Farmer Diary: Football and farmer seasons have arrived

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

In late summer, I always get that first, distinctive whiff of difference.

There is no one day to pinpoint when it happens, but it happens every year. I walk out on my deck early one morning in August, and all of a sudden, life is completely different.

It seems a little cooler, there is less light and the coffee tastes better. The calendar isn’t saying so, but for me, the seasons have already changed.

The athlete that always lives inside of me says it is football weather. Cool temperatures that make your skin tickle in the morning, and buckets of sweat left on the practice field that afternoon.

Last week, I drove to the Faulk County land where I am pretending to be a farmer this summer. I got inside my skid steer and started it up.

Out of the shed and on the way to the pasture where I would be popping eye-popping, 500-plus pound rocks out of the earth, I stopped.

I turned off the machine.

Something has changed, completely, I thought to myself.

I opened the windows, and a cool crosswind blew through the machine and myself. It was quiet, one of those dead quiet moments.

Even though I was surrounded by familiarity with the land, sights and job ahead, it all felt very different.

Finally, it hit me like a trailer-load of those rocks I had been mechanically picking.

Some of the peaceful, easy feeling of the farm was gone. Some of the “if we don’t get to it today, we’ll get to it tomorrow” feeling was gone. Even though no one was around me for miles except for that pair of jackrabbits that got up and hopped away, I felt a crop of human tension growing throughout the countryside.

Harvest time is upon us.

Fall camp is over, and farmers are now in full pads. Instead of running wind sprints just hard enough to impress the banker in a practice, they are running like their lives depend on it because their livelihoods do. Instead of dreaming up game plans in their sleep, they are making decisions as they go on little sleep.

It is not only football season. It is farmer season.

After a year of preparing emotionally, mentally and physically, they find themselves lined up face to field against their opponents. Some are hoping to score big. Some are hoping to break even.

Others already know they have lost big to Mother Nature in scorched fields that have had too much blazing sun and not nearly enough rain. The insurance adjusters have been out and the verdict is in, meaning some won’t even bother to take the field.

A critical page has turned in my summer, and I am interested in how these final chapters will farm out in the weeks ahead.

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