Why I Am Not a Farmer: Patience, Pitchforks, and One Ugly Rooster

Update–July 2016: Why I Farm Project
The “Why I  Farm” project aims to honor the American farmer by sharing video stories and connecting with consumers.

Update–July 8, 2013–Why I Love Farming…
This blog link includes videos of farmers explaining why they farm—and why they are passionate about it. 

My earlier post below also praises farmers–but delves into… 

Why I Am Not a Farmer 

I loved growing up on a Midwest farm, and I still visit the home place as often as possible. But by age fourteen or so, I knew my days of tractor driving and hay baling were numbered. Maybe the decision came on a Saturday morning in a stuffy hog house as I lifted yet another pitchfork load of soggy manure. But when I think back on the main reason I left “the Good Earth,” I have to admit, it was my lack of patience.

Good farmers know how to be thoughtful and measured in their approach. Herding cattle? Easy and smart beat frantic and fast. Fixing an ailing truck engine? The right tools and a logical approach work more smoothly than a sledgehammer and duct tape. And waiting for rain during a drought? Patience and prayer are healthier than worry and profanity.

Even though I knew I wasn’t cut out to be a farmer, I did give it one more test run a few years after leaving the family farm. My wife and I returned from two years of teaching high school in Australia, and I needed summer work. For several months, we lived outside of Iowa City and resided in the hired hand’s house across from a thriving farm operation run by two brothers.

I felt comfortable doing field work, hauling grain, and feeding livestock, and I could even handle the 6:00 a.m. rising time. But I did draw the line at 6:00, and one incident symbolizes why I knew we weren’t destined to be modern day Ma and Pa Kettles.
For several mornings in a row, the ugliest rooster ever born started up his cockadoodle-dos at 5:00 a.m. outside our bedroom window, and by the fourth sunrise performance, I’d had enough. I hopped out of bed, ran through the back porch, grabbed a pitchfork that was leaning next to the door (really—this was Grant Wood territory—you had to have a pitchfork ready in case of emergency), and acting like a man possessed, I went after the rooster. He was ugly but not dumb. Within seconds, he wiggled his way deep into a wood pile thirty feet from our house, and even though I stabbed and probed, he won.  His pathetic whining made me think I had possibly pricked his feathers a bit, but I gave up, and walked back in to a deserved assessment of my performance from my wife. “You looked pretty manly in your tighty-whiteys and carrying a pitchfork. I was actually pulling for the bird.”
Barnyard justice did prevail in the end. Two days later, I swallowed my pride and told the brother-farmers about the incident. They both stopped what they were doing, one of them snorted a bit and spit out a steamy wad of tobacco, and his brother said, “Well that figures. That old bird came over here yesterday and started messing with the geese. I shot him. Too tough to eat. He won’t be botherin’ you again.”
Probably best that I’m not a farmer. I can’t blame the rooster—he got the bad end of the deal. And I can’t blame pitchforks. Most farmers don’t pitch manure anymore, and as far as I know, I’m the only person dumb enough to use one as a deadly weapon against a “foghorn leghorn.” But maybe instead of my lack of patience, I should blame farming in general. If the pigs would all play nicely, if the tractor would never have a flat tire, and if the rains would come at the right time in the right amount, I’d be Mr. Happy, standing on the front porch chewing on a piece of alfalfa and smiling at my Green Acres.
by dan gogerty (photo from agro.biodiver.se)

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