Feeding time on the farm.
You never knew what to expect. I have never seen pigs with as much of a “sugar high” as those poor pigs had. They had cleaned up the entire 5 gallons of scum and just laid down. With Clint, you had to be very specific in the instructions, and I must admit that I did not always do that to perfection. The surprising thing was that Clint had actually gotten in the pen with the pigs and poured the five gallons in their trough. I was not there, but knowing pigs the way I do, I am sure that they were all over him trying to get to the molasses scum. I don’t recall any dire tales of him being attacked or almost eaten alive, but I would not have been surprised if a few tales had derived from the feeding frenzy that I am sure took place!
Rest in peace my friend.
When you’re me it’s hard to decide which story to share next with 50,000 of my closest friendsJ. Oftentimes people are perplexed as to why I am willing to relay tales of my incompetence month after month. I tell them that I am a proof-positive that there is a merciful God Who looks after the fools of this world…and I am chief among themJ.
The Farmer’s Apprentice
It was early October, 2010, and time for the Family Fun Festival at Harrell Hill Farms. This annual harvest celebration is truly a wonderful event highlighted by Gospel music, face-painting for children, hay rides, excellent BBQ pork and other goodies, and the making of old timey sorghum molasses. If you’ve never attended this country festival you should make plans to come this year on Saturday, October 4th! Anyway, back to the story.
When I came to Harrell Hill Farms in the Spring of 2010, A.D. “Daddy D” Harrell kind of adopted me as somewhat of a “project.” Day-to-day I was “in the custody” of Farmer Doug, as you know, but Daddy D. occasionally stepped-in when to provide me some special lessons. This was to be such a day as he pulled up to the barn and honked the horn of his Chevy pick-up truck. As always, I went running to see what was on his mind.
“Get in, I wanna show you something,” he said with a wry smile. I was usually tentative when summoned this way but knew I was not to question his commands. I climbed into the passenger seat having no idea what would come next.
We meandered up Byrd Road, weaving slightly from left to right (Daddy D’s eyesight wasn’t what it once was!) until we arrived at Farmer Doug and Barbara’s farmhouse and parked in the driveway. “Come on,” was my only instruction, and I went.
Daddy D. carried an old, oil-stained brown bag which appeared heavy in one hand. As we approached the front porch he began digging in the bag, first tossing me a couple worm-riddled “sheep’s nose” apples (I think that’s what he called them), then he handed me some sticks and dried leaves, and finally unveiled a rusty contraption of some sort. I confess, I quickly identified the first three contents but couldn’t imagine what we would do with the ancient, rusty, medieval torture device. Soon I would know.
Setting The Steel Trap
Please understand, Daddy D’s hands were pretty gnarly…I don’t mind telling you the man didn’t have a single straight digit. I can only imagine how his hands had become so – ummm, weathered would be a nice term but they were a mess. I once remember him threading his boots with a pair of pliers because his fingers couldn’t do it! At any rate, he said “I’m going to tell you what to do, but you have to follow my instructions. I would do this myself but my fingers can’t manipulate the trap like they used to. Now, don’t do anything until I tell you.” Always the eager learner, I agreed to the challenge.
“Now look,” he began, “we’ve got a groundhog under the porch here and it’s digging tunnels all the way under the house. We’re going to set this trap to try and get rid of it.” By this time I am getting pretty excited, just think – “Farmer Clint The Trapper”J. It just had a certain ring to it, don’t you think?
Another thing you have to know about Daddy D, he was fun and mischievous much of the time I spent with him, BUT…he was VERY SERIOUS when teaching me things which might be considered dangerous…”Clint, don’t ever go into the woods with a chainsaw by yourself; be sure you have a partner!” … or, “Son, you’ve gotta watch where you’re going with that tractor and hay rake, you’re running people off the road down there!”… “Always check to make sure the power is off on the fence before you climb over!” The warnings were endless.
Daddy D was a long time educator and was about to crank up his teaching voice. I’m not sure exactly what he planned to say but I have intimate recall of his next comment…to paraphrase, “DANG IT, BOY, YOU’RE GOING TO KILL YOURSELF!” (Oops, I think I made him mad)L.
You see, in my mind I already had graduated to “Farmer Clint the Trapper” and had the jaws of that steel monster wide open. As I went to put it on the ground it snapped with the force of a 500 lb. gator, narrowly missing my right hand. And I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, Daddy D said ‘you have to follow my instructions.’ Guess I failed that test.”
I wiped my brow and looked him in the eye as Daddy D “dressed me down” for a little while longer – a verbal whuppin’ I’d earned; then we went about the business of resetting the trap. He, with his very bent fingers actually did the “setting”; I was allowed only to sprinkle a few leaves and twigs in the vicinity. Daddy D put those sheep’s head apples nearby as bait. “That’ll get the job done,” he said. And he winked at me – you know, that ‘wink’ we get from a parent which actually means, ‘its okay now, I still love you, let’s move on.’
Back At The Barn
While I was learning to be a groundhog trapper, Farmer Doug and Larry were busy boiling the juice from sorghum cane. This is a very tedious process which requires continuous skimming to remove the various impurities and proteins which rise to the surface. It forms greenish foam – similar to the slime used in Ghost Busters – and it must be scooped into buckets for disposal. Anyway, there were a couple 5 gallon buckets of what I call “molasses scum” beside the pan.
“Hey, Farmer Clint, why don’t you take some of that up to the pigs? They will be your friends for life,” Farmer Doug laughed. Now that was rather funny since you may remember that I had some rather unpleasant encounters with these aggressive piggies earlier in my stay on the farm.
Obediently, dutifully, I grabbed a bucket of scum and walked to my truck. After having nearly chopped off my hand with a groundhog trap-thingamabob, I was “into” following directions to the letter. So, I left a 5 gallon bucket full of molasses drippings just inside the piggy fence. I looked forward to a new, improved relationship with the hogs after that.
Too Much Of A Good Thing?
It has been said that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Apparently that is true of molasses and piggies.
The next morning, as we enjoyed Doug’s patented buckwheat pancakes with molasses mixed with butter, it started:
Doug: “Hey, Clint…ummm, did you give molasses to the pigs?”
Me: “Yeah, and they REALLY liked ‘em.”
Doug: “Well thanks for that. I wonder, how much did you give ‘em?”
Me: “Just one of the 5 gallon buckets full.”
Doug: “Oh, a WHOLE 5 gallon bucket full?”
Me: “Yeah, but it was a couple inches from the top ‘cause the rest spilled out into the truck bed.”
Doug: “Hmmmm,…” – now that crooked, wily, half-cocked smile overtaking his face.
Me: “Now what? You tell me to give the pigs some molasses, I give the pigs molasses. Didn’t you want me to give them molasses?”
Doug: “Yes, I did. I was thinking more like a cupful in their evening feed. But you gave them 5 gallons, right?”
Me: “Yes I did. Are they okay?”
Doug: “Hmmm, not sure yet. When I drove by all 5 of them were lying on their backs with their feet straight up in the air.”
Me: “Dead, are the pigs dead?”
Doug: “Naw, they aren’t dead. Not sure if they will be or not since I’ve never given 5 pigs a 5 gallon bucket of molasses.”
Me: “Darn it, Doug, I’m so sorry. I thought you meant…oh never mindL.”
Doug: “Once again, it’s my fault Clint. I forget that you’re still new to the farm; I need to communicate better; to let you know exactly what I’m saying.”
You must know that by now I’m feeling pretty much like the village idiot. I’d disappointed Daddy D by nearly severing my arm; now I may have killed Doug’s pigs. What next?
Doug: “There’s one thing about it, Pollard.”
Me: “Yeah, what’s that?”
Doug: “If they don’t die beforehand, that will be some mighty sweet-tasting BBQ next fall!”
I received that message…my second “wink” of the day. (And those pigs lived until the next OctoberJ).
Still humbled in the hills,