Moving on from the farm |

Moving on from the farm

Gary Lindstrom

There is a drought all over America. The Midwest is especially hard hit and corn and soybean crops are suffering. My point of reference remains the 1950s, when there was always too much water on our cornfields.

In Colorado, a farmer has to buy water or dig a deep well and pump water in order to grow a crop. In Iowa, I remember how we had to dig ditches and put in clay tile to drain the fields. It did not always work, and we would lose acres to standing pools of water in the fields.

The standing water was the bad news. The good news was we could get several cuttings of hay out of the same field. Enough hay to make my back ache for days and enough hay to feed the livestock for the entire winter.

Hay that we would bale in small bales and have to load onto hay racks by hand. Even if we waited until the hay was very dry before baling, we still had to lift nearly 100-pound bales onto hay wagons. Someone on the wagon had to stack the hay four to six bales high before the load headed to the barn.

At the other end, there would be a hay- hook arrangement that used rope and pulleys to lift many bales at a time to the hayloft. Thank God for physics.

We would work all day in the field. My aunt would bring drinks and sandwiches for all of the help and we would take a 30-minute break in the shade of the hay wagon. It is funny, but now 50 years later I can still remember the white bread with butter filled with a couple of slices of bologna, served with something like Kool Aid. In the middle of the day in the middle of the field, in the middle of the heat, in the middle of the sore muscles, it was steak and lobster with fine champagne.

The men would always have a beer or two with their lunch. I still remember the smell of the beer mixed with the Skoal or Copenhagen snuff. Ah, ambrosia. The character and culture of the Iowa farmer. That, along with the farmer’s tan from the cap that never left the head identified the captains of the breadbasket of America.

Once we combined the oats, we went through the same process to bale the straw and stack it in the yard. The straw was used for bedding for the cattle, sheep and pigs in the barn during the winter. Straw was so much easier, as it was always very dry and very light.

It was a lesson on the circle of life. The straw would become bedding for the animals, easily picked up when the stalls were cleaned. The stalls were dirty because the animals would have eaten the hay that was baled the previous summer and used as feed. A virtual perpetual motion machine.

I tell young people who complain about their jobs that they are just learning to know what they do not want to do when they are adults. I think about that a lot when I think about all of the hard work, pain and suffering I went through working on the farm as a kid. I learned I did not want to do that for the rest of my life, and my goal became to achieve anything that did not have anything to do with farming.

Gary Lindstrom is a Summit County commissioner and regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.

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