On the farm, we try to take care with things and use them as long as we can, since cash isn’t growing on trees. At least not on our farm. So we do things with the things we have so we can still have things when we need them later.
Like the garden. We always plowed the garden “trash” back under the soil so it would make some nutrition for next year’s crop. We scattered ‘backer stalks (tobacco for those who don’t know the jargon) all over the field so it would help the next year’s allotment get met. You keep your grease on the stove in a little can so that when you need to make gravy you’ve got some. Sometimes you need to.
And we always cleaned out the barn in the spring. I hope you’re not eating, I need to get a little graphic here. We cleaned the manure out of the barn. If we didn’t, in a few years the cows would be standing just under the tin above the hay loft. It didn’t take long to “hit the ceiling” in our barn. You know, on a farm, “poop happens.” And so there was this wonderful little machine we pulled on the back of the tractor that had to be filled first with manure (the polite word) from the barn. We worked for several days. It took a good bit to fill the bin up on the Manure Spreader, which looked a lot like this:
So there was this one year I was helping fill the spreader up. Pappaw was good at driving the spreader all over our hills, tossing dung as he went, chewing tobacco and scaring passersby on the highway as they saw him take up the steep hills, slinging the load behind him. When we moved into our new house, he lovingly supplied the fertilizer for our new lawn, since the site prep men had taken it down below the topsoil. Our land needed a boost. Pappaw needed a place to sling. I had to mow later. And watch my step.
But I was helping him each day as soon as I disembarked from the school bus. It let me out at the corner of the pasture road, across from the “Shop” and the tractor shed. I went joyfully through the gate, excited to yack about my school day. I had recently gotten my braces off and looked good with my smooth, straight teeth. But I was made to wear a “retainer,” which was custom fit to my mouth, and after a day at school, found itself in my shirt pocket due to teenage angst about who saw me with it in my mouth. I had done this several days and it was habit-forming.
I went into the red barn, found a pitch fork and commenced “pitching.” Soon we had enough to spread. I was standing in the cattle chute when I reached in my pocket for my retainer. Said dental equipment aforementioned now was found absent from said storage area. “Oh no!” I broke out in a nervous sweat. I was already sweating from all that pitching, but now I was nervous too, and the sweat turned cold. This thing cost money. We went on a search. As I considered the consequences of this situation, I lost interest in finding it.
I still have dreams of watching my retainer fly up in the air off the back of the manure spreader. I’m sure if someone had a metal detector, and a lot of time, well, don’t bother. I’ll live with the crooked teeth.
And the bright green hills of home will be my reminder.