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Stuck in the Mud

Fri, Jun 22nd, 2001
Posted in

Monday, June 18, 2001

This has been one of the wettest springs ever. Most of the rain didnt seem to fall heavily, just steadily. Farmers have gotten only a brief period of fair weather to get their crops planted. Most of the acres are planted, although the corn and soybeans now seem reluctant to grow. It is just too wet and cool for the young plants to be inspired to grow. They are yellow and weak and look like they are standing there waiting and wanting to die.

The wet weather has brought other headaches for neighboring farmers. Our neighbor, Steve, was drilling soybeans just behind our barn recently. One moment he was making the dust fly and the next moment his tractor was partially submerged. It looked like a whale coming up through the mud for a breath of air. I watched from the yard as Steve paced around the wallowing Case as he called for help on his cell phone. Before long another neighbor showed up with a big John Deere tractor. They made some noise and smoke and more ruts. Then they must have made another call and soon a big red tractor joined to pull on the cast iron anchor. The red tractor was the charm and soon the drill was rolling again.

Livestock producers are often the ones that suffer the most from prolonged wet weather. It seems that dairy cows in particular seem to get down and dirty. In the years that I milked cows, prolonged rainy weather in the spring and summer created a nightmare of mire. The weather was usually too warm to leave the cows in their stalls in the barn and they needed to be let out to eat the grass in the pasture. The mud started where the concrete ended and the concrete ended at the barn door. Some cows actually hesitated while going out the barn door as if they didnt want to step into the mud. They finally got to the point where peer pressure from behind made them take that step into the slop. Under the worst conditions they sank into the mud right up to their udders.

When I was a kid we had a cow that we named, "Big Bag". Big Bag was an older cow with a very pleasant disposition. Big Bag's claim to fame was, obviously, her large udder and gigantic teats. Even under the best of conditions, we had to put blocks under Big Bag's back feet to get her up high enough in the air to get a milker on her. Big Bag tolerated this quite well and learned to step up on the blocks with just a gentle nudge on her flank. When the rainy season came, the biggest challenge of the day was getting Big Bags udder clean enough to milk. The mud clung to her udder in huge gobs that came off in handfuls when it came time to clean her. Once Big Bag was finally cleaned up, the rest of the cows seemed clean by comparison.

Should we curse the rain? My sons and I recently questioned my father about the Depression days. He had few impressions of being impoverished by the economic conditions of the day. His family lived on the farm and lived through the Depression years much as they always had. They did not need much money and grew most of their own food. It seems that his strongest memories were of those years in the Thirties when it did not rain. Dad told of how he and his father turned the cows out of the barn in the morning and chased them out to pasture. Dad said, "They walked out in the dust and came home in the dust and didnt get anything but dust to eat while they were out there. The spring and the creek in the pasture where the cows drank was almost dry. We harvested everything that grew right down to the ground so the cows would have something to eat in the winter. We even cut and harvested the pigeon grass that managed to grow where we planted oats. After those years, my dad told me that never again would he complain about too much rain."

During a spring like this it is hard to appreciate the excess of water, but it is still easy to remember those times when we would do almost anything for a nice rain.

By Wayne Pike

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