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Oh, Lord, it's hard to be humble (aka Dear Mac Davis)

Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble (aka Dear Mac Davis)

By Bill Stork, DVM

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way

I can’t wait to look in the mirror, I get better looking each day.

Mac Davis didn’t know many farmers.

I swore I wouldn’t become one of those old guys. If I did, I wasn’t going to whine about it.

I’m 0 for 2.

The amount of effort required to achieve vertical is in direct proportion to minutes spent sitting, and who’s watching. Sleeping on my left side or embracing for long periods of time renders my left hand paretic. For the past 15 years, from late September through April my index finger turns white and throbs. Dave Strasburg’s Holstein #1226 had spent more time at the top of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association than the Beatles on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, when she displaced her abomasum. Her productivity was matched only by her spirit. She was not in the least impressed by a combo line-paravertebral block 60cc of lidocaine, a half cc of Rompun, and Dave’s best tail hold. We made our skin incision without incident, but when my scalpel found a superficial epigastric nerve the lidocaine had not, she delivered a roundhouse with her right rear quicker than Dr. Dave Rosen in a bar fight. The deep bruise on my quadriceps has long since healed, but as she hiked, I plunged the scalpel deep into my finger. I felt the fire, and the glove fill with blood. I’m still waiting for the medial metacarpal nerve to regenerate.

When counting blessings, I don’t have to look far. The woman I’ve spent much of the last six years with is beautiful beyond what I could ever hope. She is compassionate, frugal and accountable.

Attributes that I fondly recall while sweating and scrambling to put up hay in the north mow of the barn with her nephew. Sheila does not shop for things she does not actually need, cowboy boots and jeans notwithstanding. I’ve never had to search for her car in the parking lot of a bar. If she’s gone missing, she’s in the barn, taking care of one of her 11 horses.

Respectful of our time, she’s looking to get done. You peer through the dust and sweat on your glasses for an opportunity to grab a bale without having your spine compressed. Occasionally there will be a sliver of daylight between the next two bales.

There is science, art and etiquette to putting up hay. You pick a pace you can maintain until the wagons are empty, walk ‘em, don’t throw ‘em, and alternate hands. You start every new row from the outside and look to locate rogue spaces that can be filled with an edgewise bale. The hay will be loaded out when there’s a lot less daylight. When you sell a load to the neighbor with goats, and his boot doesn’t fall through, he may not say a word, but he’ll loan you his post-hole auger without having to ask.

The most important rule, no matter how many are on the wagon and how few are in the mow: the minute the last bale falls, you settle your breath like you’ve been reading a book and sipping tea. You scramble down to the mouth of the mow and ask, “Y'all need help bringing the next load around?”

We were a dozen bales down when Bryce bent over to grab his jeans like timeout in double overtime, “Either we’re really out of shape, or she’s out of her mind.”

I assured him he was dead-on in at least one respect, but a mound of loose hay on the floor of the mow had left a three-foot wave in the corner.

“No way, Bryce, it’s all these broken bales,” I gasped.

“I don’t give a damn, let’s just let ‘em drop; she won’t know until this winter,” though he knew better.

I can only be grateful there were no witnesses to the pre-“Vitamin I” (Ibuprofen, extra-strength) segment of Monday morning. I can only hope that double amputee Don Hermann gets out of bed with more grace. I wasn’t obligated to achieve full vertical, so I didn’t push it. Proving that physics touches our lives on a daily basis, I discovered that underwear can be installed with the contralateral hand on the counter, compensating for a sore right hip.

Some time ago, as I turned north off Navan, and onto West road en route to the Tim and Lisa Claas farm, the ditches were in full glory. There were a precious few lupine making an encore, the dusty, fragile blue flower decorating the barbed-wire spine of the Chicory, as it flourished in the gravel on the shoulder. Thankfully, Tim milks late. The lethargic Day Lilies had finally yawned to life, dominating the ditches. The garlic mustard weed lent an aroma accentuating fresh cut hay, and obliterated all but a few surviving red Columbine.

As if I didn’t know the way, the roadside came alive with a swirling gauntlet of Yellow Finches, Bluebirds and Chickadees.

If attitude is everything, perspective is the rest.

Had Michael Perry, Fred Eaglesmith and Glenn Fuller been in the car with me: Fred would have written a song, Mike would have written a story, and Glenn would have photographed and then drawn the image.

It was on that visit Tim and I gossiped at the tailgate, after we had pregnancy-checked his cows. I noticed a mountain of chaff at the base of his hay elevator, and 6 empty racks.

Attempting some semblance of solidarity, I shared my Saturday in the mow at the Barnes farm. “How much did you put up?” I asked him.

“Between Thursday and Sunday I put up 4400 bales,” making our 250 seem like doing dishes for a tea party. Searching for redemption I asked, “Who’d you get for help?”

“Brian helped for a while on Saturday,” he shrugged lightly. I’d need the Wisconsin National Guard.

Hastily changing the subject to the 10 inches of rain my Dad got down in central Illinois, I fished for the two bottles of Lutalyse, Oxytocin and GnRH he had requested.

Tim shuffled back to the barn, his right Tingley rubber scuffing in the gravel, two sizes larger to accommodate the walking cast.

He raised his head rather than wave, the medicines cradled between his hand, his chest, and his stump.

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