Climb to the highest point of the barn’s upper hay mow, swing out on the old rope left over from olden days, in which a pulley system was used to move loose hay around. Swing as steady and strong as possible, then drop in the shelled corn gravity wagon on the barn floor below.
See who can lift and carry the heaviest buckets. See if you can spread your fingers wide enough to carry two buckets in each hand, just because it makes you look like Superman. Slip, slide and try hard not to fall in all sorts of terrain challenges.
Milk cows, standing on concrete for about five hours a day, get kicked a few times, then do the cut-and-rush work of sorting hogs, loading the fat hogs on to a livestock truck. Pick up rocks, throwing them on a flat wagon. Climb the silo. Climb trees. Jump to the ground from the highest point just to prove there’s no scaredy-cat sissy in your bones.
Pop wheelies and crash a Schwinn banana-seat bicycle with dramatic flair. Bale hay, throwing and shoving and pulling and twisting every which way to move a bale that weighs as much as you do. Wrestle a calf that outweighs you, considerably.
Run through muck, boots being yanked from your feet as you propel your body through the swamp, searching for signs of wildlife. Run some more because you think scary, unknown wildlife might have just found you.
I have a distant memory of tugging on my Dad’s hand while waiting in line at the Jeromesville Elevator. He knew I was going to ask a question about the man who walked bent completely over.
My dear dad looked down at me and said, “Later, deary.”
That conversation later was eye-opening. Dad told of farmers in our very small community who had given their all to farming. He told me not to stare when I saw someone with an arm missing, or fingers gone from a battered hand.
Seeing someone barely able to walk due to cumulative injuries on the farm is something we were to respect, not to question.
Farming continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations but seldom do we read about the agony being carried from a lifetime of the daily grind. Rarely do we think that what starts as a farm kid pushing reasonable physical limits later grows into an old body still hard at it, farming every single day.
Respect comes in all sorts of forms, and empathy for others is where it starts. Trying to stand in someone else’s shoes is something I was taught long ago on a simple trip to the grain elevator by a man who took the time to teach it, and to live it.
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