Back in the early 70’s, I was a young farm wife willing to do just about anything my farmer husband asked of me. I had grown up on a farm, which unknown to me was a prerequisite to becoming his life partner.
Even though I grew up on a farm there were many things that I was never asked to do as a farmer’s daughter. I had to do chores around the farm since we had dairy cows and hogs, but I had an older brother. He got to do some of the “fun” stuff like driving tractor and loading hay and straw bales and hauling grain to the grain elevator. Still, I knew pretty much what to expect, at least I thought I did.
I never really understood my mother’s advice which was “never marry a farmer.”
My husband knew how to delegate; something else which was unknown to me. The first thing he delegated me to do was plow a field with a two bottom plow. I had already received training in driving the tractors on our farm. There were three of them. An 1100 MF and a Case SC with a hand clutch, and a 2010 John Deere. So I hopped up on the tractor ready to work the ground.
“Where do I start?” I asked my husband.
“Go to the middle of the field and start a dead furrow,” he said. “When you get that done, you’ll see what to do next.”
“A dead what?” I questioned. I didn’t think plowing involved death and I wasn’t sure I wanted any part of it. I didn’t remember my dad ever killing anyone or anything while plowing. My husband rapidly, as is his manner, explained to me what a dead furrow was, after laughing hysterically and saying, “you don’t know what a dead furrow is?!?!?!?” This haphazard explanation became a standard in our marriage. I should have stopped it right then and there. But I was still blindly in love and eager to please.
So I said, ” Why don’t you go do the dead furrow thing, and then I will finish it.” I figured we may as well be partners in the crime. He agreed and the job was eventually completed.
The next thing he assigned me to do was to cultivate a field of corn. I had never done that before either, although he was incredulous when I told him that. “You lived 21 years on a farm and never cultivated corn?!?!?! ” There was less laughter this time. I could see he was rethinking his decision to choose me as his wife.
He took me back a long, long lane in a godforsaken area of weedy fence rows and spindly trees and pointed out the corn. It was about 8 inches tall in remarkably straight rows and my task was to line up the little digger things on the cultivator. I later learned that these little digger things were called shovels. I was to pull the cultivator behind the John Deere 2010 and cultivate the weeds that were growing between the rows of corn. He took off across the field, demonstrating how to raise and lower the cultivator on the ends of the field so as not to break anything. It looked pretty easy; I thought I could handle it. Then he drove off in his pickup truck with the promise of coming back to check and see how I was doing.
I started across the field, thinking I could go as fast as he did and thinking this job wasn’t going to take too long. But suddenly I discovered I had gotten a little off course and had plowed up some corn plants instead of weeds. Not sure why they didn’t plant those rows a little further apart. And then I noticed that if I wasn’t careful I was running over the corn plants with those big tractor tires on each side of my seat. That probably wasn’t good. With a little practice I began to improve my skills until I noticed that every once in awhile I missed an entire row or two of weeds. Ah, well, I thought… he probably won’t notice.
Four hours passed. I was dirty, dusty, thirsty and tired. My neck and shoulders hurt like the dickens from looking behind me at the rows of corn and fighting with the steering wheel to keep the tractor straight. I was also extremely sleepy. I didn’t know about the monotony of driving back and forth across a field for hours at a time. And no one had come to check on me!
Finally when I was nearing the end of the field, my husband arrived with an ice cold Pepsi and a candy bar. He looked over the field, and while I waited for him to tell me what a great job I had done he just looked at me and said, “I’ll finish this up. You can drive the pickup back home. Where are those cultivator shovels that are missing?”
I shrugged my aching shoulders…I had no idea what a cultivator shovel was but I hadn’t noticed any shovels when I climbed on the tractor. “Maybe you left them in the truck? ” I offered. He rolled his eyes.