Springtime got over confident, he was sure he owned this and Old Man Winter just walked up and kicked Springtime square in the balls. The long range forecast is for Spring to be bent over struggling to breathe for the next month. Colder and wetter than average. That’ll make it harder on the farmers, more struggles getting the crop in, possible flooding and freezing once the crop is in… Added expense in an agricultural economy already struggling. Its estimated to cost $3.65 per bushel to grow corn. The Chicago Board of Trade was offering $3.66 today. It’s challenging to keep a multi-million dollar farm operating on margins like that. A four-wheel drive 500hp tractor or a new combine will run well over a quarter million, seed might be a few hundred per bushel. Not the kind of stress I need in my life and not the kind I wish on my neighbors but it is a fact of farming life. God Bless ’em.
The dogs are unhappy about the resurgence of crappy weather too. They were lovin’ the two hour walks troopin’ the line everyday after work. It took an hour and a half just for them to slow down, up to that point then they were at full speed, sniffin every blade of grass and every fallen branch keepin track of the creatures that had trespassed upon their territory. The dead stump beside the house once again erupted with garter snakes which for some reason is like Chanel #5 to dogs. They’ll pick up a snake by its tail, shake it lightly to scare the piss out of it then flop down brutally and rub themselves all over. Lather, rinse, repeat. The poor snakes just play dead and pray that the dogs get bored and leave. They eventually limp (?) away but judging by the kinks they had pounded into them they don’t do it very quickly. I bet they got some hellacious stories for nights inside the tree stump though. Once again we’re trapped inside the house, close to the heat while the drizzling rain and cold, lonesome wind rule the prairie.
If “From My CP” had a theme song this would be it, “Cold Lonesome Wind.” Written and released by Wayne “The Train” Hancock in 1995. Shelton Hank Williams III once referred to Wayne as “the reincarnation of Hank Sr.” That’s high praise indeed. Wayne’s music is neck deep in western swing, you know, “it don’t matter who’s in Austin, Bob Wills is still the king.” Take a minute now and let the Cold Lonesome Wind blow you back home…
He can moan the blues like Hank, that far off train whistle in his voice is described as “the high lonesome” among singers and musicians. They damn sure got that one right, it’ll rip your heart out when the singer wants it to.
I’m amazed daily by farming, how its changed, how some things stay the same and the farmers themselves. What people they are, widely varied in many ways, just like everyone else but the undercurrent runs true, I believe it’s the same thing I encountered in the Army, “Shared Danger and Hardship.” My family has been making their living from the cold frozen, rocky earth of the northern prairie for 147 years, that’s a lot of cold lonesome wind. When I was a kid, 40 or so years ago, the average farm was probably a quarter section but it was starting to expand as changes and adaptations to the markets took hold. 1954 was the first time more farms used tractors than horses. By my youth many still had horses but they were just for fun. Up to my time each farm was mostly dedicated to self survival. Every farm had a barn for cattle and milk cows, a hog house and a chicken coop. The milk, meat, eggs, hides, feathers and everything else was stored against the ever approaching winter, anything extra could be sold, if there was anything extra. The rest of the world just had to make do like folks here were doing. That had started to change by the time I was a young man, markets were opening up, billions of bushels were being bought by countries less capitalist than we were and we were happy to sell to them.
Today farming is more specialized, dairy (milk) or feeder cattle (steak on the hoof), or hogs (bacon on the hoof), even in hogs there’s feeder hogs, or farrowing (breeding and selling the baby pigs) or farrow to finish which is raising your own baby pigs and feeding them till they’re 300 lbs (about 300 days) and then selling them. There are other niches, veal calves, sheep, then there’s chickens or turkeys, egg layers, or chickens bound for the Colonel’s evil clutches.
The most common is probably the grain farmer. Dairy, cattle and hog farmers use all their land to grow food for their animals, mmany farmers today eschew animals all together and just raise crops to sell. Corn and Soybeans mainly, sunflowers, beets 50 miles north, wheat farther west into Dakota. A little sweetcorn bound for the Jolly Green Giant’s canning plants and your grocery store eventually.
Some grain farmers around here farm as much as fifteen or twenty thousand acres. A guy just down the road from me, I went to high school with him, milks a couple hundred head of cattle. He’s got a computerized milking set-up that milks 160 head three times a day. When the cows udders become uncomfortable from the weight of the milk in them they walk up to the barn and stand in line to get on the milker. All by themselves they wait, once the cow on the milker steps off they get on, a laser scans their udder, a spray of water and disinfectant washes the teats, a tag on the cows neck identifies her for the computer, a ration of sweet silage is dispensed for the cow and the milker attaches itself. Once the udder is empty the milker detaches and the cow goes back to whatever it is cows do . Usually eating.
In 1989 I went to South Korea for an exercise we lovingly referred to as Team Stupid. The Army called it Team Spirit but we found our name much more descriptive, not to mention accurate. We took the first version of the GPS (Ground Positioning System.) If you set it perfectly still for about 30 minutes it would pick up signals from three satellites and tell you where you were plus or minus 300 meters. I knew when we stopped where we were within a hundred meters using nothing more than a map and a compass. You tell me, if you’re calling for artillery or an airstrike do you want to know where you are within 300 meters or where you are down to a gnat’s ass? Personally I prefer the gnat’s ass. What a waste of time and energy. I stayed in the Army long enough to see GPS guided bombs send terrorists to allah by the bunches. I thanked the gods night and day for my GPS in Iraq’s flat, featureless landscape in 2003, going so far one night that I mutinied and told the Lieutenant leading the patrol that I was going back to the COP, if he wanted to follow he was welcome if he wanted to continue to flounder about LLFMF (Lost Like Forty Mother F’ers) he could do that too, I didn’t give two shits. I was a Sergeant First Class with 15 years of experience he had a college degree… Guess who followed whom?
Today the GPS will steer tractors as they plant the crop, perfectly straight rows conserve seed, prevent over population of seeds and make harvesting easier. The GPS will also steer combines as they harvest, it tracks acres and maps each field as its done providing on the go information about the yield and hyper-accurate records of each field for planning the next crop.
The striking part of this advancement in farming technology for me is wondering “who dreamed this shit up?” Only an individual could have dreamt this, a government section of bureaucrats couldn’t do it, one man who happened to be at the right place at the right time foresaw it and built it. That’s American Exceptionalism in a nutshell. Individuals making their own lives what they want them to be, Good Lord what a miracle, at least till the gov’t steps in to stop you. You know it will.
I hope y’all find my music tempting, if you double click the songs and watch it on YouTube it will suggest other songs by my chosen artist and other’s like him. I hope you click a couple links, like a couple sites and maybe buy an album or two. I can tell you right now there’s nothing cooler than riding through town playing “87 Southbound” on the FLHX’s 5 disk CD changer, dressed head to toe in leather and emanating cool bad-assery from every pore. So here’s some “87 Southbound” from Wayne Hancock just to up your cool factor. This coolness is not guaranteed to work in mini-vans, Prius’s or Hondas. Its recommended for pick-up trucks and Harleys, if your a fag play Lady Gaga or the radio…
Y’all come back now, hear?