Caught In A Time Warp

Hoosier Perspectives

Was I born too late or too soon?

Published on: January 10, 2011

The wallpaper border around the top of my office walls is a bucolic scene of Holstein cows in the pasture. My late father milked for 20 years, during my 'formative years' and I think happy thoughts when I see those cows, even though there was a lot of hard work involved. It seemed like a simpler time. You knew what work had to be done, you did it, and then you went on to the next job.

The shelves above and to the side of me hold farm toys- everything from a red Tru-Scale picker on a John Deere 620 tractor (the colors clash) to a custom Alliss-Chalmers model 60 pull-type combine and an Allis-Chalmers Roto-baler. We never used a Roto-baler, but the idea of making small round bales that could be stacked in the barn or left in the field fascinates me. Perhaps part of the fascination is that it was an idea ahead of its time. Gary Vermeer a couple decades later would invent the big round baler, bales that shed water, but that can be moved with equipment and stored easily, and amount to 15 to 20 small bales.

Today there's round balers that wrap bales, make big square balers, even baler attachments that let you capture corn residue from the back of the combine and bale it up, either for feed, bedding, or perhaps for use at an ethanol plant. Of course there are no cellulosic ethanol plants operating routinely in Indiana yet, but some believe they will eventually be the direction that the industry goes.

In all that is perhaps my problem. I love to reminiscence about the '50s, 60s and '70s when I grew up. That's why most of the small toy and literature collection I have dates to that period. It's also why I'm a sucker for tractor drives that feature older tractors, Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair and the old-time show they put on every other year at Rantoul, Ill. By the way, this is the year. It will be held in late August, just before the Farm Progress Show, back in Decatur, Ill. this year.

I like to work hard. There was something satisfying about feeding the cows after milking and going to the house on a cold, winter's night, knowing 'I could sleep well' because everything was taken care of and bedded down. Maybe I should have been born 20 years earlier, in the 1930s, so by the '50s I could have been driving the Massey-Harris 44 hooked to the Massey #17 pull-type combine represented by the toys on the shelf above me.

Then again, I'm fascinated by new technology- it's cool to see yields flash up on the screen on yield monitors. That's probably the single most important change in generations to me- a chance to know yields, study yield changes across the field, and do it all from the combine cab. I also like auto-guidance, varying rates on the go, vertical tillage, Roundup-Ready crops, no-till - all the innovations from the past 20 years or so.

Then I see my college-age son pulling in play-by-play text of a Colts game setting at a restaurant, doing it on the cell phone. I thought they were for talking. I know what Facebook is, but I refuse to visit it, so far- why let the whole world know what dumb thing you're doing now?

Truth is I find new technology fascinating, especially when it pans out, and leads to higher yields or more profit for farmers. I don't always understand how it works, and sometimes have trouble operating it, but I love to write about it. Maybe I should have been born 20 years later, in the '70s, so I would be young enough to understand the ins and outs of all this technology, just like the youngsters do.

They always say there's a time and place for everything. Maybe God put me exactly where I belong- in a place and time where I can appreciate the past and relate to those who worked their way through those times, yet get an inkling for the future, and help tell others how new breakthroughs could help them, even if I can't use everyone of them myself.

God has a way of getting things right, after all.