Trading in city worries for farming worries

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Farm Forum

Editor’s note: Farm Forum contributor John Papendick is spending his summer and fall helping on the family farm in Faulk County. He is writing about his adventures in a series of columns.

I may be playing the role of a fake farmer in Faulk County this summer, but my problems are real:

• My wife said that she never knows when I will be home for supper.

• People who hire me for nonfarm freelance gigs sometimes say they have a tough time getting hold of me due to poor or no phone reception on the farm. Like real farmers, I have identified certain parts of different fields — not always higher ground strangely enough — to get reception.

• I’ve probably had only a couple of flat tires on my vehicle in the past 30 years. This summer, I’ve had four. And recently, within an hour’s time, my pickup windshield sustained two rock chips thanks to trucks hauling a combine and another grain.

• Sometimes a long day on the farm turns into a long night on the computer due to writing or other freelance deadlines.

• Sometimes farm dust clouds my judgment. Our cat got really sick this summer, and I was thinking we needed to put our old friend to sleep to end her suffering. It turned out to be a hairball, and she is fine. Right after that, I got sick, had same-day surgery, and our cat was advocating that I be put to sleep. I am grateful my wife and dog each voted “no” on both accounts, or so they told me.

• Even the youngest of real farmers have proven to be more valuable than me. Like my nephews, 10-year-old Mason and 8-year-old Sawyer, who reminded me in the middle of the field to check the gas level in my skid steer. I was on “E,” by the way.

• People ask me real farm questions, such as what kind of tractors are you using, is the corn mature enough to start harvesting, or will you be planting winter wheat?

I usually smile and say “Good.”

• After tending to hundreds of farm acres, I barely have time to take care of my tiny bit of ground in the city.

• If I am caught in a store during a weekday in Aberdeen, some people are bound to laughingly ask me: “Why aren’t you out farming? What kind of farmer are you?”

“A fake one,” I snicker in my not-so-good imitation of Muttley (a Hanna-Barbera animated character from the 1960s TV cartoon “Wacky Races”).

• Real farm problems, such as no rain, low crop prices and high expenses, have kept me up at night. It is like a neighbor farm hand told me in so many words earlier this summer, “When you become physically involved, you can’t help but get emotionally, spiritually and mentally involved in these farm problems when you are out here every day.”

Amen, sister.

Longtime South Dakota journalist John Papendick is a freelance writer, public speaker and seeker of new life experiences. Email papendickjohn@gmail.com.