No doubt you love what you do. Nearly every farmer and farm family member does. Why else would they do it? In most cases, it's not for the big bucks, and even today, it's not for the 9 to 5 banker's hours or excellent working conditions.
Still, if you're normal and honest with yourself, there may have been a day way back when that caused you to wonder what it would be like to do something else. Maybe a day like I had today - I dumped water out of troughs in the dark to dump in sheep feed, slid in the mud, groped for hay for the steer in the dark because a light bulb was burnt out, then took my truck to my cousin's station to get the oil changed, only to find out he was afraid his wobbly service station lift couldn't handle the extended cab pickup.
Its' the first new pickup I've had in 25 years, and hopefully the last. So I wasn't too pleased when I stopped to get bargain sodas at the local convenience store on my way home, only to have one spring a leak as I sat it in the cupholder. No, it wasn't a leak- it gushed out through that Styrofoam. To top the day off, I drove 20 minutes over the lunch hour to get two new pairs of glasses - I never get just one because I always lose at least one pair within six months - only to find out somebody messed up, and the second pair wasn't in yet.
"We're sorry for your trouble," the polite gal said. "Hearing 'I'm sorry' gets a little old. How about hearing something constructive, like 10% off the bill, or better yet, hearing they'll fix their system so it doesn't happen again.
Don't worry, I love my job, and even on bad days, there's nothing else I want to do than talk, eat, sleep and write about agriculture. But just to make sure, I tried something different the other day.
I volunteered to chaperone a dozen high school FFA students doing volunteer work, setting up for the Hoosier Beef Congress that occurred this past weekend. I was assigned the day that wears you out - hauling and spreading 19 loads of wood ships, one skid-steer bucket loader at a time, forming four huge side-by-side show rings for the 1,500 head show. The ring floor over concrete needs to be six inches deep with wood chips or composted sawdust, raked, and wet down. If you think it doesn't sound so tough, try raking dirt in your garden next spring with a hand rake, and imagine doing that over an area probably 100 times bigger than the garden.
The teachers know the first day is physically tough, so I got the big bruisers and the kids that are more mechanically inclined, plus a few girls who couldn't go any other day. They're all good kids, but a full day with 13 teenagers doing a job that would have taken a toll on a dozen grown men as well isn't exactly a picnic.
Fortunately, the boys lived to drive the skid-steer loaders. If one was sloughing off, I would threaten him with losing his turn at the loader, and he would buckle down. The girls lived for the noon break, when they got to fix the lunch we brought with us and then, their favorite part, eat it! They didn't even complain about being asked to clean up. After all, there wasn't any wood chips in the break room.
Most of the day, I was a supervisor, a manager, standing with a rake in my hand and looking like a busy boss. Unfortunately, a couple of the kids found that pose to their liking as well. Before the day was over, everyone, including me, had just about all the raking and dragging of mulch they needed for a full year.
"Would you like to do this when you get out of school?' I asked one of the burly sophomores with me. "Driving the skid-steer is Ok," he said. "I could handle that. But this raking - no way, I couldn't handle that job."
Maybe that's why by mid-afternoon, after raking for another couple hours after a skid-steer shift, he remembered he had a bad back, and asked to go back to running the skid-steer. Just what I would want to do with a bad back, cramp myself into a small space for two hours.
"Stay in school and make sure you don't have to do any of this," I told him later. Just for a moment, there, it looked like the light bulb actually went off - don't study hard, end up with a menial, low-paying, disgusting job - OK, I'll study! I'm afraid it may have flickered by the time we got back home, though.
So even though today had its challenges - actually, it was pretty much the pits - it looked good compared to cracking the whip over teenagers and physically moving foul-smelling composted mulch myself.
Those who say the grass is always greener on the other side lie. Sometimes it's a putrid brown over the fence, and has the faint smell of musty soil and cow manure mixed in. Don't worry - I'm certainly staying where I am. Odds are you will too.