177 / 365 – Advice


I feel badly for my boys. Every body takes a season to learn. We had a season like this not long after I started farming. Winter rolled off late, left a lot of snow on the ground that didn’t melt off till almost May. The ground wasn’t nearly dried out enough to get a tractor on the field, and that was when the machines weren’t nearly so big as today. And even if you could have, the ground was so wet it would have rotted out whatever you would have put into it.

All the signs were there, but I was a young farmer then and I wasn’t ready to sit out a whole season. I had a new wife and son to feed, and I hadn’t stayed here to farm just to fish through a season. My granddad walked over some of the fields with me and told me a story about a spring that had started off like this, where the fields dried out late and how it nearly ruined him. He didn’t tell me, “Don’t plant.” He wouldn’t have done that. My family, we don’t tell each other what to do. We offer advice, and hopefully people are listening. Of course I didn’t. I thought our new tractors would somehow make things come out different. Even though I couldn’t afford a new tractor back then. Tractor I had had been around twenty years.

I told my son that story, and my grandson, while we were out walking fields back in May. It was late, then, already, and you could see there was no way they were going to be able to get anything out in the field any week soon. There was still snow on the north-facing banks of the creek down by where it crossed under the county road.

We have great faith in our machines and our science. I like that spirit. You have to be optimistic to do this. Darryl though if he traded in his seeds for something with a shorter season, he could still get something from the season. And his son thought the same. Darryl’s carrying a big note on his land and his combine, and even though he could sit out a season and still be OK, it makes him itchy, I think. His son, too, though he hasn’t got that kind of cushion and another bad season could ruin him. I hope it doesn’t. So they planted. Late. Seemed like it was almost the end of May. I could barely stand to go out there when they were doing it, I had such a bad feeling about it. Still, you don’t want to say the kind of thing that could dampen someone’s spirit about it.

Now, look at it. Look at everybody. You drive along the county roads either side of here and crops look knee-high. They ought to be up to my shoulders by now. I hate to even look out the window when I drive into town. A few farms that are up on higher ground, the ones that slope down to the south and west, they seem OK. Their ground dried out first. But Darryl’s. I keep hearing how the fishing is good this year, up at Lake Metigoshe in the Turtle Mountains. About this time of year, when the worries are pretty much over about weeds and it doesn’t look like we’ll have a fight with grasshoppers or something else, my dad and I used to drive up to Lake Metigoshe and spend a week fishing. He had a camper he could put on his pickup and we’d just find ourselves a camp site and have a quiet week of it, let the sun do its work for a week and manage things around the farm. I keep wanting to ask Darryl if he wants to go up there. But no, Some of his crop still isn’t high enough. He’s still worried some about weeds and rot. I think he’ll worry himself all summer. So I won’t remind him that the best course might have been taking the year off and just fishing, enjoying the season for a change. ‘Cause I didn’t listen either.


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