Thursday, October 18, 2012

Disappearing Rain

The western sky was ominously dark that morning. We were on about the third or fourth day of soybean harvest so we were still anxious. After all what would happen if it started raining and didn’t stop for several weeks (it's just like a farmer to worry about rain none-stop for weeks in the middle of a drought). Dad and I set our jaws and headed to the field, determined to harvest as many acres as we could before the impending monsoon overtook us.
We had made contingency plans, complete with an evacuation plan for the harvested soybeans and equipment. The weatherman was calling for heavy rains, possibly two days worth. Surely this was the start of the fabled rainy season. Our stress levels were at an all-time high, as we raced to the field, seemingly ahead of the line of storms headed our way.
Dad plunged into the field with the combine and the race was on. I quickly checked my so-called “smart” phone and watched the green squall line with imbedded bits of yellow and orange headed our way. I zoomed in and out, tracked the storm. I even looked at it with other radars on other sites; the storm had us squarely in its sights.
All of this information I relayed to Dad. At least I tried to relay it to Dad. My calls to him went unanswered; I was beginning to think he was screening his calls (later I found he had turned the ringer off on his phone). So impending was the storm that I thought about walking out into the field and flagging him down. I decided against this because I didn’t want to cost us a single minute. Earlier in the day we had decided that every acre we got out was one more we didn’t have to worry about in the upcoming wet season (more wishful thinking).
Finally, we had harvested enough soybeans to make a load. I carefully checked my now half dead “smart” phone. Did you ever wonder how can we develop phones with all the apps and abilities but not develop a battery with them that will last all day. My old phone used to go days on a battery, this “smart” phone only seems to last until 3:00, on a good day. Sorry for the rant, now back to the dilemma. The storm was bearing down on us, seemingly just 30 to 40 miles away. Did I have time to get the load to town?
I climbed up into the combine cab and Dad and I squinted at the tiny screen and watched the line of storms move toward us. A quick strategy meeting determined that I would take off for town (luckily the truck with the load was also the truck with working windshield wipers) and Dad would continue to harvest as much as he could before the imminent rain sent us to the barn.
I left for town watching the dark black clouds in the mirrors. The beginning of radar withdrawal was setting in. On the drive to town I started to think about what I would do on my rainy afternoon. I had several errands in town to run, paperwork to catch up on, or maybe I would clean the house as a surprise to my spouse. Oh who was I kidding, I was going to take a nap, and it was going to be a great nap. But first I had to deliver the load of beans to the elevator before they got wet.
I pulled into the elevator and unloaded quickly. I checked the radar one more time and noticed the storm had slowed in its approach. Great, it would buy me more time to get back to the field. The storm had also seemed to weaken a bit, but I dismissed this as wishful thinking. The weatherman had promised rain, and we all know they never go back on a promise.
I reached the field as the first drops hit the windshield, I could hear the couch calling my name that afternoon. After about a minute the drops started to smear the windshield and I turned the wipers on. After five more minutes the wipers had removed enough of the goo and mud for me to see out of a very small area. Then no more rain, the western sky had started to lighten.
I checked the radar one more time, on my now almost dead phone. The clouds had melted away, seemingly right over our field. We got no more than a few drops and the wind had picked up quickly drying off those few drops. Harvest would not be delayed, at least today. The big rainstorm had left me with only a smeared windshield and dashed hopes of a nap, and of course a dead “smart” phone. Well, I guess it wasn’t all bad.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Election Year Rant

I don’t know about the rest of you but I am ready for that first Tuesday in November. I know, there is a lot of October left and I really enjoy the weather, activities and everything else October brings. However, I am really ready for this elections cycle to be over. I am tired of the ads, the phone calls and most of the news reports on the campaigns. This is not one sided either; I am tired of both parties campaigns.
We have started soybean harvest and that has given me plenty of windshield and more importantly dashboard time. The dust is thick on my dash and I have filled it up with thoughts on this election cycle. All of this makes me grumpy. Maybe I am getting old, my kids accuse me of being old and cranky, but I am fed up with what I am seeing and the action or lack thereof in D.C. So, for what it is worth, here are my thoughts for those running for office.
First of all, I can take care of myself, I do not need the government worrying about my health, and how I run my business or live my life. The government should worry about the infrastructure, defense, education and safety. We should all take responsibility for our own lives. I don’t mind paying my own fair share but I disdain supporting those who can care for themselves, but chose not to. I am so thankful for the work ethic my parents instilled in me. Being successful is not something you should be penalized for. Here is an idea, instead of taxing me because the government has to care for me, let me keep my own money and care for myself. I will also see that those in my community who can’t care for themselves, are taken care of.
Most problems are best handled close to home. We know what we need, we will protect our own lands and we will take care of our communities. It is really hard, if not impossible for someone who doesn’t live here to understand my community and needs. Please, D.C. (and for that matter Topeka) let us decide what we need and how much taxes we should pay. We will either improve our community making it a great place to live or it will become a ghost town. Government is much like tomatoes, homegrown are by far better than hot house.
Next, quit making political stands and do what is right. Just because you have aligned yourself with this group or that group does not mean you have to vote that way. Also this idea of your ideas or nothing is wrong. This great nation was built on the ability to discuss issues and come to an agreement. Do what your constituency wants and what is good for them, not what makes the best headlines. Again this is not aimed at any one party but at both. Roll up your sleeves, talk to the other side and solve some problems.
Finally, tell me what your plan is. Do not complain about what the other candidate has not done, done wrong or why they are a bad person. Instead tell me what you will do and I do not mean in terms of vague generalities, have a concrete plan with ideas for action. If you do this I promise to listen and put careful thought into your ideas. I am tired of only getting negative sound bites with no ideas on how to make things better. I also understand that your entire plan may not be implemented, see my above paragraph about compromise. Let’s return to civility.
Whew, sorry to unload on you like that, but the last robo-call I received put me over the top. Again, this is not aimed at any one party; I am disgusted with all the candidates. I am also disappointed with myself and all the rest my fellow voters (and don’t even get me started on the apathetic non-voters). We seem to pay more attention to negative ads, dirt that is dug up and sensational new stories than we do substance and ideas. We need to demand more from our candidates and keep demanding more after they are elected.
I will finish by reminding myself and all of you that despite this ugly, negative campaign, we still live in the best nation on this planet. We enjoy freedoms the rest of the world only dreams about. We live in peace and safety. For the most part we enjoy a good life, food is plentiful, most of us do not go without any of the basic necessities and we enjoy a lot of comforts most of the world cannot fathom. Most of us are blessed beyond our comprehension.
However, we must also continue to nurture and care for this nation. We must continually strive to make it better and that responsibility falls to each of us. We must all become active in the communities and our own governance. If we do this, the message will be sent and our nation will continue to steam on leading the rest of the world with it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Best Birthday Ever

Last week I had a birthday. It seems to me that birthdays are just not what they used to be. I remember when I was in grade school my birthday was one of the top five days of the year. It was a great day with presents, taking treats to school, a birthday meal, parties and cake. It was your one day of the year and it was awesome.
Then came high school and birthdays marked milestones like 16 and your driver’s license and 18 and adult status. Birthdays at college were even more non-descript with the only milestone being 21. After college they just marked getting a year older and those marking a new decade seemed more reflective than celebratory. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy my birthday because getting another year older sure beats the alternative.
Throughout the years I have had many co-workers who took the day off and spent it doing things they wanted to do. I whole-heartedly agree with that and I have even heard of companies who give employees their birthdays off. So did I take my birthday off or was I given a day off. The answer is no and before you start to feel bad for me, let me say that I had one of the best birthdays ever. Here is how I spent it.
The morning did not start off on a happy note. The night before I had found out from my neighbor that our bull was AWOL and I was not entirely sure where to find him. So as the sun rose and I finished chores I had a mission, locate the bull and bring him home. At least the weather was nice, the air had just a hint of fall and the sky was a crystal clear blue. Killer, the cow dog, and I loaded up in the pickup determined to find the wayward bull.
We quickly located him about a mile down the road in another one of our pastures. He was not seeking companionship as I had feared, but rather munching on new growth brome grass and seemingly enjoying his solitude. Killer and I got out of the pickup and approached him. He took one look at us and started ambling back home. Yes, he started off on a slow walk straight back from where he had come, stopping every few feet to grab another mouthful of grass. I honestly think he was waiting on us.
Killer, the bull and I enjoyed a nice mile hike back to the pasture where he jumped the fence and rejoined his cows. OK, so the entry back into the pasture was not the way I wanted it but the end result was good. Rest assured that he will be coming to a McDonalds near you later this fall. Killer and I then walked back to the pickup stopping to talk with my neighbor along the way.
The bull did alert me to the fact that the brome had grown more than I had suspected and was ready to be grazed again. However, to graze this patch meant I needed to work on the fence. Again, not exactly what I would have wished for on my birthday, but something that needed to be done. I worked on the fence until noon and then went to Westmoreland to meet Dad for lunch. He had called and offered to buy lunch for my birthday. The special was what I usually order, I know it was just because my birthday was on Tuesday and that was the special ever Tuesday, but it doesn’t hurt to think you are special once in a while.
That afternoon the weather was absolutely perfect and I found most of the insulators the deer had knocked off the fence. There is something satisfying about accomplishing a task that needed to be done. That evening Jennifer and I delivered beef to a customer. This is also something I really enjoy, I love hearing about how they enjoyed last year’s beef and how they are looking forward to having their freezer full. Jennifer and I finished the day by taking in some volleyball and picking up the kids from their activities.
On the surface my birthday may seem like a normal day. Taking care of livestock and chasing kids around; no parties, no cake or presents. We finally got back home around 8:30 and ate sandwiches. I then collapsed into my easy chair, tired and happy. So you ask what made this one of the best birthdays ever.
While I was driving my bull home, I was reminded that I was doing exactly what I had always wanted to. I have all I really need in life, my kids are healthy and happy and I have a wife who puts up with me. To top it all off, the day was a picture perfect fall day, the hills were green and the leaves on the trees were just starting to change colors. My cows are happy and content and where they were supposed to be. I realized that life just doesn’t get better than that and that, my good readers, is why my birthday was the best one ever.