Moving straw: If I only had a brain

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Hard work is good for the soul.
Hard work builds character.
Hard work makes you tougher.
Hard work teaches you things you don’t even know you are learning.
My dad used to tell us these things. We listened and we did what we were told to do, in the order he wanted them all done.
Hard work on the mind. But now, a new study shows that hard work actually makes you smarter! Who knew?
This study, conducted by the University of Minnesota, proves that hard work in various settings actually increased the IQ of those who participated.
Oxygen flow to the brain may have been a factor. Another reason cognitive function was hypothesized to improve was the need to reason out steps involved in work to wisely complete various physically demanding jobs.
I remember how some of the physical jobs on the farm just seemed so unnecessary to me.
In my 12-year-old wisdom, I huffed and puffed to my older sisters about the need to move the old straw to one end of the mow.
“Why do we have to do this? Straw is straw!” I remember saying.
But, we did it anyway, and my older sisters taught me it didn’t pay to complain.
Just do it. My dad had an uncle who came to visit from a town about 40 miles away. He and his wife always marveled about what hard and willing workers we all were.
We never dragged our feet or pretended we didn’t know it was milking time. We just put our boots on and headed out to the dairy barn.
In this respect, I have long felt that hard work needing to be done taught us, simply, the reasoning of “just do it” long before those words became a catch phrase for a multi-million dollar athletic shoe company.
It didn’t pay to complain. It didn’t pay to start late, because you’d just be that much later getting out of the barn at the end of the day.
Nobody was going to cover for us or finish for us, and nobody would give in and say, “Oh, okay, you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to.” Nobody wanted to hear any whining. We learned to just do it.
Bingo! And we learned to try to make it fun if there was any possible way to do so.
When the need to gather tiny samples of milk from each cow – to test for butterfat – came along with the monthly milk testing chore, we made our own form of bingo with the large tray of samples.
If my row filled up first, I got out of after-milking clean-up chores.
I just ran in to a friend of my dad’s the other day, a man with whom I had not visited in a long time. He reminded me of this very thing.
He said, “You girls worked harder on that farm than most grown men ever have. I still am amazed by all of the things you accomplished, and I never once heard any of you complain. You usually were smiling and happy, even!”
Gee, maybe working did make us smarter – we were smart enough to never complain!

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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, in college.

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