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The Manure Spreader: Training day

Tim Moffett for Progressive Dairyman Published on 05 August 2016

Rodeos are a showcase for cowboy abilities. Everyday work on the ranch is put on display, including the new guy they dressed up in a clown suit and put in a barrel for his initiation. However, people are not showing up by the busloads purchasing tickets to see farmers’ abilities.

Why won’t they pay to watch a farmer milk a cow by hand, fill a seed planter or sweet talk a banker? For this reason: Farmers invented church picnics and county fairs to showcase their talents.

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“Tim, what are you talking about?” I am asked. “Church picnics are nothing but a bunch of games for kids.” Exactly, my friend. These games were taught to us as kids to get us through everyday life on the farm.

Take, for instance, the art of “carrying an egg on a spoon” and running with it. This game taught me how to use a spoon for extracting eggs from underneath that mean, nasty hen that would peck my fingers into Swiss cheese. My cousin Mark, at nearly 60 years old, still uses the spoon technique because he has yet to figure out how to carry eggs in a basket.

I still remember as a kid “chasing a bicycle rim with a stick,” which might explain why my sister had to learn to ride a unicycle. I may have only been 6, but I needed the eye-hand dexterity coordination to use a tree branch to get the pigs back in the shed.

There are two kinds of “wheelbarrow races.” The first game consists of putting another person in an actual wheelbarrow and pushing them to the finish line. For training purposes, this game is useless – for the simple fact that there has never been a wheelbarrow tire on any farm that wasn’t flat. The second type consists of two people.

One person walking on their hands, as to be a wheelbarrow, while their partner carries their feet to the finish line. This game is very useful because you never know when a set of eyes is needed at ground level – like the time Granny lost her dentures in the high weeds.

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Growing up, we were so poor that between my brother and I, we only owned one-and-a-half pairs of church-going pants and three shoes – which made us excellent at the “three-legged race.”

And who doesn’t love the “dunk tank” – other than the person sitting in the tank? This game gave me the ability to throw a cow pie with such accuracy my dad never bothered to fix the manure spreader. I also learned to hold my breath for five minutes at a time. Tell me that’s not handy when it comes to pumping out the manure lagoon.

According to the Farmers Almanac Revised Edition, the “potato sack race” was a way for farmers to convince their kids they had no athletic abilities whatsoever. The “potato sack race” has also proven to be helpful training for those cold winter night camping trips.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve obviously never been camping in the middle of the winter and had to make it from the campfire to the outhouse without getting out of your sleeping bag.

If anyone has ever told you “life isn’t just fun and games,” they didn’t grow up on a farm.  PD

Tim the Dairy Farmer is a Florida dairy farmer and stand-up comedian. Visit him at Tim Moffett: Agricultural comedian, speaker and farmer.

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