Protecting us from ourselves

The doo-gooders in Washington felt the need to save farm kids from having to do too much and were ready to pass laws that would save them. They changed their minds when the backlash grew overwhelming. I suspect they are just waiting for a time in the future when they think that no one is looking.

I grew up on a farm and did chores. I’m not going to tell you how they formed my character and improved me as a person. They did, but the main point is that family farms require all-hands-on-deck and for those who have this bucolic, green only, organic, rosy vision with only the adequately-compensated doing all the work, blink and rethink.

My “job” on the farm–a 20 acre corner lot that housed my family, numerous chickens, calves, and at times pigs–was to feed the calves. My dad bought them from a small dairy up the road. Step one was me riding home in the back of the truck with the little ones. Yes, IN THE BACK OF THE TRUCK. It is dangerous. It was the 60s. Choosing between the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll of Haight Ashbury and Woodstock, which led to the reemergence of fungi normal to the third-world, I’ll take riding in the back of a truck.

Being just a few weeks old, the calves have only taken an udder so they can’t drink from a bucket or a trough. My dad was a great guy, but I get all my cheeeeeeeep genes from him. He refused to spring for big plastic bottle  or buckets with a nipple that they sold at the co-op. That left it to me to teach them to drink.

Here’s how you teach a baby calf to drink from a bucket. Mix the milk replacement in a bucket. Let the calf smell it. By the next morning they are hungry and ready to climb over the fence to get to you. Let them sniff, snort, and realize they can’t drink it. Then, here’s the magic, you submerge your hand in the bucket, let your wiggling fingers break the surface and tickle their soft little nose. They will latch on and suck. (At this point, you are made acutely aware of their sharp milk teeth and strong jaws.) After a day or so–morning and evening feedings–you can pull your fingers out of their mouths and they will drink on their own. Now they can drink the milk replacer from a bucket and drink water from a trough.

Here’s a picture of me and my first pupil: Image

And yes, I AM horrified by both the glasses and the pants. Thanks for asking.

Have a great week. Go out and teach someone something!

Take care–Susan Kaye

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12 thoughts on “Protecting us from ourselves

  1. AmyFlo

    I know I should make a comment about how much I agree with your sentiments and how growing up on a farm was not a vision of the picturesque but you wouldn’t trade it for anything else. But all I have to say is don’t be horrifed by those pants. THEY ARE AWESOME.

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      The scary thing about those pants, AmyFlo, is that I’ve seen them come and go in and out of fashion through the years. It just proves that people never learn!!

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  2. stephanie

    That photo looks alot like my childhood….bottle fed many a calf…I worked hard and learned many valuable lessons on my daddys farm…now my boys are living the life….sometimes its hard but I wouldn’t change a thing…I learned perserverance, the value of a dollar, the pride felt from a job well done…and many other wonderful things I am passing on to my boys..

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      What I dislike is the micromanaging of our lives by people who cannot possibly understand all the permutations of what they are regulating. By and large, gov’t sees life through a sterile, urban lens. Anything out of that bubble is foreign to them and yet they persist in crunching numbers, coming up with theories, and imposing them on the masses.

      Good for you in giving your boys a life that is going away. Good for you living a life that is going away. When I think of the work my mom did on that small farm, YIKES!

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      I was a kid, what did I know? You’re right about the work involved. And considering how expensive it is to pay the taxes, small farmers HAVE to do most of the work themselves.

      But my dad knew it when he bought the place. He had been an actual cowboy–riding the range and all–in Montana. My mom on the other hand was pressed into service.

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  3. Robin Helm

    We were expected to work, too, Susan, and I probably had pants that made those look good. I grew up in hand-me-downs.

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  4. Susan Kaye Post author

    Those were my school clothes. What I was doing out with the livestock in them is a mystery. There was probably a firm talking-to later. they are still an embarrassment.

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  5. Sophia Rose

    Big Brother is always looking over the wrong shoulders it seems. There are so many things they could be fixing, but instead they try to fix what isn’t broken. I used to grumble when my dad would boot me out the door for chores chanting that hard work is character building. Maybe it is or isn’t, but I’m not overpowered by the idea of having to work hard. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      I loved feeding the calves but when I got old enough to actually milk the cow–which wasn’t all that often if I remember right–that’s when I began to think the whole, “it helps you learn responsibility” thing was a rip-off. It wasn’t, but I thought so at 14. After that we moved into town and I didn’t do farm chores. Thanks for stopping by, Sophia.

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  6. LucyParker

    This is more proof for my soapbox spiel that self-esteem is gained by doing, learning for your *self* – no one gives it to you.

    I suppose that government logic (oxymoron) would contend that my 10 year old self was using heavy machinery when I had to load the dishwasher. Oy.

    Love those pants! They rival the home-ec blouse I made and wore into oblivion, which now makes me cringe.

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      What really sparked this is the fact that when we lived in Missouri, it is legal for 10-year-olds to drive farm equipment on the public roadways. The age may be younger, but the point is there is not to my knowledge a sudden outbreak of youth deaths involving farm equipment, chores, or products.

      I’m sure more kids are injured or killed yearly playing basketball and I don’t see them wanting warning labels on the NBA. (Now the personal behavior of some player DOES warrant labels, IMO.)

      And yes, Lucy, I’m sure dishwashers would come under the rubric of no-nos. Politicians write the laws and then faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats write the regulations and interpret them.

      Heaven help us!

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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