"Cattle and crops: Together we stand, divided we fall." Among the numerous commentaries on agriculture, is that really true?
The other day, I had a major flashback. I climbed in a new tractor and sat down.
I had this unearthly feeling that I was sitting in the cockpit of a major jet.
Sophisticated would be an understatement. There was nothing remaining of the controls I used to know well.
The flashback put me in the seat of an International 806 tractor with no cab, pulling a John Deere combine with a long-forgotten model number. The field was an average field of barley with the windrows running west to east. A strong wind was blowing from the west and the day was a typical hot, late-afternoon harvest day.
Having waited most of the day for the grain to dry, Dad finally said it was time and I was to run the tractor and combine. I became a livestock specialist that day. The thought of any more time spent sitting on a tractor with no cab, trying to avoid the rough awns of a barley plant freshly separated from the seed, still sends shivers down my spine. There was no way to avoid the inevitable. Barley dust and chaff settled on my neck and slowly crept down my back. Ultimately, it spread to every square inch of my body and slowly mingled with my harvest sweat.
It was tolerable while driving straight. I was hunched over and keeping still while focusing on moving forward. However, when I had to turn the tractor, I had to move my arms and let go of my shirt collar, which caused the dust to pour down my back. Oh, the joys of farming in those days!
Sitting in the new tractor, I looked up at the air conditioner and dust filters.
Shutting the door produced a whole new environment. It was an environment that I had never been in before. The flat-screen monitor was prominent and had several color-coded pads that help operate the tractor.
I am sure the operators manual would explain in detail what each function was, although the radio controls and foot pedals still were recognizable. It was obvious that the tractor was environmentally and operator-friendly. One probably could add joy to the equation.
Somehow, my upbringing and the current world of farming are so disconnected that I almost could become a farmer, which is a world I bypassed in favor of cows and sheep. They seemed simpler and more welcoming than those old tractors, plows, combines and dusty grain bins.
Maybe it was the time my brother slammed my head between the auger motor and grain bin that sealed my farming fate. However, things have changed. My stay in the new tractor was not long. While getting off the tractor, I wondered why anyone would want to raise cattle or sheep when one could have this machine.