouldn’t have hired that agronomist who had a copy of “Weed Control for Dummies” on the dashboard of his pickup.
Thanksgiving takes place after harvest is completed, a tradition that is the child of wondrously good timing. Not only are we grateful for the bounty, we’re glad that it’s all over with for another year. Thank God.
It has not escaped the attention of we who live in the hinterlands that a presidential election will be held soon. It appears that our two main choices are a career television personality and a career politician.
Some say that there isn’t a flea’s whisker’s worth of difference between the two of them, that neither can be trusted with so much as a pencil sharpener, let alone the nuclear codes. I guess we shall see.
This contest has been nasty, but that’s nothing new. I’m old enough to recall the election of 1972, when Richard Nixon and George McGovern went at it like a pair of tomcats fighting over conjugal rights. One might have hoped for a bit more civility from two guys who were members of the Greatest Generation, but no.
The sheer volume of bull feathers being spewed by the current presidential campaigns is stupefying. But we farmers are experienced with handling massive quantities of horse hockey. The best strategy is to deal with it as quickly as possible and hope that none of the stench sticks to your clothes.
Farmers generally don’t engage in intense political discussions when we meet at coffee shops or at high school football games. We all have strong opinions, of course, but we mostly keep them to ourselves. We don’t shout such things as, “Your guy has the I.Q. of a ball peen hammer,” and “Oh, yeah? Your candidate is so crooked, he can’t even lay straight in bed.”
Civility is the rule out here. This is because we still depend on our neighbors to lend us a hand when we get into jams. You don’t want to stupidly get your pickup stuck in a snowdrift the size of Mount Rushmore – and believe me, that can happen to the best of us – and call a neighbor whose sensibilities you may have offended a few months ago with your spittle-laced diatribe.
You don’t want to hear the voice on the other end of the cell phone say, “I’d like to help you out, but my wife and I really didn’t appreciate all those dumb things you said about NAFTA.”
The idea of sitting in a snow bank as you slowly become part of a glacier has a way of focusing your mind. So you learn to be polite and respectful and to keep the discourse civil.
Many farmers are of the opinion that no matter who moves into the Oval Office in January, nothing much will change for us. This is a fatalistic point of view that has been forged by years of experience. It reminds me of the fanciful tale I heard at the height of the Farm Crisis that swept across the heartland during the mid-1980s.
The story goes that three neighboring farmers ran into each other at a pub one night. As the beer flowed ever more freely, the farmers began to commiserate about their financial woes. By closing time they had figured out that they were all were getting grief from the same nettlesome loan officer. The tipsy trio decided to teach him a lesson via a good, old-fashioned tarring and feathering.
The farmers tottered off to the banker’s house and dragged him out of bed. Only then did it dawn on them that they possessed neither tar nor feathers.
“We had to do something,” one of the sodbusters reportedly explained later, “So we stuffed him into a barrel with a dog and rolled them down the hill a bunch of times.
“And you know what?” concluded the farmer as he sadly shook his head. “He somehow managed to come out on top every time.”
It’s almost November. The tally will soon be in and it will all soon be over. Thank God.
Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
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