Milo Yield: Missing Merle Haggard — one of the greats — and reflecting on a farmhand who was the opposite of great
April 19, 2016
It's gets tougher and tougher to find good temporary hired help on today's farms and ranches. Farm boys who know the aggie ropes are scarce as hen's teeth and the only resource left is a very small pool of teens who want to work, but don't know the first thing about agriculture.
That's the background for a very true story that wuz told to me by long-time friends from northern Kansas who stopped by for a weekend visit. They said their neighbor's old reliable hired man lived out his lifespan a few months ago and the neighbors, who farm a lot of acres, in desperation for hired help found a local "city" teen who wanted a job.
So, they hired the kid, who had a good attitude, but little aptitude, for farm work. Over a period of weeks, the kid did damage to various pieces of equipment on the neighbor's farm like running into rural mailboxes, banging into corner posts, overturning a four-wheeler, etc.
Well, when planting time came around, the neighbor thought he could teach the kid to run the tractor and planter. He followed the kid to the field that needed planting. The field was terraced and the neighbor explained to the kid that he needed to plant on the contour.
The kid's face looked blank, so the neighbor further explained, "Contour farming means you need to follow the terraces around rather than just go back and forth across the field.
Again, the kid looked even more puzzled, perhaps even perplexed. So, the farmer asked, "You do know what 'terraces' are, don't you?"
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The out-of-the-loop kid replied, "Well, yeah. 'terraces' are the folks running around killing people. So, why do you want me to follow them around with the planter?"
My friends didn't know the final outcome of that conversation, but I'm guessing that the farmer had a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach when he turned his new hired man loose with the tractor and planter.
My favorite country music legend of all time, mighty Merle Haggard, died last week on his 79th birthday. His passing left me with a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It seems like "The Hag" and I grew into adulthood together back in the 60s and 70s.
I've got just about every song that Mr. Haggard wrote and/or sang on my computer and my iPod and there's no music that I enjoy more than Mighty Merle's. Down through the years, I bought tickets to several of his live concerts and every time, I left feeling I'd got my money's worth.
Back in my rowdier days, after a few of my favorite beverages, I've even been known to take the stage with a hot, local country band and sing one of my favorite Merle Haggard songs: "It's Been a Great Afternoon." Here are the words to the first verse:
"Last night we had a hell-raisin' time. Nippin' on tequila and sucking on limes. Sunrise chased the good times away. And 'Good morning' would have been the wrong thing to say. Ah, this pounding in the top of my head. Hey, it didn't leave me any too soon. I can't say we had a good morning, but babe, we've had a great afternoon."
I know I made a fool out of myself singing, but I didn't care what anyone thought. Recently, I read Merle Haggard's autobiography and through all the trials and tribulations of his life, Merle wuz true to his nature and lived his life and made his music the way he wanted to.
Perhaps the reason I so admired Merle Haggard's career is that we share that particular independent streak.
Rest in peace, Hag. Your music will live on forever.
Something ironic is going on at the pond here at Damphewmore Acres. For the last couple of years, the neighbor kid and I have maintained a duck and goose hunting blind on the west side of the pond. We replenish its camouflage every fall with the frosted tomato vines from my garden. We seldom use the blind for waterfowl hunting, but it makes a good deer blind, too.
Now, a pair of Canada geese return every spring to use the pond for brooding their family of new goslings. What's ironic is that the other day I spied the mother goose up on top of the duck/goose blind building a nest for her eggs. I don't know for sure that she's gonna use the blind for a nest site, but I hope she does. If she does, I'll be sure to give her a wide berth until the eggs hatch.
Jay Esse, my friend from Lakewood, Colo., sent me a true story from his youth in rural Wisconsin. Jay sez he and a buddy were driving a dirt road when from a high point in the road they spied what they took to be a farmer's watermelon patch. The patch wuz over the hill and out of sight of the farmhouse, so Jay and his buddy decided they'd quench their sudden hunger for watermelon — for free!
They parked out of sight and quietly made their way to the patch. Only one thing went wrong. They discovered the "watermelon" patch wuz actually a patch of "pre-pickles" (cucumbers). Jay sez they vamoosed the place in a hurry.
I'll wind up with a smidgeon of bumper sticker wisdom: "Why are voter ID laws 'racist,' but gun background checks aren't?" Have a good 'un.❖