It’s not easy figuring out a farmer’s luck


“A wise gamester ought to take the dice even as they fall and pay down quietly, rather than grumble at his luck.”

Sophocles, 403 B.C.

You’ve heard of beginner’s luck and dumb luck, but are you familiar with farmer’s luck? It falls somewhere in between the other two.

Farmer’s luck ought to be defined in Webster’s, reading something like this:

Farmer’s luck — an illusive, maddening chain which promises that the hog market will go up the day after a farmer sells the last pig on the farm. (This is just one example of thousands.)

Studying farmers and trying to figure out what makes them tick has always been interesting. There is a sturdy, defiant, steely determination in nearly all of the farm folks I have met, and thrown in to the mix is a strong sense of humor.

Questionable luck

I am beginning to think some farm folks live to break the cycle of farmer’s luck. Full bins? Prices are at their lowest. Go ahead and sell ‘em and you can bet your beans that the grain market will be up tomorrow.

This run of luck extends even beyond the market though. You can just count on the fact the cows will get out when all your help has taken off, doing something more fun than chasing cows. This will occur just after a good rain, so you will have the experience of trying to run with 10 pounds of mud having collected on each boot.

When the combine breaks down, you are going to need a particular part that the local guys shake their head about. Your luck may go so far that even the regional supplier doesn’t carry it.

“Gee, folks, we don’t have those because that part NEVER breaks!”

Murphy’s law

Of course, all of this will happen on a day that everything was finally going right, and you had visions of getting 200 acres of beans off.

Tires will go on sale the week after your hired hand ran over a spike and flattened the newest tire on the farm. The paint you put on the old barn will chip and crack and peel even though you paid extra for a paint that promised not to chip and crack and peel.

The hose — any hose — will spring a leak the day you need it the most. If a cow had to get a bad case of mastitis, why in the heck is it always the best milk producer you’ve ever owned?

If the neighbor dog has to nab one of the chickens, why isn’t it a dud?

If a dog has to get hit by the school bus, why can’t it be the neighbor’s dog that never does anything but bark all night? Instead it had to be your good herd dog and now the kids are going to cry for a week — and you’d like to join them.

Why is it that the sun always shines when you need rain the worst, but you can count on the fact that it will rain the night that you’ve mowed your biggest and best stand of alfalfa?


Chalk it all up to farmer’s luck. A flood of farmer’s luck is typical, meaning one thing happens on top of another. The alarm clock doesn’t wake you, the truck won’t start, you can only find one glove, the temperature is so low that ice has formed on the milking parlor floor, so you attempt to hose it down with warm water but find that the water pipes are frozen solid.

You can bet right then a calf will be born in the farthest corner of the cold barn, your boot will spring a leak, you’ll drop your pocket knife in a maddeningly elusive pile of loose hay, and you’ll lose the one glove you found.

But, in spite of it all, farmers persevere. Maybe we all love a challenge!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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