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November 16, 2016 - Clayton Rye
This is a story I first wrote several years ago. Recent events have brought this story back to my mind, but you will have to read to the end of this to know why. First, I have to retell the story. When I was around 14, my dad told me he needed me to help him with something one fall evening. At that time in the early 1960s my dad was feeding hogs and cattle in the same feedlot. You could do that back then. The cattle were fed using an auger suspended over a concrete bunk. The concrete feed bunk was in sections that when viewed from the end was in the shape of the letter H. Placed end to end, I believe there was about 150 feet of concrete bunk. A hog that was near market weight had crawled under the bunk form the far end and made it to the opposite end. The hog only knew to crawl forward and couldn’t go any farther. My dad wanted me to crawl under the length of the bunk with a rope to tie on the hog so we could pull the hog backwards and free it. Otherwise it would die under there. The crawl space was about 18 inches in height and at that time, my inseam and waist were both 30 inches. Yes, that was a long time ago. But, wait, as they say on television, there is more. It had been raining a day earlier and there was an inch or 2 of water mixed with the cow and hog manure creating a wet, sloppy, smelly mess. It was my job to crawl through that on my stomach to the far end where the hog was trapped. When my dad told me that was what he wanted to me do, my reaction was disbelief. “You want me to do what?” I could see he was serious and that he would do it himself if he could. I put on an old pair of jeans and a sweat shirt expecting that they would both be tossed when I was done. We went to the end of the bunk where the hog had crawled under and my dad handed me a rope and a lantern. It’s been 55 years since that evening and I can still feel my clothing absorbing that cool, brown slop as I got down on my knees and then my stomach. I comforted myself with the thought that after the first foot, the other 149 feet wouldn’t be any different and I started crawling on my elbows and knees towards the hog. I reached the hog, tied the best knot I could around its leg, and crawled backwards since there was no room to turn around. I got back to the place I had started and we pulled the hog backwards until he emerged from under the bunk. The rope was untied, the hog ran away and I never saw it again. I am sure it made it to market. Back in the house, I threw my clothing in the washer and once clean, they were fine. I wore them many times after that. Now why did that memory come back to me? I was reminded of this episode after casting my vote in last week’s election. I filled out my ballot, voting for someone who was not my first or second choice. It was a two-person race, so voting for a third party was not a choice. I just had to get my hands dirty, cast my ballot, and hope for the best. My wife and I, because of our different viewpoints, were going to cancel each other’s vote and she wasn’t excited about casting her vote either. It was a joyless job that needed to be done. The election has been decided and we know who won. I am hoping that, like my wet, smelly clothing that went through the washer and came out fine, in the months and years to come, we will put this behind us and things will work out for the better.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
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