The Rest of the Story
By Farmer Doug
Clint does not need an introduction or conclusion to this one. Laughter all the way from start to finish.
Regular readers of this column understand that I am a rather poor excuse for a farmer. For the politically correct, I might be called “agriculturally challenged”. Whatever your term of endearment for my agrarian prowess, you must admit there are few dull moments when I am “one with the land”!
Those of you who have never been a farmer – like me – need to understand that hay grows twice in a season…there’s the spring cut and the fall harvest…who the heck knew? It’s for sure I didn’t. Regardless, the chores needed doing and Farmer Clint was primed for action.
On My Own
One bright autumn Sunday afternoon Doug and Barbara made a run over the Iron Mountain to Johnson City; I believe they were searching for a tractor part or two. I sat idly for a wee bit, thinking I would watch an NFL game, but soon became restless. (There was a time in my life when I could vegetate in front of the boob tube and gaze mindlessly at grown men running up and down a field of grass trying to knock each other’s brains out. But life at Harrell Hill Farms cured me of that malady.) Morphing into “Farmer Clint” cured me of that desire, even the ability to just “hang-out”. A man needs to be busy, busy, busy!
Earlier that day Doug mentioned that he was falling behind on getting the hay up and expressed concern that rain was heading our way. He already mowed and teddered the lower field, next to Cousin Betsy Herrell’s house, but it needed raking. Normally I would not even consider setting out on such a venture alone; but I’d been on this farm nearly six months and believed myself to be an accomplished farm-hand now. Well call it an unexplainable mental breakdown; refer to it as a sudden lapse in adult judgment; or simply call it a surge of confidence in Farmer Clint’s heart, but I thought ”Hey, I can rake that hay and surprise Doug!”
“One With The Land”
I drove to the barn and mounted that little Kioti tractor like I owned the sucker! Not only that but I attached the hay rake and even tested the hicky-doo that makes it spin around and around…heck, I remembered to raise the jack so it didn’t make sparks when I drove down the road, AND I remembered not to “ride the clutch” – a charge lodged at me by Farmer Doug which I deny to this day. I was pretty stoked, actually, to be ALONE and working the hay… life was good with Farmer Clint in the saddle and that hay rake following in my wake.
I was definitely in “the hay zone”, it seemed I could do no wrong. I stood back and stared in wonder at the perfectly manicured rows of fluffy hay I’d crafted. I just knew Doug would jump for joy! (Don’t laugh, I’m being serious here). I was doing so well I began to talk to myself, “Hey, Farmer Clint, you da man dude! Ain’t nobody, including Keith Masters, who could make a better looking hay row than you!” Needless to say, I was having an out-of-body, pride-filled party with myself!
As I tractored toward Cousin Betsy’s farmhouse I heard a sudden clang, bang, and rattle from behind the tractor – not good! (I learned from previous mishaps that when it sounds like parts are fixin’ to fall off it’s best to STOP!) So I quickly killed the thingamajig that makes the rake rake…I think it’s called the “PTO” (whatever the heck that means)…engaged the brakes and leapt from my tractor perch.
Well, you’ve never seen a more tangled, garbled mess in your life. Somehow I had raked what looked like miles of barbed wire, along with the freshly teddered hay. (Later I would discover – after a bit of chiding from Farmer Doug – that I had obliterated Cousin Betsy’s fence line L).
Anyway, I figured I’d better clear the doggone barbed wire before Farmer Doug came home. It took about 2 hours to clear that fouled rake but I managed to finish the job just as Doug came over the hill. He told me it looked great J…a rare treat for me to successfully complete a chore without having to be saved from myself! (Of course, I failed to mention the mangled barbed wire episode. I mean, why incriminate yourself when no one will ever know?)
Another “Teaching Moment” L
A day or two later, after another wonderful Barbara-cooked farm supper, Doug remarked, “So Clint, looks like you battled with Betsy’s fence row, huh?” My first reaction, as always, was to think of some way I could blame it on Tony; anything to weasel my way out of trouble. But, once again, I knew that “The truth will set you free”; so I looked into Doug’s eyes and innocently replied, “What in the world are you talking about?”
I knew he had me in the crosshairs when he flashed that wide Doug smile, a fatherly timbre in his farmer voice, “Well, there was quite a bit of barbed wire in the hay near Betsy’s place and, since you raked it, I figure you must have tangled with the fence.” RATS…BUMMER…HOLY SMOKES…I’m busted! “Yeah, well I did have a slight encounter with some barbed wire from somewhere, but wasn’t sure where it came from. Do you think I should tell Betsy?” Again in his ‘I’m the boss of you’ voice, Doug replied, “No, that’s okay. Betsy already knows.”
If I’ve learned nothing else about farming, one thing is sure: Farm people notice EVERYTHING. They know when you disturb a leaf; they notice when dust settles; each plant/critter/structure/piece of equipment is vital to their being, so don’t go trying to fool ‘em. WHEN YA MESS UP, CLAIM IT – OWN IT – FIX IT!
Farmer Doug explained, “I can’t feed hay laced with barbed wire to the cattle, they will get ‘hardware disease’”. (Duh, even I comprehend that eating barbed wire could be harmful!) But HARDWARE DISEASE? Come now, Farmer Doug, you are messing with me – ain’t no such thing as “hardware disease”. I mean why must he fabricate a story about some mysterious sickness? Rather than argue, I simply nodded agreement about the scare of hardware disease and went about my business. (Secretly, I wondered if Cousin Betsy was going to beat me up for “raking” down her barbed wireL)…hardware disease indeed!!!
Belly Ache? Eat A Magnet!
A quick internet search confirmed my worst fear…Farmer Doug was right; there is ‘hardware disease’.
According to experts, hardware disease is the term used when complications occur after an animal consumes objects such as nails, wire, or even tin cans. This condition is particularly associated with bovine due to the fact that cows have been known to make a lunch of steel or tin objects. Renowned veterinarian C.E. Spaulding states, “Why bovines like the taste of steel and tin, I’ll never know; but I’ve seen a cow happily munching down 16-penny spikes as her owner patched a barn wall.”
When caught early, a vet can feed a bolus-shaped magnet to the cow. This magnet will collect any metallic pieces and hold it in the reticulum preventing the debris from traveling throughout the cow’s system. Cattle owners can also feed these magnets to their stock to prevent hardware disease from occurring. The average cost of these magnets is inexpensive compared to the cost of veterinary care or the cost of the cow.
You heard me right, friends…if’n your cows eat nails just feed ‘em a handful of magnets! Now that’s crazy, but that’s what “those in the know” say to do. (I wonder…if two cows eat magnets and their ‘north poles’ or ‘south poles’ come into close proximity, will it push one of the cows over J?)
Well, fall became winter and tending hay turned to chopping wood and my barbed-wire hay exploits seemed forgotten. Once more the rugged mountain folks at Harrell Hill Farms had mercy on Farmer Clint and Cousin Betsy never mentioned that I had destroyed her fence. Until…
What The …..?
Spring 2011 drew me back to the hay fields and I was excited to renew my love affair with nature. As I meandered up Harrell Hill Road I could almost taste the aroma of freshly mowed grasses; expectant of another wonderful experience with the hay rake.
As I rounded the corner, nearing the barn, I noticed what looked like Crime Scene tape extending the full length of Cousin Betsy’s pasture. Why in the world would there be a ribbon outlining the border of the field?
Tie A Yellow Ribbon
Doug and I exchanged farmer hugs – the kind where ya slap each other on the back without really hugging – and shared thanks for the beautiful day God provided for working the hay. As I turned toward the tractor Doug remarked, “You see the yellow flags along the back side of the pasture?” …What a ridiculous question, DUH!…“Yes, Doug, I see that…what happened over there?” I asked. “Well, Clint,” he began, “last fall ‘someone’ removed Betsy’s fence with a hay rake and she just wanted to make sure ‘someone’ saw it this year!”
As I approached the far side of the field I learned that this was not Crime Scene tape at all, it was HUNDREDS of little yellow flags positioned alongside the barbed-wire fence. Sweet Cousin Betsy had carefully marked the boundary, created a sort of ‘runway’ for Farmer Clint.
“Tie a yellow ribbon ‘round the old oak tree…” To this day we’ve never discussed how I managed to chew up her fence row. But Cousin Betsy did her best to make sure I avoided it this go around!
Humbled in the hills,