I've always admired farmers, and I enjoy being in their company. Obviously no two farmers are exactly alike, but the ones I know do share quite a few common characteristics. Namely, they're hard-working, stubborn, straight-forward, a bit crusty, and they love a good tall-tale, especially when it's related to yield, horsepower, or cattle-rustling abilities.
Farmers have that comfortable way of laying their heavy arm across your shoulder and asking, "How ya doing, dear?" They're not afraid to tell you you're full of blarney, and they don't care if it pisses you off when they do. They are who they are, take it or leave it. It's my second year of managing the farm, and I feel like a phony when I tell someone I am a farmer.
Just this morning, I hauled the end piece of a grain auger screw to be re-flighted at a welding shop 40 miles away. (Translation: a man will weld and straighten out the rusted corkscrew that pushes grain up a long metal tube and into a semi truck or grain wagon.) The shop was located inside the machine shed on a pretty, but obviously tired old farm.
When I arrived in my mini-van, shuffled into the shop in my slip-on Minnetonka sandals with sunbursts on top (not exactly farmerwear), and sweetly asked for Mr. Klontz, the men all paused, looked slowly at one another, and said nothing. Talk about awkward. A few very painful seconds later, a hefty, white-bearded man stepped in front of me, looked at me sternly, and said, "Why? Does he owe you money?" I looked at the other men, and then back at Whitebeard, and nervously chuckled as I said, "No, of course not." Everyone laughed and Whitebeard made some comment about just being careful.
As I took the auger screw out of my mini-van's trunk, and asked him if he could re-flight it, he looked at me sideways and asked, I must say, a little incredulously, "Are you a farmer?" I paused and thought to myself, well, am I? And then I thought of all my farmer friends, so sure of themselves, tough, and experienced. I can't imagine ever living up to their examples, even though I am pretty stubborn, can be crusty if necessary, and I'd like to think I'm a hard worker. "I am now," I told Whitebeard. "I just became manager of the family farm last year, and I'm still pretty green." It's a simplified answer, of course, not entirely true, but not entirely false either. (Hmmn, would that be a tall tale?) "Well," Whitebeard said, as he leaned in close, "I take my hat off to ya."
I can think of no sweeter praise from a fellow farmer.