We had an enlightening moment recently when my Michigan Granddaughter who is studying American History thought it would be fun to Play Canadian History trivial pursuit. Her mother and father did extremely well (both Canadians), but she was disappointed in the gaps in her knowledge. In true Canadian fashion, we apologized for the one-sided viewpoint of this Canadian game and urged her to seek historical bridges between the two countries. We found it. It is in our agricultural roots as descendants from farmers. However, it didn’t take much reminiscing until we came to this conclusion.
Farmers — on both sides of the border —
have a lot in common with each other.
And there is a lot that isn’t in common with anyone else!
Farmers are Odd
It seems that any time we look into our farmer past; we always land on one of those one-of-a-kind memories. The phrase “hard to believe” is the golden grail of family farmer stories and it seems that every generation has many to draw on. We love to see the looks of disbelief, when a story starts out with,” There was a farmer…” As I seek to polish my farmer’s wife role in tandem with writing for The Bullvine, I have a growing file on the oddities of the dairy farmer. Some of them are scientifically proven, others go beyond science to the undeniable truth which is found, of course, through four decades of marriage to a farmer.
Even Oddities Can Be Measured
Today everyone wants proof. Thankfully some farmer oddities can easily be monitored by the speed at which they occur. When it comes to walking, farmers are faster. When it comes to talking, farmers are slower. I haven’t had the opportunity to simultaneously test the two, but we all know that, when something unexpected is happening two fields away, the farmer is off and speed walking to the rescue. After the emergency is taken care of, the final five-word assessment of the successful outcome almost always seems to take longer to say than it took him to get to the scene. “She wasn’t due until tomorrow!” Apparently, the slowness of the delivery adds to the significance of the pronouncement.
Farmers Have an Odd Sense of Hearing
When I got the opportunity to join a farm family, I was mightily impressed by the attention they gave to listening. Coming from the fast forward of a house construction family, it was delightful to be heard at the board room table, which like farmers was also the kitchen table. However, not only do farmers listen better, farmers think about what you say. If I was prone to wild pronouncements in my early farm days like “that looks easy” or “I could do that,” it would quickly earn me the privilege of becoming more farmer-like myself. To this day, handy experiences magically appear to prove whether I actually have managed to fit in with these odd folks. You see, real farmers are not only hands-on, but they are also hands in. Most things non-mechanical will only get you dirty or smelly but it’s a fact that farmers get the oddest satisfaction from going beyond hands on to get up to their elbows in mud, dust, manure or baby calf deliveries. I’ve done most of the dirty jobs, but I usually try to have water, rags, and soap on hand for the inevitable clean-up.
Odd Sense of Smell
Which brings me to the biggest oddity that sets farmers apart — their smell. No. I don’t mean their sense of smell. It goes beyond that. You too probably know one of those odd farmer dudes who is absolutely convinced that he is still huggable even when he is covered head to foot in manure, and other unidentifiable ride longs gathered on his around-the-farm journey. That charm can only go so far. However, it also makes him a prime candidate for diaper changing, should the opportunity arise. But first, you have to convince him that he notices it. Remember farmers are odd. They love those dairy airs perhaps a little more than smells coming from their dairy heirs. Truth be told, I have learned to accept that oddity, until or unless it invades my car or suddenly wafts down to where I’m sitting in the church choir. “What is that smell?” remains a subject of investigation, but somehow or another folks are learning to check out that guy up there in the men’s section. You know the one with a little bit of something on his shoe. As for the car, I must be a real farmer. The other day, the neighbor surreptitiously put the window down when I was driving her to a card party. Farmers are odd!
Farmers Are the Oddest Volunteers
Although hubby’s family have lived on this farm for 101 years, there seem to be less and less farmers in the surrounding community every year. Having said that, if you want to test how many farmers belong to the group you’re volunteering for, whether it’s Lions Club, community theater or any other group that needs a big effort, just call a work bee, and the conversation you hear will quickly tell you where the odd farmers are.
Farmers cannot get together – ever – and not have their conversation start somewhat harmlessly with the weather and then turn to a variety of farm related experiences that most of the neighbors wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.
Of course, I have proof. Recently, when setting up tables for the Annual Ladies Salad Luncheon, I clearly overheard two of these odd fellows as their conversation moved easily from broken water mains to mastitis. They didn’t have any concern that their heartfelt problem solving might not be entirely appropriate to the rest of the team who was preparing for white tablecloths and teaspoons. If this occasionally happens to you, remember farmers are a declining breed. It is best to make sure your normality meter can handle a conversation that is as free-wheeling and organic as the food they produce.
Dairy Farmers Produce Experiments
When I am spending time with my city friends, that’s when I notice that they are oblivious to the excitement that being married to a dairy farmer can entail. Although I don’t think my hubby actually plans to scare me, nevertheless I sometimes feel that he ponders the deep question of, “Let’s see if this will go through the washing machine!” more frequently than his innocent expression is intended to display. Although the quantity of rattles and bangs has started to decline, I still experience the mystery of discovering everything from binder twine to invoices in the washer. This recurring problem would be eliminated if the machines didn’t get turned on without inspection. But remember farmers are hands on. They are not hands- emptying-the-pockets-first on! Then, of course, there is stage two. “If it makes it through the wash, let’s try drying it.” Ear tags, cotter pins and anything else that can be zipped into a pocket to keep it safe will eventually send you running to the crash banging of the clothes dryer. “Well it may not be safe anymore, but it sure is dry!” (This is delivered slowly and with an eye on the nearest exit). Odd indeed!
Farmers Remember Differently
I have learned from being married to a farmer, that there is satisfaction in repairing and maintaining the family homestead. In the past 100 plus years, there are unique stores of items all over the farm that can be used for landscaping. Family history wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t join around the fire pit to hear the tales of days gone by. So, when I needed some especially flat stones for edging, I was told to drive the front end loader to the rock ridge. Well, folks. After one hundred years, the rock ridge is no longer rocky or a ridge. Thanks to erosion, tree harvesting, and rock picking, it is currently only slightly more than a rise in the rolling terrain. However, if you have to ask for more defined directions, the ensuing argument ranks right up there with trying to create a mountain out of an old hill.
Likewise, when you think it’s time to replace a split rail fence that has seen better days, you better get approval from any guys still living that had a hand in building it. “Dad and I built that when I was fifteen. We hauled all those rails from the bush to the barnyard. It is not only beautiful, but it’s also part of our history!” Yup. Farmers remember things differently. They’re odd.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
As the sun sets each day beyond the now empty milkhouse, I often reflect on the myriad of ways that the man I married is different from the men and women I meet in corner offices. Although he is comfortable there too, he really shines when he takes a farm project into his own two hands. Today that might have more to do with writing and consulting, but he always comes home to the farm and delves into the next ‘real’ work that needs doing. He’s there when the neighbors need help training calves. He’s there to build tree houses and forts with his grandchildren. He works hard. He sometimes smells funny. He loves the land and his long, long days almost as much as he loves passing on his long, long history to the next generations of his family.
You might call that odd. I think it’s inspiring!!