Springtime insanity

Farm Forum

It happens every spring.

Every spring when the weather first begins to warm, a teensy seed of insanity will sprout in a farmer’s brain. He will at first disregard it, following the time-honored guy theory that if you ignore an annoyance – for example, a broken arm or an anniversary – it will eventually go away. This theory has never worked, but still.

One day, something causes the tiny seed of madness to blossom and overtake the farmer’s mind. The stimulus may be simply catching a glimpse of a greening lawn, but a more likely trigger is hearing a rumor that a neighborhood farmer is seriously considering the idea of thinking about starting field work.

Gripped by the insanity, the farmer flies into a frenzy. His tractor’s engine oil is changed; tire pressures are checked and rechecked; bearing seals are blasted apart due to overenthusiastic grease gun activity.

After his farm equipment has been thoroughly lubed and cleaned and polished, the farmer, who is now wearing a thick coat of grime, jumps into his pickup and tears out to his nearest field. Shoot! The ground still looks too damp.

But the madness now controls every last neuron. Even though his land is so wet that lifeguards should be posted, the farmer pilots his tractor out to his field to perform some experimental tillage. “Just gonna see if all the kinks are worked out,” he tells himself.

They are. In fact, things start out so smoothly that the farmer tempts fate by trying to till some low-lying ground.

There’s an abrupt shift in the farmer’s universe and his tractor ceases to move. He climbs down from the cab to discover that his steed has sunk up to her axles. He swallows hard and a jagged stone of disgrace settles in his gut. He realizes that he was indeed the first in his neighborhood to plant. But he also knows that it doesn’t count when you plant your tractor.

It has ever been thus. Since the dawn of agriculture, famers have tried to hasten the arrival of springtime, driven by the irrepressible urge to be the first in their neighborhood to begin planting.

“What you doing here?” grunted a cave-farmer’s wife one sunny spring afternoon 10,000 years ago.

“Uh… me sorta got stuck,” replied the cave-farmer as he studied his mud-caked moccasins.

“Again?! How that happen?”

“Not my fault! It was stupid mastodon that pulls plow. Mastodon too old and puny. I told you we shoulda got a better one!”

“Don’t blame mastodon, it wasn’t steering! Maybe Crog can pull you out with his new mammoth. You might not like my brother, but at least he can outsmart mud!”

Every farmer has been in a similar situation. It’s not a question of if he’s been mired in the mud, but how many times.

I showed a talent for sinking tractors at an early age. This was partially due to bad judgment, but also because of my extreme susceptibility to springtime insanity.

Every spring, as soon as the snow began to melt, I would start to fiddle around with our farm equipment, greasing this, adjusting that. During this process, I acquired a layer of grime that was thick enough to stop a ten-penny nail. Bonus!

Dad would finally decree that the land was ready to be worked. I recall how proud I was the spring when he first entrusted me to till a field with our trusty “A” John Deere. I was ten years old and therefore a late bloomer compared to many of my farm kid classmates.

It was a marvelous spring day: sunny and warm, with a light breeze which made the cloud of dust that the disk was churning up travel along with me.

The field I was disking had a low spot where some quacking squatters had taken up residence. My job was to reclaim as much land as possible from the ducks.

I scribed circles in the sodden soil. With each circumnavigation, I was able to steal just a little more ground. Emboldened by my success and driven by the insanity, I edged ever closer to the water.

Then the “A” lurched to one side. Crap! I was stuck. But the insanity wasn’t yet done with me. I crazily decided that I could kick one brake and pop the “A” out of the mire. This only made matters worse.

Next came the slow and miserable walk of shame up the hill to were Dad was planting corn. And as Dad and I approached the “A” with his tractor, he quietly said, “Hunh. That’s about where I got stuck last spring.”

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